Hey! So we're finally settled & situated in our little tent village in Kibwezi, Kenya, and our project is definitely under way. I'm sitting in the computer classrom used by the secretarial students in the Polytechnic school and behind me, Greg, Krista, and Dave are working furiously to update and reflash all 106 computers we have here (the extra six are six that we brought here last year that need some updates). This morning, we had a meeting with Grace Chege, the head of the Imani Primary School, Samuel Mote, the head of the Educational Complex, and several teachers about how the last year with the laptops has gone and what (if any) ideas they have come up with for the 100 new ones.
Honestly, I think we were all super pleasantly surprised at what they had to say. First, Greg talked about the OLPC program, OLPCorps Africa, the XO machines themselves, and the goals of the program. We discussed some of the ways the computers could be used, programs that could be used & subjects that could be studied. Then we asked how they'd been used in the past year. Joseph, a teacher of standards 6 & 7, said that the kids have been using them, sometimes as often as once a week! This was great to hear, because we didn't even think that the kids would have seen the machines yet. They've been able to use memorize, browse, terminal, and recording pretty well, and have had difficulty using TamTam, Pippi, and TurtleArt. They've used them in the library as well as in the classrooms, always charging them before letting the kids use them so they don't have to deal with the power cords.
All of the staff seems very excited & willing to insert the XOs into their curriculum. They've been adjusting the timetables and schedules of the school day and are planning on using the laptops during the "creative arts" block, which is usually used to teach music, dance, art, or some thing along those lines. The plan is to let all the children in standards 1-7 use the laptops during their creative arts block, focusing on standards 3-7. Standard 8 students, who have the Kenyan National Exams soon, are going to have limited interactions with them in order to focus on their studies. Using the creative arts block means that some standards will be able to use the computers as many as 3 times a week, and since the class sizes never reach more than 45, two classes will be able to use them during the same block.
The only had a few complaints about the laptops, other than not knowing how to use certain activities, which were just those of the jumpy cursor (which we've all already encountered) and that one of them was starting up very slowly, something Greg is currently trying to figure out and fix. Other than that, they've been able to work with them very well, and we're talking to Beatrice, our coordinator, to set up a time to teach all the teachers who haven't used the XOs yet how to use them. I just got a typed up schedule of when we'll be using the computers in the classes, but we'll probably have 4-6 Americans in each class to help the kids use the computers. The younger students will probably need more assistance, and the older ones who've already encountered the XOs will be able to get by with less.
We tried to address the idea of checking out the laptops as if they were library books, but the administration was a bit hesitant at the idea. Some children take the matatu (public bus) to school, others walk, and they're concerned with the laptops being stolen or damaged, which is understandable since they're children. They were keen on the idea of the teachers being able to check them out, though, so they could get more use of them outside the classroom & familiarize themselves.
Another interesting opportunity us American students will probably be able to have, while not laptop related, is being able to go into the classrooms and talk to the kids about our majors. Grace said that most students want to be a doctor, or surgeon, or pilot, and don't know much about the other, less common professions. She suggested some of us come in and talk about our majors so the kids realize some other options they have. We're all really, really excited about how promising this meeting was and were left super optimistic!
Everything here is going well. We're staying in tents on the edge of the campus and often play with the students who live on the campus, the standard 7 & 8 kids and the polytech students. On Sunday we visited local churches and got a taste what it's like out in the country, and it certainly is like nothing I've ever seen before. This experience has already been amazing and eye-opening, and it's only six days in! Keep us all in your thoughts & prayers back home-- we love & miss you all.