Sunday, July 19, 2009

Deep into Teacher Training

We're coming up on the second week of teacher training, and in response to feedback we've gotten from teachers, we're making it much more structured than it was before. After last week, all the teachers are familiar with the XO, if not comfortable with it, and we are going to start giving out homework for them to do. We already gave them a homework assignment on friday, which was to come up with a newspaper article, import a photo into Write, and write your newspaper article in Write. We wrote up on the board our goals for next week, which are (in probably horrible french grammar):

Les Objectifs pour la deuxieme semaine
-Il faut soyez capable de faire ces activites sans aide - Liste - Calculer, Ecrire, Naviguer, Enregistrer, Dessiner, Speak, Distance, Memoriser, Lune, Maze, Implode, Ruler, Discuter, ArtTortue, TamTamJam, TamTamMini
-Devoir pour Mardi - avoir un revision de votre article de journale
-Devoir pour Mercredi - pensez de 2 idees pour projets d'apprentissage et les ecrivez dans Ecrire
-Devoir pour Vendredi - Venez au class avec un devoir pour un classe qui vous enseignez (Maths, Anglais, etc). Il faut que cette devoir utilise au moins de 2 activites dans la liste a droite. Faisez un example de cette devoir.

For the non-french speakers out there, that translates to:

Objectives for the 2nd Week
-You have to be able to do these activities without help - List - Calculate, Write, Browse, Record, Paint, Speak, Distance, Memorise, Moon, Maze, Implode, Ruler, Discuter, Turtle Art, TamTamJam, TamTamMini
-Homework for Tuesday - have a revised version of your newspaper article
-Homework for Wednesday - think of 2 ideas for learning projects and write them in Write
-Homework for Friday - Come to class with a homework for a class that you teach (Math, English, etc.) The homework has to use at least 2 activites in the list at the right. Do an example of this homework.

Our eventual goal is that they be able to open up a completely unknown activity and be able to figure it out/use it in under half an hour. We feel that if we do that, they'll have learned the computer enough to adapt to whatever comes their way.

Next monday (a week from tomorrow) we hope to have a session on XO repair - after that we'll move into the more complicated activities like Scratch and Etoys. Teaching those two will definitely take up the better half of the third week. The fourth week (August 2-7) will be the beginning of the camp for the kids. And then Eli and I will be gone :( - but the other half of the team, Justin and Stephanie, will be around until August 20th to continue the camp.

This is a pretty ambitious goal, but we've been helped by a couple of factors:
-Some teachers were trained in computers already. They had a month long training from some Belgian people up at the factory in October. They learned how to use Word, Excel, and Firefox, we think.
-Note - I actually just met that Belgian guy, he was hanging out with the headmaster right now. They have a training center here called CIFOP (Centre Informatique de Formation de.. I dunno after that exactly) which teaches welding, electrical and mechanical skills, and computer skills. He's a secondary school teacher who runs trips down to Senegal with his high school students to promote cross-cultural exchange and to train Senegalese. You can check out their website at
-All of us are becoming a lot more familiar with the teachers and what works best for their individual styles. Some teachers learn very fast, and some are a little slower.
-Devon Connolly is awesome, he speaks fluent Wolof - basically anytime we can't communicate something ourselves we go to him. In addition, he's a Linux whiz - he figured out a script to put a swap partition on an sd card to improve application-switching performance, and another command to put the time right on the frame. He basically did all the work to connect the cables to the female jacks in the conduit and he's been doing some stress testing on the network. In short, we couldn't have done any of this without Devon. Another post will be coming soon about how much we love the Peace Corps and Devon.
-My French has been improving little by little, and all the teachers here speak French fluently. Communication is nice :)
-We're getting the teachers that learn faster to help the teachers that learn more slowly. We're training some people that aren't actually teachers (the secretary, Helen, the janitor, Emmanuel, and the priest, Tanis), in addition to a couple of teachers from Garou, a neighboring town that also has a Catholic school. Some of those extra people are the fastest learners, so are having them teach the slower learners. Students teaching students and constructionism prevail! (Warm and fuzzy feelings abound)

I made a point above about me speaking French a little better, and that segues into a point that Eli has made before but I feel bears repeating - people know SO MANY LANGUAGES! Take for example the teachers. They are all ethnically Serer - so they know the Serer language. Then they all know Wolof because it is the lingua franca in Senegal. Then they all know French because it is what all books are written in (almost nothing is written in Wolof). And on top of that, some of them know a little English too! This is typical of most people in town here - they are fluent in both French and Wolof, and if they're not ethnically Wolof, they know their mother tongue (Serer, Pulaar, etc.). We met one guy at Devon's friends house on the beach that speaks English, French, Hassaniya, Wolof, Spanish, and Pulaar. He would be like a renowned scholar in the states, here he's a tourism operator who has some beachfront property. I feel really bad that I can only speak English fluently and French conversationally.

In other news, we've been going to the beach a lot recently. We go there after we've eaten lunch (after teacher training in the morning) so we avoid the hottest part of the day. The walk through the woods/desert is about 5km - I've done it twice now. If we don't want to walk we just take the taxi which is only 150 CFA (.34 USD) In some places there's a trail, but for the second half of it there's just dunes and scrub. Right before the beach there's a little strip of pine trees; to go from a pine forest where nobody has disturbed the needles on the floor for so long that you could sleep there to seeing the ocean is incredibly cool. Devon's friends house that I was talking about is right on the beach, so we go there and sit under the shade in the clean sand and watch the waves and try and speak Wolof/French/English to whoever shows up. It's pretty picturesque, no lie.

1 comment:

  1. Have you thought about linking up these teachers with OLPC France? that would make a lot of communication easier, though I congratulate you for your own improvement in that department