Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday April 14, 2011


I rose early 5:30 a.m. in a sauna sweat. The “air conditioner” was more like a heater, the door would not open (my fault), and the mosquito net too confining. So there I was at 5:30 a.m. going over my presentation. Today was the most important day. I was to address 32 Primary School teachers, some administrators and college personnel. They decided to move the “class” to the open air under a tent. Truthfully, this was such good news because the 10 by 10 classroom they had selected would be hot, the 16 computers would make it hotter. The projector under my nose would be hottest but the 32 bodies huddled together would make it scorch. So instead, we were outside in a corridor between two buildings. The director of Development, my buddy, Dan Bwanika wanted it cleaned. So how is this done? Buckets of water are poured on the ground and we scoot around avoiding it, then the sweeper comes in and pushes the water into a gulley (Professor Jim Metz, my math teacher colleague, who I barely know really) became a sweeper too.  Then the wiper comes and manually pulls a towel across the floor in sections until it is just wet but not puddly. Voila, a clean classroom. When is the last time you were greeted in such a manner that they literally wipe the floor to honor you.

Next the whiteboard (the plastic white board was nailed to a window frame, the projector was connected via two extension cords through a window to the power inside and…it’s showtime!

All the teachers arrived on time.  After some introductory comments by the director and the administrators, I then introduced myself and the project, the OLPC mission, its reach and purpose.

I then presented a slide show on the descriptions of what the XO can and does do, its physical features, it’s operation- the neighborhood, group , home, journal activities, the frame, the connectivity. I emphasized the collaboration/cooperation  aspects and that value if we had a future world with the ability to cooperate.

Then we passed out the computers – 2 teachers to a machine. These are head teachers at various primary schools, some have traveled very far for this event. We had them open, start, and work on various activities. I began with memorize, then speak.  We then moved to record, write and the labyrinth. With each activity I showed how students could learn from them and how it supported the curriculum. The we briefly used Colors and spent some time on the Typing Turtle. I must say that some of these teachers had never used a keyboard so there were some challenges. Luckily they were in pairs and had no trouble looking over at a neighbor. Speaking of neighbors, I could not get the XOs to see each other, even if 2 were connected to the same mesh network. It had worked in practice the night before! Very frustrating so we had to avoid group activities, which I am sure they would have loved.  Troubleshooting that will be problematic without the computers so I must get another one.

All together we went for 3 hours with just a 5 minute break!

Lunch was served. It was a typical Ugandan meal of beans, rice and beef. I turned down the pasho and bananas- the carbs are killing me!

After lunch, I thought I would show them Turtle Logo – probably a mistake. It was hard for them to figure out how to make a box using the repeat function. We got through it, but we were having trouble with some computer freezes. I think it was from pressing too many keys and the computer was trying to catch up. So I decided to cut my losses and move over to distance learning. I explained that these computers were a gift from my husband’s company, Clemente Orthodontics but that the sponsor of our distance learning course was Jenzabar, who might offer us a donation to help fund more computers. Photo Ops were taken.  I again used my laptop to show site and gave out login numbers and passwords. Apparently there were new teachers there so I had to take more names and email addresses to submit to Jenzabar for enrollments. I took them through the parts of the course that were set up and explained that I would be using google docs in the cloud rather than downloads because the internet was too slow and costly in Uganda. I showed them that I would provide instructions online and monitor various discussions where information could be requested and returned.

Lastly, I distributed LiveCDs and showed how to boot from it. Of course, there were some glitches but I showed enough to indicate they would be able to learn the XO from the disk. I would love to say it all ran smoothly, but anyone who deals with technology knows that even with advanced planning there are many surprises and problems to solve.  My colleague, Jim Metz was a remarkable support TEAM, yes TEAM. He was everywhere helping everyone. Because the XO would not project to the wall, we had to roam the room to help. He barely knew the XO but he was a wiz at figuring out problems. Sometimes, we just had to put the problem aside for later review.

Then, the ceremonies began. I presented  5 computers to Francis Etyang for his diligence in pursuing contact with me last year when we began this collaboration. He was so excited to bring him to his classroom.

Then 15 were presented to the primary school administrators who were present. They would be using them as a demonstration site for teacher education and collaboration. More photo ops, more speeches thanking me for the visit, the education, the computers.  Finally, we visited the elementary school, took pictures of some remaining children with the XOs. One special moment was the visit to the school for the blind on the primary school campus. There were about 25 children in various states of blindness, a common condition in this area due to both malaria and the poor hygiene conditions. I distributed the toothbrushes and toothpaste to each child and they sang a beautiful song about the love in their hearts. I told them I would carry their love to America and sent love back from America who loves them.  Hard to take but I am so happy they were included in the visit.

Back at the college campus, we packed up and began the harrowing night drive back to the TATS guest house where I am writing this blog. Jim and I rode back with Dan Bwanika, Ronald Ssemyalo and Kathy…. We chatted all the way home on topics of traffic, government, mosquitos, malaria, drug resistance, bird watching, deforestation, town organizations, laws and lack of enforcement of them.  Our talks ran the gamut between serious and funny. We were all very compatible.\

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