Monday, June 23, 2008

three differences in Arahuay

from Ivan Kristic, astounded-in-arahuay :

three differences that the OLPC has made to Arahuay, Peru (enhanced communication, sharing and legitimisation of school amongst parents):
As there are few roads in and around Arahuay, the children don’t communicate much outside of school — with anyone. The teachers started independently pointing out to Mr. Navarro that this was changing once the laptops arrived: kids started talking to each other outside of school hours over the mesh, and working together more while in school. They started talking a lot more with each other in person, and conquered their previously paralyzing fear of strangers.

The second thing, Mrs. Cornejo jumped in, is that the kids used to be pretty selfish, an unsurprising consequence of the abject poverty in much of Peru. It’s not that the kids are starving, it’s just that they don’t have very much; what they do have, they’re reluctant to share. With the laptops, the kids had to turn to each other to learn how to use them. Then they realized it was easy to send each other pictures and things they’ve written — and it became commonplace. The sharing, asserts Mrs. Cornejo, extended into the physical world, where once jealously-guarded personal items increasingly started being passed around between the kids, if somewhat nervously.

“Finally,” opened Mr. Navarro, and hesitated. He gave me another long look, clearly unsure if to proceed. I put on my best smile, and assured him it’s exactly the things he would hesitate to tell me that I want to hear most. He cleared his throat, and in a conspiratorial, low voice — despite the fact we were in an empty room in the town hall — explained he was sure, in the beginning, the pilot would fail.

“Children’s fathers used to seethe with fury when the laptops were passed out, because the kids no longer wanted to help work in the field all day,” he continued.

Mr. Navarro speaks in slow, measured sentences. He is thoughtful and confident, both reminders — along with his weathered face — of being, for many years, foremost a teacher.

“I didn’t know how we’d stop the fathers from revolting and making the kids return their XOs,” he says, shaking his head slightly. “The kids solved the dilemma for me: they taught their fathers how to use the Internet and a search engine.”

“Then they started showing them the work they were doing for school. The reports they wrote, the pictures they took, the notes they compiled. And the fathers had actual proof that their kids were learning,” he concluded.

The fathers, I later heard, all decided an education could stop their children from having no choice but to work the field all day as they did. With the laptops in place, the school was no longer a black box whose efficacy had to be taken on faith: the kids could prove they were learning. Schooling had gone open source. So their parents started having them help out only when necessary, and left them to read and write on their XO the rest of the time
Nothing else could make these three differences for a fraction of the cost. Also check out the magnificent photos at Ivan's blog. Carla Gomez Monray complements Ivan's account of Arahuay with an earlier very detailed, factual report from when they were first introduced. (OLPC Peru/Arahuay)

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