East Timor Laptop Deployment
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.
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.
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.
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.
More to come.