After a restful sleep at Abelaird’s house, we interviewed Joseph about his thoughts on expanding the project throughout Haiti. “No government, no government.” After breakfast, we began our walk around Darbonne to visit the four schools working with Haiti partners.

At each, we were introduced to every class and showed them the laptop, though many had already taken part in the pilots. Joseph had them say to the video camera, “We want more laptops, please” and “Thank you OLPC and Waveplace.”

One of the future schools was recently built using the template developed by Haiti Partners. Looks like it will be a wonderful school once it’s opened.

As we went to the fourth school, we decided to take the car, but discovered we had a flat. After some scrambling to find all the pieces to the jack, Adam and Joseph fixed it quickly and we were on our way to the last school.

To cap off the evening, the Léogâne mentors gathered to talk about their needs and the future of the project. It was very good to see them all again.

(by Christa Crehan, from newsletter)

What a privilege it has been to be involved in this Waveplace extravaganza! I just finished watching the Waveplace Awards video. What an amazing accomplishment for all of the children. Watching them combine computer programming and storytelling to create their final storybooks was the best gift from this experience. All children have something important to give and it is up to the adults around them to guide them and show them they can accomplish anything they want.

Maria (winner of Best Artwork) and Eric (winner of Best Scripting) began the program with trepidation. What they created is from their heart. We allowed each child to take his or her gift and focus on that gift to create a story all their own. Maria’s focus was her incredible eye for detail in her beautiful artwork, while Eric chose to focus on learning complicated programming skills. There is something for every child in Etoys no matter what their contribution to the world may be. We will help them find their voice.

On that note, I was showing the video from Nicaragua to a friend of mine who speaks Spanish and English. She turned to me and said, “Christa, you don’t understand how powerful this song is.” My friend began to translate as the video progressed, “… I hear you … I hear your voice in stories … I am the voice of the future … I am the voice that you call for freedom …”

What a powerful message the song sends children. No matter who they are or where they live, they may follow the voice in their heart. That is the voice of freedom.

(by Donna McAvoy, Immokalee teacher, from newsletter)

Last summer I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Waveplace Program in Immokalee. I was so impressed with the experience on many levels, most especially with the passion of organizers, trainers, investors, teachers, volunteers, and students. It soon became apparent to all of us that something very special was going on. On the last day of the program, I was sitting next to a smiling gentleman who whispered, “God is pleased.”

As a result, I was inspired to implement the Waveplace course with my 5th and 6th grade technology students during the regular school year. Each session, after learning a new feature of Etoys, they are presented with a “starfish challenge” and never cease to amaze me with the quality of work they produce.

Etoys requires my students to use logic, higher level thinking, and problem solving, as they work on projects that are personally meaningful to them. As a result, the classes are truly experiences in constructionism. At times the kids are so actively engaged in their work that one can hear a pin drop. Later the some of the kids might put their heads together and converse in small groups, while others walk around the room to see what their peers are doing. Other times, thirty students can be sitting on individual computers around the perimeter of the room with their backs turned, engaged in one conversation, as we work to solve a problem someone has encountered.

I also provide time for them to explore Etoys features on their own. One day last week one of the students said, “No offense Miss, but aren’t you supposed to know, you’re the teacher?” I went on to explain the concept of “educational evolution” (which is my greatest ambition) … the point where my students become more knowledgeable than me.

I am so grateful to Etoys and Waveplace for making such a valuable learning tool available for my students and for the providing me with the opportunity to experience the joy of educational evolution.

(by Russell Van Riper, expanded from newsletter)

As this is written, I am at work. Sailing, four days at sea, the last leg up the Indian River. We are delivering a boat and its owner to a new home port. Nearly four weeks have passed since the end of the Immokalee pilot. When first handed this little computer with great ambition, I asked myself, “How does one introduce computing to children who have never been exposed, without losing childhood to the screen?”. I have never been enamored with technology for tech’s sake. I see far to many people passively using technology as an escape from the truth of the world. With truly mixed feelings about the impact of media saturation on culture and individuals, I picked up the XO. The first click of the antenna latch had the sound of Pandora’s box. Now, surveying myself for the overall impact of those ten weeks, my original question comes to mind. I should be engrossed in this moment of sea and wind, new friends and adventure, yet I am pecking away at a keyboard. But wait, on deck I feel the breeze no less, the water rushing by the rail is no less exhilarating. Having a medium upon which to project my introspection is making my thoughts more clear, more focused, observation more keen for detail and striving for expression. Can it be that this bit of high tech is enhancing an experience, rather than distracting from it?

Rounding Cape Sable, that point where North America ends and the greater Caribbean begins, I posed the initial question to my ship mates. The vessel owner, a nuclear engineer by trade, said he had reached a balance by forsaking computers in his personal life, while being constantly immersed in the cutting edge of technology at work. (A wise 27 year old indeed) He also spoke of colleges who are completely absorbed into the internet, too their personal detriment in some respects, yet leading rich lives based upon the intellectual stimulation provided by the digital simulacrum. The benefits of access to interconnected communities of knowledge are awesome to behold, yet the ill effects of virtual life on real life cannot be ignored. Our captain, a cruising sailor of many decades, chimed in with a story from Polynesia. There was a sailor who was known to have a special nack for repair of all manner of electronics and supported his travels by repairing whatever happened to need fixing in each port of call. He came to an island where that had but one TV… it did not work. When the sailor brought the television back to his boat and removed the plastic housing he found a note. It read, “The chief really does not want this television to work. I hope you understand.” The TV was returned to the villagers with an apology, saying it was unrepairable. He understood. There is a moral and perhaps a pitfall for Waveplace in this story.

At the beginning of the Immokalee pilot, Jesus was far more interested in his cellphone ring tones than the laptop he had been given. While this was not the norm in the class and certainly not what would be found in Port au Prince or Nicaragua it illustrates a point: The lights and delights of technology can be infinitely distracting in the face of immediate experience. (while typing this sentence, I just missed a shark jump and role out of the water while striking a fish … infinite distraction in the face of immediate experience. … that shark was infinitely distracting in the middle of a writing experience… what the hell was I thinking???) What drew me into the teaching of XO and Etoys was not the gee-wiz laptop. It is the fact that the computer is being taught as a tool of expression. Expression requires active engagement with the outer world. With the proper mentoring the computer becomes a tool untethered and free to be used anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. A tool as untethered and unlimited as childhood itself and being sent to children for whom the ideal of childhood is a flashing dream in the face of poverty, limited opportunity, and often social dysfunction.

While making passage up Biscayne Bay, Port of Miami cruise ship hulks to starboard—-downtown billion+ dollar skyline hiding Overtown ghetto to port, Capt. Russell (yes captain and crew both named Russell… “this is my brother Darrell and my other brother Darell”) went on a bit of a bitter rant about Cruise Ship culture and Caribbean realities. Cruising sailors see the real Caribbean. Barbed wire fences excluding the population of rusted tin shanties from “all inclusive resorts”. An old woman, no arms no legs, set out to watch the world and beg. Feces in the street. Feces flowing, very illegal and very common, from the same cruise ship hulks into crystal waters. Nassau known as the cesspool of the Caribbean among those care to know. Tourist money floating back to Miami. Floating Haitians sent back to hell. All seen by a sailor with one eye to weather the other toward experience. Capt. Russell took a look at the XO and E-toys, understood the importance of what is possible, and said, “That’s F@%*ing great. They need some way real way of making money down there. Not the B^!!$#!T economy they have now.” Waveplace might be the moral of this story.

By the end of the Waveplace pilot in Immokalee, Jesus was one of our most engaged students. Somewhere in the third week of classes Jesus realized he could make his laptop do things his cell phone could never do. Ring tones are someone else’s product that can be appropriated for the appearance of individuality. His Etoy story was his own. He was proud of it and proud to share the skills he mastered with his classmates as they were proud and happy about their own work. The XO has been a catalyst for my own creativity. I saw this process in the instructors as well as the students. Ten weeks shifted some of my cultural cynicism, away from the technology, onto the producers of media content. I wonder if the students have been impacted in their own way as much as I have.

Last week, Waveplace finished our pilot in Immokalee, Florida. We’ll be posting student storybooks soon, but for now you can watch our first Florida video, which gives a taste of our “improv theater” teaching style. There are also several newspaper and radio reports on our press page and a few articles in our latest newsletter.

Today we start our pilot near Rivas, Nicaragua. We’re using Spanish-keyboard XOs and solar panels this time, since the school has no electricity. Our three Waveplace mentors flew in last night and will begin teaching the teachers today. The kids get their laptops tomorrow.

We’ve also created a Waveplace channel on YouTube, where you can find all of our videos. Please leave comments and rank us, as we can use all the publicity we can get.

(written by Russell Van Riper, from newsletter)

As a student, I sat through my share of computer literacy classes, with most having one instructor talking out into space, explaining confusing command menus, projected blurry against the wall. Very easy to get disoriented, disengaged, and lost in a wandering mind.

The Waveplace pilot in Immokalee was very different once we got into our flow. Problems at the start were solved with professionalism and skill by the mentors. The greatest distraction… kids being kids… was handled purely by the teachers craft, especially helpful was Mary Villa’s depth of knowledge of the children as individuals in the community. Mary’s connectedness to Immokalee has helped stem potential discipline problems, as well as tailor one-on-one instruction time to the individual learning styles of particular students. This kind of knowledge can only come from being involved in the community, not something that can be written into the Waveplace curriculum, but something that Waveplace is useless without.

During week three, it was recognized that the basic skills needed to write scripts, add animation, and use the XO as creative tool had been covered, but there was a great degree of stratification within the large group of students being served. It was decided to split the class up according to need. Stations for Writing, Drawing, Scripting, and Animation were set up at different tables with each teacher teaching according to their own particular strength and students self directing (with guidance) from station to station as their stories developed. The structure was loose, flowing, and conducive to the creative nature of the work.

By week four, the teachers realized that lessons 1 through 15 had more or less been covered in an adhoc manner as dictated by the students. The children had created stories of various complexity, complete with scripts, animation, and independent flourishes, with some students clamoring to use features no one, not even the folks at Etoys, have fully developed.

I must say that I am impressed.

(post by Mary Villa)

Color sees color test

This lesson was kind of difficult for some students. We went over this lesson so many times.

We were surprise that so many students used the color sees color test on their scripts.

We worked with students on debugging their scripts.

Some students didn’t want to use the test to their stories but we encouraged them to use it so they could add more flavor to their stories.

We also went over animation again. Each table was set up as stations, we had

writing, drawing, animation and startover scripts. Each student went to the table where they needed the help the most to finish their story.

In attendance: Christa, Jane, Katey, Russell, Brenda (FGCU), and another FGCU graduate…I forgot his name again!

Today we started the day whole group and 5 students shared their story progress from the weekend.

After, I did a lesson on World Start Over.

We broke into our groups of Writing Test Scripts, Scripting Clean up, Writing, and Drawing. We had a few computer snafoos that interupted our progress at first, but we worked through most of it. One of the screens is blank on about 1/3 which made it impossible to work on for one of the kids. Not sure about that one.

Some of the kids are worn out and think they are done, but they need to work on the drawing and scripting of characters. So Jane has a plan for Thursday.

She has crafted a great new story that the kids will have come up and help her script. They will like this a lot and the story will help them step out of their box! We hope they take some of the ideas and write the scripts into their own stories.

There is a community thriving in a place that drew myriad individuals with the hope of finding prosperity against all odds. They embraced a dream, a desire, and impulse for fulfillment in a town called Immokalee translated home.

Imagine a map. X marks the spot. Here lies treasure.

Some would say foolishness. No treasure lies there. It is a faulty figment of imagination.

Others dream. This X holds promise.

So against all odds people came to this place marked X on a map inspired by tales that they heard of employment, safety, new beginnings. Rivers were crossed. Fences climbed. Bushes gave shelter from predators. Breath was suppressed. Hearts pumped louder then a surveillance planes engines. Personal atrocities were encountered and endured. This journey was not easy. No one can really take on the experience of those who undertook it. It was difficult. Yet necessary.

Then you reach the spot. X on the map.
Sleep under a truck. Sun dry your rain drenched clothes along with your tears.
File into line to gain a promise of a days work if luck will have it. Toil, care, worry. Take solace and strength in those you love. That is was will be always your nourishment.

A better life. Freedom. Caring. Love.

Imagine an X on a map. What would you dream? Sacrifice to get there?

A bunch of teachers, community members, random change-makers are engaged in just that – dreaming in possibility. The outcome is gracefully unfolding.

Pioneering. A spirit that creates unifies and begets bewilderment, engagement, newness in love.

Thanks to and for all of you in Immokalee who committed to the dream. Please continue to imagine and dream on.

(post by Mary Villa)

We talked about Animation. Christa and I worked on a script and demonstrated animation.

I printed out a copy for each student on how to use animation on their stories. That was Christa’s idea so I put the thought into action. We made a sun and also a funny face with it’s tongue sticking out. The starfish challenge was to make a face that was much better than mine and funnier. I shouldn’t of said that because they put my drawing to shame. Their drawing were awesome. Christa showed them how to use the eye dropper.