June 2008 Newsletter
Report from the Haiti Pilot
A Whole New World for Nicaragua
Learning to Learn
by Timothy FalconerAs I write this, I'm flying home from our first Waveplace mentoring workshop, held in Immokalee, Florida. Over the last five long days, I taught our new Squeaky Tales course to a class of eight adults, most of them teachers. The week was enlightening and exhausting!
We also started our third Waveplace pilot with a whopping 42 fourth graders, each of whom received their very own XO laptop. I led the class with a projector and microphone while the eight mentors worked with smaller groups. The kids were absolutely incredible: well-behaved, motivated, engaged. The mentors were equally amazing, working as a cohesive team, guiding each child's discoveries while keeping things fun. We're expecting great things from the next nine weeks. I'm hoping we learn as much as the kids.
Our filmmaker Bill Stelzer recorded the whole week on video, both for our upcoming documentary and for our courseware DVDs. Our own Mary Scotti spent the week as well, learning Etoys for St Vincent. Best of all, Larry Abramson from NPR spent a full day with us, so keep your radio tuned to hear his story on Waveplace in Immokalee.
Special thanks to Tithe and More, who funded half the Immokalee pilot, and the Collier County Migrant Student Summer Program, who funded the other half. Thanks also to One by One Leadership Foundation and Naples Social Action for putting it all together.
Immokalee is a study in contrasts. With almost half of its population living below the poverty line, it ranks as one of the poorest areas in the United States, though nearby Naples ranks as one of the richest. Immokalee's migrant farm workers pick 90% of America's winter harvest, much of which goes to our fast food restaurants, yet many workers stand in line to receive food themselves since they cannot afford to feed their families. Your ketchup packet likely came from an Immokalee worker who was paid $50 to pick two tons of tomatoes.
Our shared hope is for a better future for the children of Immokalee. This week in class, it felt more than possible.
Report from the Haiti Pilot
By William StelzerIn Early May I headed back to Haiti to check on the Waveplace pilot at Mercy and Sharing's John Branchizio School. Haiti is one of the most turbulent places in the western hemisphere, and since I had last been there in February, rising food prices had caused rioting and the ouster of the country's Prime Minister. During this time, by necessity Waveplace's pilot had been put on hold. When I touched down on the Port au Prince tarmac it was relief to see that the city was back to normal. (Though I did have a UN soldier standing guard with an automatic weapon outside my door 24 hours a day - but that's another story)
I met that evening with Emile Jean Rousa, lead mentor and talked about the progress the kids had made so far. It was quite encouraging, as despite the political troubles holding up classes, and the fact that it was too dangerous for the kids to take their laptops home with them to practice, they were extremely motivated working with their XOs and were making significant progress.
When we were able to get everything together for lessons to resume, I have to say it was pretty surreal. We had to use the orphanage's cafeteria, where the only light came in through decorative holes cut into the concrete walls. It was almost like being in a futuristic movie, with these kids lit by their XO screens and gritty streaks of sunlight as they concentrated on learning the skills needed to paint on the computer.
What was also otherworldly was how disciplined and focused the kids were, as well how well the mentors were able to guide the kids through the steps needed, despite the conditions. (Steps, that keep in mind, were totally foreign to the kids who had before this pilot, never even touched a computer before.)
It struck then me that easiest part of Waveplace Haiti pilot is the kids actually learning the XO and eToys. It's just every other single thing that's difficult!
A Whole New World for Nicaragua
By Jeanie HaasNicaragua, the poorest nation in Central America, is a beautiful country which has suffered more than its share of woes in recent history; devastating earthquake and hurricanes, civil war, corrupt government. Still, its people are warm and welcoming, accepting and hopeful.
Our family has been involved in projects in Nicaragua for about 15 years; micro-enterprise, schools, orphanages and more. We especially love working with children, as they are the future of this special nation. So it was a great joy to stumble upon Waveplace via friends in Sanibel, Florida, and we are happy to be partnering with them to bring their creative technology to the children of southern Nicaragua. Our plan is to work with a school in the small, rural town of Buenos Aires, using both Nicaraguan instructors as well as an American who lives in the nearby town of Rivas. As with any project in a third-world country, we face challenges; the school currently has no electricity but does have large holes in the roof! Even if we do get electricity, long blackouts are common. But the hurdles only make us want to work harder to find creative solutions and make the end success even more rewarding. Currently we plan to use bulk battery chargers and plug them in at a nearby rustic camp that has a reliable generator.
We're very excited about this pilot project and the opportunity to impact this community, where an average daily salary is 3 dollars and most travel by ox cart. This program will open up a whole new world for these children, which we believe will positively impact their families as well.
Please join with us in reaching out by donating to Waveplace. There is no better way to bolster the ailing American image worldwide than through outreaches such as this! And there is nothing quite like the smiles that are given in return.
Learning to Learn
by Jon KernAs I watched the videos of the children and their XOs, it sure looked like a lot of fun! Some of the best learning I have ever experienced came in the guise of doing something interesting and often goal-oriented.
While some may enjoy learning everything and anything without a context, this is not the norm (from what I have seen). I never did read the dictionary. Learning while doing was something I learned as a teaching technique while working with Peter Coad. When we combined courseware and lesson plans with trying to accomplish a goal, the learning took on new meaning.
You can see the same thing with the children and their Waveplace projects. Though the typical learning was through the mentors and "doing," you could even see some children mentoring their peers. The goal of making a story and the items in it do something is a strong force for causing the children to seek our information, to try things, to experiment.
My three children have been in the Quaker education process (our son is now at Penn State). My twin girls are currently finishing up 7th grade. I can see the same benefit to their learning when they apply the elements being learned to a project or an interesting context.
Admittedly, this is a harder teaching method, as mentoring is much more hands-on. However, having personally mentored hundreds of software developers in the realm of object-oriented and agile methods, I can attest that the lessons sink in much better.
For the children and their XOs, I think the subtlety is about learning to learn by exploring, by doing, and by helping each other, and by accepting help from mentors.