(about Saturday)

My last afternoon sitting in the library at the Matènwa Community Learning Center. It’s funny how things change; how things are the same. I’m still sitting in the same library. The weather is the same. The people around me are all the same people. Nothing has changed.

And yet, everything has changed.

For one thing, my hair is braided. I’m a little bit more tan, a little bit more “Haitian”. Now when people talk about me I have a pretty good grasp on what they’re saying (even if they don’t know it yet). At this point, I’m quite used to having way too much sugar in my coffee, and spaghetti with hot dogs for breakfast (and let me tell you, if I don’t get my spaghetti with hot dogs in the morning I get pretty grumpy!).

Other things that have changed: I am leaving Matènwa with about 30 new friends in Haiti and a killer computer program that is going strong in three schools and an orphanage. And that is perhaps the most we could have ever hoped for.

After a three-hour repairs class today with the mentors, we were pretty pooped, but still needed to teach the kids directly afterward (get all the work done in the morning so that we could celebrate the holiday after- it’s Arbor Day I think, or something similar to Arbor Day, and apparently people actually celebrate that day (though I haven’t seen any celebrating yet) so everyone wanted to get on home.

Today wasn’t perfect; it could have been better. The mentors were supposed to finish Lesson 7 and complete Lesson 8 but they only finished Lesson 7, which was a little bit frustrating. They understood the material better (better each time!) and taught class well, the only problem this time is that they stopped a lot. We talked about stopping (something we’ve had to talk about with all of our mentors) and how the other mentors are there to help students that don’t understand; as well other students who can help too. But a very important thing is not stopping the continuation of class just for the sake of one child, or you’ll never get anywhere.

Bill and I are, for this reason, starting to believe more strongly in the use of game-like projects to teach Basic Etoys. If the kids could learn how to drag things out of the supply box, make scripts, etc using a variety of game projects, it would make the mentors’ job much more manageable.

We talked a lot about the next six weeks to come. Matènwa is the only pilot where the mentors will be needing to teach new mentors how to run their own six-week program. They’ll be training mentors from two different schools (with ten students from each school being taught by the mentors). It’s going to be a very interesting situation because there’s really no point person between the Matènwa mentors and the other mentors. The Matènwa mentors seem nervous about this step, since they are still relatively uncomfortable with Etoys. We hope that their skills will strengthen in the next two weeks as they do the math lesson (and prepare to coach the next mentor group).

We asked the mentors if they are interested in continuing classes here at Matènwa while the other mentors train their students. We told them we didn’t know if there would be money in it- if we would be able to pay them. But we also said that it doesn’t make much sense for there to be computers here with no lessons, and that they wouldn’t have to teach classes everyday. At the very minimum, we could just get a bunch of lessons together and make them available to the kids to use at their leisure.

We are getting pretty caught up in details. How much does one thing cost? Who’s getting paid and who isn’t? Sometimes the details are overwhelming, especially in trying to explain to the mentors what’s happening next when we ourselves have no idea.

My hopes for the next step are this: we get funding to continue the program for a few more weeks/months, not necessarily everyday if the mentors don’t want to (it would also be cheaper not to go everyday), then partner up with OLPC to open the program to schools all around Haiti where I could put into action a draft of a long-term plan that I have sent around internally. Basically that plan consists of using a five-year model, making games to teach kids basic Etoys skills, having the program be after school for at least the first couple of years and then growing it to be used in the classroom at the teachers’ discretion. And then OLPC rules Haiti (or better put, Haiti rules OLPC!).

Mice are on their way, or so I hear. We need them, too. I have never seen such horrendous and unfixable mice problems as we are finding at Matènwa!

Very much going to miss these evenings at Matènwa. But something tells me I’ll be back.

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