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Summer Rush

by Timothy Falconer

With our Immokalee pilot in full swing and our Nicaragua pilot starting in August, this summer has been an exciting blur of activity at Waveplace.

To kick things off, we had a great story done on us by NPR, which kicked off a wave of new interest in our efforts. To date, we've received inquiries from more than fifty organizations around the world hoping to do similar work as Waveplace. Also last month, I participated in a worldwide video conference hosted by Duke University. All things OLPC are really starting to gain momentum.

Just now I spoke with our three Waveplace mentors in Nicaragua. They flew in last night and are now prepping for our first classes tomorrow. As in Immokalee, we'll start with a workshop for the local teachers, then help everyone through the six-week pilot. This will be our first Spanish pilot, and first using solar panels from OLPC, since the school has no electricity.

Stay tuned for more video from Immokalee and Nicaragua. We've also started our textbook, which we hope to release by November 1st.

The Benefits of Etoys

by Christa Crehan & Susan Jordan

The purpose of education is to teach kids how to become critical and creative thinkers. It's about the process, not the end product. When children are learning, you can get inside their mind and break apart what they are doing to find out what they know and where they need to grow.

The brain thinks visually. Squeak Etoys takes full advantage of this by being a cognitive bridge that takes traditional concepts and connects them to 21st century thinking skills and computer programming content. Etoys appeals to students emotionally as something fun and exciting. When you link a child's emotions to something full of rigor and relevance, you create a permanent connection in a child's brain between fun and problem solving.

Etoys helps kids conquer their fear of being wrong! Just like any inventor, they must troubleshoot to make their storybook characters come to life. The level of critical and creative thinking it takes to integrate computer programming skills into the creation of a story is exponential compared to writing a story with a pencil and paper. It is impossible to achieve this level of learning the old fashioned way. There is no comparison. Etoys has the rigor and relevance that teachers seek for their students with the added benefit of fun!

As Seymour Papert said and the children in our Immokalee pilot echo, "This is the hardest fun they've ever had!"

The Importance of Storytelling

by Mary Scotti

Developing a story invites children to a deeper exploration of their inner reality. The sharing of stories allows them to share a piece of that reality with others. Empathy stems from a willingness to truly hear and identify with another person's perceptions, feelings and views. Stories help build empathy.

Developing a story allows the emergence of a child's imagination to manifest itself, whether it's a funny tale, a silly musing, a true experience, an episode of an admired action hero, or an adventure of a ladybug or an errant crocodile. From concept through finished storybook, children develop awareness that the endeavor is a complex process of both inner and outer communication involving multiple steps. The children in our pilots illustrated this time and time again. Here a child is deep in thought rapt in a solo pursuit to create a particular background just so. At another table three are huddled together collaborating on solving one child's efforts to make a figure move up and down along a path. Elsewhere in the room a mentor is listening as a fourth-grader explains their story concept. Over and over again one hears "Oh, yeah", "cool", "look at this", "aha".

The Waveplace pilots aim to 'spark' the children's engagement with their new XOs, providing them with skills necessary to delve deeper, gain confidence, and continuously expand upon what they have already learned. These tools combined with a new found confidence in their own abilities propels them toward greater exploration, an appreciation for the unexpected, and many more 'aha' moments yet to come. I for one am anxious to view the final story creations -- I know I will be wowed.

July Report from Immokalee

by Russell Van Riper

As a student, I sat through my share of computer literacy classes, with most having one instructor talking out into space, explaining confusing command menus, projected blurry against the wall. Very easy to get disoriented, disengaged, and lost in a wandering mind.

The Waveplace pilot in Immokalee was very different once we got into our flow. Problems at the start were solved with professionalism and skill by the mentors. The greatest distraction... kids being kids... was handled purely by the teachers craft, especially helpful was Mary Villa's depth of knowledge of the children as individuals in the community. Mary's connectedness to Immokalee has helped stem potential discipline problems, as well as tailor one-on-one instruction time to the individual learning styles of particular students. This kind of knowledge can only come from being involved in the community, not something that can be written into the Waveplace curriculum, but something that Waveplace is useless without.

During week three, it was recognized that the basic skills needed to write scripts, add animation, and use the XO as creative tool had been covered, but there was a great degree of stratification within the large group of students being served. It was decided to split the class up according to need. Stations for Writing, Drawing, Scripting, and Animation were set up at different tables with each teacher teaching according to their own particular strength and students self directing (with guidance) from station to station as their stories developed. The structure was loose, flowing, and conducive to the creative nature of the work.

By week four, the teachers realized that lessons 1 through 15 had more or less been covered in an adhoc manner as dictated by the students. The children had created stories of various complexity, complete with scripts, animation, and independent flourishes, with some students clamoring to use features no one, not even the folks at Etoys, have fully developed.

I must say that I am impressed.

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Waveplace in Haiti


Call For Mentors


Waveplace on NPR