This is part two of a post about school sessions during the 30 OLPCorps teams’ two-week training in Kigali, Rwanda with members of the OLPC Center for Laptops & Learning and Rwanda’s RITC/OLPC Core Team.
The workshop brought OLPCorps teams to five Rwandan schools with XO laptops; the following is a brief synopsis of the trainings in two of the schools, Kagugu and Nonko:
Kagugu Primary School:
This is known as the best public school in Rwanda. The school is located in Kigali and has a total of 3020 laptops and 3242 students (P1 students share laptops), and 47 teachers. The school has Internet access. Students do not currently take their laptops home. Julia Reynolds of the OLPC Learning Team, Epimaque TWAGIRIMANA Leader of the Rwanda Core Team, Core Team technical members Basil IRENE MASEVELIO, John-Marie NYIRINKWAYA, and 30 OLPCorps members conducted the training at Kagugu. Both days were focused on teachers.
So all 47 teachers could participate, they were arranged into 3 different groups, each with 2-hour training sessions. The first day, teachers were introduced to Scratch. It was their first time using Scratch because the laptops were just recently reflashed to a newer software build. After a basic introduction, teachers were asked to take a picture of any object or scenery in the school yard, and import this picture into Scratch and tell a story about the picture. The teachers, with the assistance of OLPCorps members, used sound, images and animation to tell their stories. At the end of the session, teachers shared their work with the larger group to supportive applause.
The second day, teachers sat with OLPCorps members in smaller groups and explored ways they could use the XO in the classroom. Both OLPCorps members and teachers were fantastic. Together, they explored ways to use Turtle Art, Memorize and Scratch for lessons. One teacher, who had not previously used the laptop in his class, decided he wanted to start right away and grabbed some OLPCorps members to assist him in his classroom.
Later in the day, the entire group had a chance to see a teacher, Simon, using the laptops in his classroom. After learning about Silvia’s work in Rwamagana, he asked the class to take a picture of an object in the school yard, import the picture into Write, and write the name of the image in English. The students seemed to thoroughly enjoy this exercise and by the end of the 1 hour and 30 minute class, all students were able to import their picture to Write and add text in English.
Nonko is located in Kigali in the Kanombe sector. There are a total of 937 students, 15 teachers with 855 laptops. Students originally took laptops home, but stopped due to some logistical problems. For the moment, just P6 takes the laptops home. Parents are being asked to sign a contract to protect their children’s laptops, and once this is done, the entire school can take the laptops home again. The students from this school are famously known as the users of Kigali International Airport, since they are a constant presence in the boarding area where they search for free Internet access.
Juliano Bittencourt, of the OLPC Learning Team, conducted the training at Nonko with 15 OLPCorps team’s members and 17 school teachers. In order, to take advantage of so many native English speakers, what
constitutes at the same time an opportunity and a challenge for the teachers, working over language was the focus of the activities. As previously mentioned, learning English became an important issue for the teachers since the government decided to change the language of instruction from French to English to align with other East African countries. So, the choice of the working theme was based on the needs of the teachers and not for the convenience of the OLPCorps teams.
The starting activity was to pair an OLPCorps team member with one teacher. Both of them went outside the building and collected at least 10 pictures of objects. They named the pictures with their Kinyarwanda name and the correspondent translation in English. After that, based on the pictures, the whole group built a small Kinyarwanda – English dictionary. The interesting part of the work was the discussions regarding if the translations were correct or not, and about different ways of translating certain terms.
Another activity was called “Fantastic tale“. The class was divided in groups of 5 pairs. Each pair went to Scratch and got 3 random sprites. Based on the sprites, each pair needed to write a story in the Write activity involving all 3 sprites. After 5 minutes, the pairs rotated their laptops inside the group. When receiving a new laptop, the group was supposed to continue the story of their peers. After 5 rotations, they had to finish the story. They also had some time to work over the doubts of the teachers, trying to solve the problems they were facing.
The next school day was dedicated to working with teachers and students. Each OLPCorps team member spent the morning working inside a teacher’s classroom, helping them to implement different lessons. The activities proposed by the teachers were totally different. Some continued their traditional classes and only used XOs as notebooks. Others tried to do something different and used activities such as Memorize and Wikipedia. One example was a math teacher that used Memorize so that his students could create subtraction games. Another teacher made a game making questions about Kigali while their students searched for the answers in the Wikipedia activity. By one side, these are initial activities that still don’t take advantage of the full potential of the laptops, by the other, these are interesting initial attempts by teachers to integrate the XO in their teaching
practice. In a country where textbooks are a challenge, the XO provides an important source of access to information for the teachers even when offline.