First Laptop Workshop

Originally, we’d been planning to start laptop stuff Monday, or even the week after that, but I decided to have a preliminary thing on Saturday in order to give them more time to get used to the computers. That affected turn-out: only six of the nine teachers showed up, and we started an hour late. I’d decided ahead of time not to feed everyone, so we just got drinks.

After discussing the advantages and the disadvantages of the laptops, we pulled up the WriteBooks, an activity that Gonzalo Odiard developed for our team. I walked the teachers through how to add a background image, add an image, and write text. Some had prior experience with the laptops and went very quickly. Others needed a little bit of help – one woman in particular was struggling, because she was too hesitant to click on things after hovering her mouse over them. I let the teacher sitting next to her, who was quick with the laptops, help her out. I also took the time to explain concepts like clicking and dragging to the group as a whole, offering plenty of examples: “If you want to move this pen over here, you put your hand over it, you grab it, and you don’t let go until you get to the spot you want to move it to. Then, you let go of it.”

After everyone had the example on their screen, I asked them to add a second blank page and start working on it. Some were able to do it, and others needed to be coached through the steps again. One teacher searched for “dog” and a chimpanzee came up along with some dog pictures, because the word for dog is “chen” and the word for chimp is “chenpanze.” She asked if there was a way to look up “chenpanze” so the kids can learn what it is. I showed her the HaitiDictionary activity, a Creole-Creole dictionary stored on the computers. Another teacher wanted to orient a car so that it looked like it was coming straight at you as it entered a garage. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any car images that were facing in that direction. I also used the time to coach teachers on using the mouse, typing upper-case letters, and adding accents.

After everyone was done, I asked a teacher to walk us through the steps again – partly to remind everyone how to do it, and partly to see how good he was at explaining what to do. At one point, he used the word “cursor”, and I said it wasn’t a word he could expect the kids to recognize. Everyone should use “mouse” or “arrow” when talking about the mouse. Otherwise, his explanation was well-paced and clear, which I was happy about.
Our hour was almost up at that point (originally, we’d scheduled everything for two hours, but everyone had shown up an hour late, and I didn’t want to keep them long because it was a Saturday). I told the teachers to play around with the activity more. I helped some of them out with using the arrow keys to navigate through the text they’d already written. Then, I suggested we all walk down to the house to grab some chargers so they could take the laptops home and practice by themselves. They said I should go down myself and come back up – they’d wait for me. When I got back, they were still working on the computers, which I was happy to see.

I told them their homework was to write a story of three to five pages, and come up with five recommendations about how to make the app better. They asked some questions of what I meant by a story. Did they have to write it on the computers, or just tell it to me from their head? Did it have to be a story they made up, or could they copy some from a book? What kind of stuff should go on each page?

After that, they asked me to sing a song I’d written – I’d made the mistake of mentioning that I write songs but I’m a terrible singer. “You always ask us to do stuff we’re not comfortable with,” they said. “You should have to do the same thing.”

As we were leaving, I glanced at my phone, and realized a whole hour had passed – the teachers had willingly stayed for the extra hour, even though it was Saturday. I felt like that was a confirmation that for once I’d done something right. Maybe it was the computers, or the smaller number of people, or the fact that the directions were clearer, or maybe everyone, including me, is just more relaxed on Saturdays. But it was nice.

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