Saturday, June 20, 2009

The work has just begun...

Looking back on my time in Kigali at the workshop, I can think of a few things I am taking away:

First- the experience at Kagugu primary school. After a year with the XO's, our teams visited the school and taught the instructors how to use activities like Scratch and Record. I was surprised these instructors knew little about the XO's after having them for so long, and even more surprised about the students' inability. Through one-on-one time with both teachers and students, valuable teaching insight was gained. With one particular teacher, I learned how to incorporate Write into Memorize for linking note taking in class with buidling a memorization game. It was the teacher's idea. With the students, I learned that the spacebar was often neglected and children left all the programs open, slowing the laptop down. Preparation was certainly a missing element at the school cause none of the laptops were charged and plugging in 40 laptops is a struggle.

Second- Juliano's learning project talks. When Juliano gave the example of the Rocket project the kids had done, it illustrated the practical use of the XO's and multi-subject learning. His examples in Scratch and Etoys helped visualize what the children could accomplish and set the bar for our own deployment. Through Juliano's application lessons of the XO, we came up the idea to build a small structure, designed by the children, using the XOs. We also thought of chain stories, pairing students in a class, and Geo-Mapping (Juliano's idea) which identifies local listings on Google Maps. I can't wait to see what the children think of, much less put those ideas in to action.

Third- David Cavallo and Nicholas Negroponte. Flat out contageous. What a group of incredible minds that simplified, and compacted contructionism into a piece of hardware! Pedagogy was a foreign term before the workshop, but I now I have an opinion for what it should mean. Thats not to stay I swallowed every speech, but I think a critical approach is what they would want. As David Cavallo put it "I am fortunate to work for a company where I can disagree with my boss". What I learned from these thinkers was both constructionism and flexibility. I learned when it comes to education every child is different, has different abilities, different speeds, different interests and different creative minds. I learned how the XO is supplementary, and capacity building. Its innovation, conceptualizing, critical thinking, problem solving, progressive and fun. The XO is whatever the kid wants it to be, and thats the idea. Most importantly, what I learned was how to acheive this potential. Ownership. Tangibility. Preparedness. Teacher Training. Interest Based Learning. Project Based Learning. Together these practices make up only a portion of whats needed for a successful deployment - and a daunting task for 10 weeks or less...

I couldn't have imagined I would have gained so much from the workshop in Kigali. From the lectures by David Cavallo, to the speeches by Nicholas Negroponte, to the tech sessions by Reuben Caron, it was a truly comprehensive experience. Of course much will be improved upon next year, but the first time is always challenging. I look forward to starting next week, it will be the project of a lifetime!

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