The Columbus School for Girls One Laptop Per Child Service Learning Project engages high school girls in computer science through service. What began as a service trip has expanded to many different student-driven projects that use computer science as a vehicle to improve the world.

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General:

What began as a year-long independent study course intended to prepare students for a service trip to deliver OLPC’s XO laptops  (http://laptop.org/)  along with lessons to elementary school students in St. John has grown to a multi-year student-led independent study experience using computer science as a vehicle for service.  This experience is “Service Learning” where learning is combined with service. The true spirit of Service Learning is that the learning cannot happen without the service, and the service can’t happen without the learning.
Benefits:
Some say that the most effective engagement takes place at the intersection of social engagement, political engagement, and economic engagement. This course provides CSG students with an opportunity for civic engagement while learning about technology, culture, lifestyle, and other aspects of life at the recipient school. The service aspect of this course engages girls with technology in a deeply meaningful way. The service becomes the objective rather than the computer programming or the hardware and software troubleshooting.
A secondary gain, but a primary goal, is that students are being introduced to Computer Science in a way that is attractive, engaging, and meaningful. The numbers of women in computer science have plummeted in the past decade, and remain low, so recruiting and retaining women into CS is an urgent need. This project helps to address the initial recruiting aspect of the “pipeline problem” by embedding the computer science into the goal of teaching and service. The science becomes something students learn along the way. 


First Year Course Overview:
The premise of the first year’s course is based on acquiring donated XO laptops, and delivering them, along with training, during a service trip. T
his is not simply a charitable purchase and delivery. Students learn about the XO laptop, the open source software available for it, how to network the computers with one another and with the Internet, and hardware and software repairs including troubleshooting. They develop a curriculum, research existing curricula and activities, and plan and prepare lessons for the delivery period. (They will have to deeply understand these concepts since they will be expected to teach them to both students and teachers during the delivery phase of the class.)

After the First Year:
Many students choose to take the course a second and even a third year. Some students choose to travel once, sometimes twice. Others choose not to travel and perform their service in other ways. All projects are student-driven, and evolve from the individual’s interests, preferences, and perception of what’s needed. Please see our Related Projects page, and visit our Etoys website for more information. And feel free to use any of our work and share it with others. We would love our work to be widely used. If you have ideas or needs, please use the email form to contact us.

This course meets approximately once per week. The general outline is as follows:
First Semester:

Learn the Sugar operating system

  • Learn to add and delete activities, how to use the journal, and basic Sugar features
  • Develop ways to teach Sugar
  • Learn Etoys
  • Learn Scratch
  • For each lesson, come up with teaching strategies and ideas for a companion “game” to go along with the lesson
  • Learn how to take apart (and put back together) an XO laptop
  • For those interested, troubleshoot some of the broken computers to see if they can be repaired

Second Semester:

  • As a class, select a subject for which we would like to develop a ten-lesson teaching “unit” 
  • Break the subject into an appropriate number of lessons, and have each student work on a single lesson for use by global  communities. Sometimes, CSG Lower School teachers are used as subject matter experts. Sometimes CSG students are our beta testers. 
  • Review Sugar, Scratch, Etoys and Etoys teaching strategies
  • Teach CSG’s 4th graders to practice “in front of a room”
  • Prepare for the trip

The trip:

  • Work with the school to teach 3rd-8th grade students Sugar, Scratch, and Etoys.
  • Develop curricula to be used by students in developing nations. 

Thanks for your interest! Please check back periodically to view our progress.

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