Today has been a big puddle of stress. The kids need more attention than Bill and I can offer them. On top of this, an important OLPC meeting has come up tomorrow so we’re leaving Williamson early.

In evaluating our projects so far, Bill and I have come up with the Seven Elements of Success in an OLPC/Waveplace project. Each element is absolutely essential. Without any one of them, an initiative cannot be successful.

We thought we would make this list so that we can better prepare ourselves in the future for more successful pilots. Due to the particular situation of the children at Mercy and Sharing, we’re really happy that we brought the computers there. However, we really wish that we had more organization/coordination with the Mercy and Sharing staff, and more time to be with the kids in general.

Anyway, here are our seven elements of success in our six week program:

1. Adopting the teaching style of Waveplace. This means, fostering a learning environment that allows kids to have FUN while working. Using encouragement rather than discouragement/physical or mental abuse. Being comfortable with not knowing answers and working through them. Allowing students to help one another and work together.

2. Getting through one lesson per day during the six week period. During the six weeks, there should be ten lessons (two weeks) of basic Etoys training, ten days (two weeks) of storytelling and ten lessons (two weeks) of mathematics, totaling six weeks. By the end of the six weeks, all three units should be completed.

3. Communicating with Waveplace at least once per week. Usually through email, but mentors need to keep in touch with Waveplace about problems, questions, suggestions, things that are going well, etc.

4. Regular attendance/punctuality of both mentors and students. This is an absolute must. Both Petite Riviere and Darbonne have strict attendance policies on both mentors and students. Since lessons are on a tight schedule, missing a day of class is detrimental to learning because each lesson builds on the next. As mentors are paid staff, their constant presence is also a requirement. Not to mention that it helps students to have all five mentors present that day to facilitate their learning.

5. Keeping computers in constant use by students. No computers left in offices, closets, or the like. Computers should be taken home by students (within reason) and used on a regular basis. No exceptions to the “regular basis” part.

6. Establishing a teaching/class structure that can be utilized in the long-term. This means: organizing a location, class time and other logistical details that can work over the six week period (and perhaps after it, too). Also structuring pedagogical strategy in class to make learning most efficient and easy. For example, in Petite Rivere and Darbonne, how class will be taught each day is decided in a fifteen minute pre-class meeting that all mentors must attend. This allows mentors to work together during the class period and teach in an organized fashion. They also meet for 30 minutes after class to reflect on how things are going, discuss issues of importance and make suggestions for the future.

7. Presence of a person on site that is dedicated to the program. This one is a cousin of #4, the attendance policy. However, this element specifically suggests that there needs to be someone on site who is passionate, who wants the program to work and who will essentially fight for it. Luckily, most of our mentors fill this role. But if a program were to have fewer mentors or even mentors that were not as enthusiastic, a program still needs to have one person who will push forward and carry the class.

These are the elements of success. Debate them if you will, but in my experience, you can’t have a successful pilot (or really any successful program at all) without all of them.

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