The time to rest and regroup is finally here — for our pilot students in Cambridge, at least.

We just finished our two week pilots at Fayerweather Street School and Graham and Parks Alternative School in Cambridge. The students tell us that they are looking forward to spending quality time with family, watching the NBA Dunk Contest and the Winter Olympics, and playing on their XO’s over break. We hope some students will put together some original storybooks using eToys to share with students in Haiti, but this is optional because we did not want to mandate homework over break.

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Today we reached a pivotal early moment in our Boston pilots – the introduction of the storytelling capabilities of Etoys.

The curriculum we are tweaking calls for significant shifts in lesson order and content emphasis. We want to especially consider the special place of the storyteller in Haitian culture and model our use of the XO, at the simplest level, as a device for the expression of stories.

So to recap: On day one, we taught the children how to sketch, and day two we taught them about halos, the actions that manipulate these sketches. With these simple building blocks in place, on day three, earlier than in previous pilots, we showed them how to open their supplies box and asked them to create a book. We want them to learn by exploration, not through constant prodding from us.

But we didn’t drop them into this new learning environment completely wet behind the ears.

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Waveplace friend and colleague John Engle presents footage narrated by Dan Hobson and Chip Coffin of destroyed schools on his Haiti Partners blog. This video highlights the dire need for educational programs, like the pilots we are running this month in Boston, to be implemented as soon as possible in Haiti. We look forward to coordinating a hub in Darbonne with John in the coming weeks.

After momentarily considering the bright devices stacked high in the center of the room, a young student stated, “I can tell why they’re green…”

The eleven year old speaker, Alicia, and eight of her classmates at Graham & Park Elementary School in Cambridge, MA had just come back from recess to discover XO laptops in place of their usual afternoon lessons.

“It is green because we are trying to save the world,” Alicia stated plainly. She said this as if she were simply adding a third line to that old phrase about roses and violets. The notion of sustainability has sunk in so deeply with today’s youth that they actually interpret colors through a socially conscious imagination.

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In two hours, I’ll be meeting with William Stelzer, our chief mentor, who flew up from the Virgin Islands last night, and Allison Bland, who just returned from Crisis Camp NYC, which was a very helpful event. The three of us will start two local pilots today, one at the Fayerweather Street School, which has an ongoing relationship with the Matenwa Community Learning Center in Haiti, and another at Graham & Parks with a class of mostly Kreyol speaking Haitian children.

We’ll meet with each pilot class once a weekday for the next two weeks, teaching them Squeak Etoys and storytelling. The kids will then have a one week vacation during which they can create Etoys storybooks to give to the kids down in Haiti.

Waveplace’s goal is to test and improve the third version of our courseware using real kids. We’ll then translate the courseware into Haitian Kreyol in preparation for our trip to Haiti next month.

We’ve talked and talked for two weeks. Over the weekend, we prepped the laptops. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to the good stuff.

I’ll be posting blog entries and video every day during February, so please spread the word and tune in from time to time.