Teaching the XO in the VVV

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2016

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Where I stayed
Vung Vieng Village Homestay

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, January 2, 2010

It is very early morning and I am still in the Vung Vieng Fishing Village. Last night Huong cooked a tasty meal of fish and stir fried vegetables. Nam left the generator on for me until about 9:00 PM. He had turned on the lights in each display case in the Pearl Shop, where I was sleeping. I felt badly using the noisy generator and stinky oil and asked him to disconnect all but one small light. I saw a few lights in homes across the bay, but only 2 or 3. The fishing families here turn in early as work starts at about 4:00 AM, fishing for squid in the dark and then for fish as day breaks.

I can't adequately describe the stillness and beauty of this bay and village, off the grid at night. In the scant moonlight you can see the towering limestone peaks reflected in the water. Tonight there are a million stars in the sky. Out here in the Vung Vieng Fishing Village, in January, 2010, the peace and quiet is palpable. It is spiritual and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be here. 
I slept, relieved that this night, there was no wind to test the solar installation that I am worried about. At 7:00 AM, Hong and 3 of the children are coming to the school to learn some more advanced skills on the XOs.

The teachers are not in the VVV this weekend. Sinh, Duan, and Nguyet came to play/work with Hong and me on the XOs. I see that they really do know how to boot up, start and stop activities, and shut down the XO properly from the home screen. This is important to overall battery life and I am very pleased. But to be honest, it does not look like they have learned much beyond the simple Activities we introduced to them in school in early October. These were 3 of the quickest students with the XOs. I am disappointed but I need to make an objective evaluation of what is working well out here and what requires more support.

We worked together for about 1 and 1/2 hours. I demonstrated the mesh, and taught the Invite a Friend and Join an Activity instructions step by step. Hong translated and is very good with the XO and the kids.

The Chat Activity worked with two XOs and Duan and Nguyet were occupied for an hour with it. This, even without the Vietnamese, keyboard and tone marks. I think Chat could work between nearby floating houses and the kids here who have neither land lines nor cell phones can practice their computer skills, ultimately collaborate on homework or other projects, and have fun with the XOs too.

Next we worked on the Paint (the Graphic Arts Activity.)  There is so much the kids can learn with the XOs. It will take some time and experimentation for the kids to understand the steps necessary to choose the colors and hues, but they "got" the choosing tools and shapes for drawing very quickly and had fun.

I think the VVV children need to be taught, and shown some the Activities step by step. But mostly, they need some undirected time to play around and experiment with the Activities. This is how the kids will begin to see the common features of the many Activities and perhaps become more intuitive with using the XOs.

I am so grateful to have Ms. Hong on board! Tuyen and I agree and the village leadership agree that Ms. Hong should be in charge of the XO project on site. We hope she can set up extra-curricular sessions for the kids to work with the XOs. She can be there to help and encourage the kids. She will be in charge of checking and charging and storing the equipment in the Pearl Shop. She can work with Tuyen regularly and can communicate with me by email when she comes to town. 

Reading between the lines, you can see that the teachers here are not so sure how to integrate the XOs into the classroom. I suspect another problem as well. In schools in Vietnam, there are many cultural differences from the west. The teachers teach, they deliver the knowledge and the children respectfully learn what the teachers teach. There are few hands on activities, and a teacher normally would not be comfortable knowing less about a subject than a child, or showing that.  Even people who have used a computer before have a learning curve with the Sugar operating system on the XO. It appears to me that the teachers here have not used a computer very much and that the fact that some of the childen may pick up laptop skills more quickly than the teachers, may present a problem.

An important goal of OLPC Vietnam should be to expose teachers in their teaching colleges to the XO. Teacher Training Institutes with the support and assistance of the Education Ministry, at national, regional and local levels would be ideal. For now, until we have an enthuasistic teacher with the time and motivation to learn what the XO can bring to the VVV, the team agrees that our best plan for the VVV project is the extra-curricular model. 

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