Sunday, November 03, 2013

Reflection on Honduras and "One Laptop Per Child"

I had the opportunity to participate in a teaching exchange in Honduras on October 12 -18. I was part of a team of 5 educators from The Maine International Center for Digital Learning. The team was Cathy Wolinsky (Yarmouth Elementary School), Laura Girr (Freeport Middle and High Schools), Abby Manahan, and Amy Wilmot (MICDL). Former Maine Governor and Senator Angus King and Bette Manchester founded MICDL in 2008 to support the development of promising educator practices, digital student resources, and international programs. MICDL works to create and sustain networks of educators, communities, international organizations , and university/school partnerships to promote technology-driven tools to personalize learning, encourage collaboration, and prepare students for the future.  

We have many visitors come to our high school to see our laptop program in action. I have written about this before. Representatives from Honduras and Surinam came last spring. The team included the Under Secretary for Technical Affairs of Pedagogical Education, Elia Del Cid and 2 members of the EduCatrachos Team, Patricia Rivera and Donaldo Ochoa. I was impressed with the questions they asked about 21st Century learning techniques and their commitment to professional development. Their pilot, which started in February 2013 in grades 3-6 , involves 70,000 OLPC computers running Sugar and Fedora (which allows them to connect to the internet). It is financed through the International Development Bank. The EduCatrachos Team invited us to come for two days of teaching and 2 days of attending a technology fair. Our role in the training was to share pedagogical strategies, support the integration of technology in areas of literacy and numeracy, as well 21st Century Skills such as leadership, problem solving, and creativity.

We tried to prepare as best we could. The language barrier for preparing something like this was significant. Luckily Laura speaks Spanish, and the translator who had been with the team in Maine, Chris, helped us with planning. We really didn't know what prior knowledge and experience using technology to expect from our "students". At the time, we didn't know if there would be internet access or what version of machine they would be using. Thankfully, David, a member of the EducaTrachos team was at our hotel upon arrival with machines for us to learn on and his patient explaining made us feel better prepared. We also created a website to use with our participants.

We met our translator, Diego, a college student who ironically had visited Portland, Maine as a child. For 2 days we met with about 45 teachers from Honduras, each picked as the technology lead for their school, They came from all over the country to attend. Also attending were 3 teachers from Panama, and 2 from El Salvador.
The modules we taught were:

• Storytelling - Literacy
• Numeracy Activities on XO
Scratch on XO
• Unconference
• Smackdown or La guerra de ideas
Each module was introduced without technology and then enhanced using technology. One of our overall goals was to build a collaborative group that would stay connected after our time together. We started in nice straight rows and by the end of each day we had messy groups all around the room. Listening to the chatter and excitement made us think that this group will definitely continue their learning virtually through Facebook, Diigo, UStream, and other online tools.
Technology Fair:
Days 3 and 4 were spent at Chiminike,The Children's Museum, in Tegucigalpa. A wonderful celebration of student work, there were booths set up showing various school projects. Students used recycled materials to create puppets. They then made narrated videos of their puppet shows. Some were about teaching how to recycle. An exhibit on Denghe fever even had an OLPC laptop made out of styrofoam to take in to their community. Students are not able to take their laptops home.

Many students were using Scratch programming and Lego WeDo robots. There were robots everywhere! We saw many teachers being taught by students and many students working in small groups. The group from El Salvador did a very nice activity around introducing robotics to the teachers first by making circuit boards and hydraulics using syringes.  Next teachers put things together and then finally they introduced the robots. We presented our activity on storytelling and we presented our information about the Maine Learning Technology Initiative in Spanish. While we were presenting, students were videoing and taking pictures with their laptops. 

I really enjoyed working and learning with the students and teachers of Honduras. They have fully embraced new ways of learning using technology. The EduCatrachos team is amazing. Their knowledge and support services are critical to making the program a success. Every morning the latest information was posted at their website. They call and check in with each school once a week. They were giving individual support the entire 4 days. They know the machines inside out and were available to troubleshoot. As they finish year 1 of their project, I wish them all the best and success for the future! 

If you would like to see more pictures, my Flickr set is here. More pictures will be added to this group as well.

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