Sunday, July 31, 2011

East Timor continued, video

(10 minutes)

Or see the short version (3 minutes)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Timor reflections

Reflections on the East Timor visit
The purpose of this visit was to expand the use of the laptops. The original training had concentrated on developing computer skills. This meant that the computers were being used mainly for 'office' skills and had limited use. The goals, as understood before the visit, were to
  • increase the relevance to the curriculum, particularly maths
  • increase the use as a more creative tool
To this end, materials were developed for maths and more creative use.

Creating narratives
We are told that kids are not good at creating narratives or imaginative writing. They tend to respond only with yes/no answers. When asked to role play, they say "they made me change my name" or when asked questions they have difficulty answering in role and answer as self. If shown a cartoon of farm animals they are all called ‘toy’, not ‘pig’ or ‘horse’ (in Tetun), kids are reluctant to make ‘oink’ and ‘neigh’ noises etc.

We observed kids in prep doing imaginative play with Lego in free play time. There is also a rich Timorese oral history of poetry (eg.). It is reasonable to assume that there is innate creativity but that the types of creativity we are expecting don't match what they are culturally attuned to.

(these maybe relevant: Orality in literacy, listening to indigenous writing and Indigenous literacies - a literature review)

It is worth noting that kids are not being asked to create in their first language. The language at home is not Tetun, it is one of the other languages, possibly Mambai. The languages of instruction, Tetun and Portuguese are likely to be the second and third languages.

It is also worth noting that East Timor has only recently recovered from war.

Another possible issue, the novel didn’t appear till the 1700‘s and was then criticised as being trivial, maybe creative writing isn’t that easy and we shouldn’t be too surprised at the kids difficulty.

Possible remedies, match the task to existing forms of cultural expression. An essay on "what I did in the school holidays" might be a poor match. Get kids to first role play with Lego and then create narrative. Show short videos to catalyse discussion, virtual soccer, video games. Try oral works, music, dance, art as bridging media.

We did come prepared with some lessons which encouraged creativity but in the end mainly concentrated on math drill with Tuxmath and Gcompris, the creative lessons were too big a leap from the previous laptop use.

The original vision for OLPC was for child ownership and saturation in a situation where the education system was broken. The laptop was seen as a constructionist tool where unguided exploration would lead to experimentation and creativity. This deployment was neither child owned nor saturated. The school was functioning well and relatively well resourced.

Resources in one classroom

The feel was not dissimilar to a computer lab in a developed country. Moving from lower order skills to higher order skills (as defined in eg. Bloom's Taxonomy) is not an easy thing to accomplish in a developed world computer lab, why would it be any easier here?

Laptops will be trialed with 2 kids per laptop in grade 3, previously the larger grade 3 had not used the laptops because sharing laptops was considered impractical.

Child ownership
The children do not take the laptops home, we discussed the possibility of teachers taking the laptops home.

Child ownership can extend further than the hardware, the child can also own their learning. The laptop was 'designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning'. Tom showed the TED Hole in the Wall talk which I think had a lot of impact.

The laptops are shared between classes, each laptop has four 'owners'. The laptops are currently named 1,2,3 ... , we discussed the Chat Activity and allowing kids to rename laptops for a session.

We discussed letting the children use Chat in an unstructured, free for all way. I have done that in the past, its chaotic and challenging for the teacher but has strong benefits for literacy.

Mains power is erratic and had been off most days. There is no classroom recharging, a tangled mess of leads and powerboards is impractical. Flexible furniture arrangement makes permanent power leads impractical. Multiple pendant leads are probably too expensive and still visually difficult. Need to try the laptops' automatic power management out to extend battery time.

The laptops are stored in a locked cupboard in the principal’s office. They are charged on a table in the office in a tangled mess of power boards. Laptops stacked ontop of each other could overheat. Charging is hit and miss because of unreliable power.

Laptop storage

The desk where all 20 laptops are charged

They are not left plugged in overnight, although they would charge if the power comes back on. This is maybe to reduce the risk of theft. Discussed having a lockable timber charging rack built.

LinkOther issues
There was one XO1.0. It was software locked. We could not install the intended unsigned software image.

We had been told that the Portuguese language was not required because the teachers expected computers to talk English. It turned out that was based on using the computer as an office tool. Once the range of Activities was increased, there was renewed interest in Portuguese.

The server
The school server opens up other uses, in part because it supports a directory based filesystem. Downloading the Tetun language Wikipedia now becomes practical.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

East Timor continued

Saturday morning

We went to Hera market in the morning.
Hera Market

In the afternoon Tom worked on the server and I tried to learn more Tetun.

The others went to Sidhara village to see a bread making demonstration.. An irrigated community garden has been established there.
Bread oven

Later we went snorkeling at Caz Bar beach, up to the big statue at Christo Rei, the supermarket and dinner at a restaurant on the beach.

Caz Bar beach, Dili

Christu Rei

The power went off at sunset and didn’t come back for 24 hours.

Sunday morning
Power still off. Up to the school to pick up 5 laptops. Ran the generator for an hour or so to cool the refrigerators and charge the laptops. Tom worked on the school server, now working if a config file on the laptops is changed. Carol and I tried out Activity sharing on an Ad Hoc network.

Sunday afternoon, church service at Sidara village.

Sidara Village

Monday morning
Tom worked on the server
Carol and I worked on activity sharing

Up to school to do Gcompris Activity with class 2A

Monday afternoon Tom worked on server and I watched

The server works!!

Monday night Into dili and stayed Dayan and Merna Barbossa of WEC. Night soccer match didn't happen because power was off.

Off to Care this morning, in principle permission to use digitised Care resources on the laptops.
Care Dili

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

East Timor Laptop Deployment

Hera,Timor Leste, (East Timor) 7 July 2011
Thursday Morning

Tom and I arrived in Hera yesterday. We were met by Branca at Dili airport and driven the 40 minutes to Hera.

Landing at Dili airport

Timor Leste is an island nation 1½ hours northwest of Australia. Originally a Portuguese colony, they declared independence in 1975 and were then were occupied by Indonesia. A bitter 25 year guerrilla war followed, culminating in independence in 1999. The nation was left with nearly all the infrastructure destroyed . Further unrest occurred in 2006. Timor Leste is now working to reestablish itself after this difficult past.

The population speaks a large number of local dialects, Tetun (the Tetun Dili dialect) is the lingua franca, and lesser amounts of Portuguese, English and Bahasa Indonesia. The two official languages are Portuguese and Tetun. Schooling is in both Portuguese and Tetun.

Kids Ark School, Hera, Timor Leste

The Kid’s Ark school is a P-4 school founded by Brazilian missionaries. It was given 20 OLPC XO1.5 laptops by the Seaton OLPC group in July 2010. One year later, Tom and I returned to evaluate progress and provide additional teacher training.

Two principles of the OLPC program are saturation (all primary school students in a region get laptops) and child ownership (the children get to take their laptops home). The Hera deployment is neither saturated nor take home.

It is not a saturated deployment because of lack of funding.

It was not made a take home deployment because of concerns that this was incompatible with a hierarchical society with different understandings of private ownership. The possibility of negotiating this with village elders has not been explored.

The main challenge facing us was to increase the usage of the laptops. The laptops are only being used for a few hours a week. They were enthusiastically adopted a year ago, the acquisition of computer skills was highly valued but now their feeling is that they had ‘done’ everything that could be done with the computer.

One strategy identified was to use the laptops more creatively, rather for rote type tasks.

A second was to identify linkages between the laptops and the curriculum.

Teacher's guide, 1st grade, in Portuguese and Tetun

Thursday Afternoon
In the morning we re-flashed the laptops and installed some extra activities. In the afternoon we did training of 10 mainly Tetun speaking teachers. I wasn’t much use there with my lack of Tetun language but Tom and Carol did a great job. First we did an activity inserting photos into a word processor document to create a personal profile. Then we used the Tux Math drill activity. Finally we showed Wikipedia in Tetun and discussed the possibilities.

Teaching the teachers

A positive sign, two teachers (class 2a and 2b) asked if they could use Tuxmath in their classes. We first did class 2a, that meant a bit of hurried installing of software for the class. Some kids had no idea of how to use the computer, one finger on the mousepad, enter etc. Nevertheless it took only about 20 minutes to get all the kids going well (video).

Next class 2b. Similar experience to 2a. Even more encouraging, the teacher when shown the Abacus Activity wanted to use it immediately because she could see its curriculum relevance. The kids continued to use this till the laptops batteries ran out, doubling and tripling to a laptop as the batteries progressively failed.

Linking the Abacus Activity to the existing curriculum

More to come.

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