Tuesday, 30 March 2010

PaleXO's Visit To Slafeet Elementary School For Boys

    We try to learn from our past experiences and deal with the difficulties we face. Our previous visits to Bodros, Abu Falah, Khalid Bin Al-Waleed, and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed schools taught us many lessons. First of all, kids are already hard to control, and when they get the green XO devices it gets worse, and if that is not dealt with properly the sessions planned to introduce the XOs to these kids will become slow, inefficient and of low benefit. Second, the members and volunteers get really swamped dealing with the kids and they find it difficult to write down their instant observations while the interactive session is running. Moreover, we thought that five members per 35-40 students is a good number at first, this turned out to be totally wrong. In today's visit to Slafeet Elementary School For Boys we tried to address these problems and come up with appropriate solutions, and I can say we managed to solve these problems.

    At 7:30 in the morning a bus with half the volunteers headed from Ramallah to Salfeet picking up the rest of the group from Birzeit. We arrived to the school around 8:30 am and started working on updating the laptops directly. We found the laptops in their original boxes they were delivered in. They were never touched before! While updating the laptops we discovered many corrupted batteries, but luckily, each laptop was delivered with an additional battery, so that was not an obstacle. Updating the laptops took around 2 hours since we had 7 flash disks only to update more than 70 XOs, and that delayed our sessions.

    Right after the XOs were updated, we divided ourselves into two groups of 11 members each. We decided to divide the kids trying to make the interactive session faster and benefit all the students to benefit from, so we divided students into groups of 4, and assigned a volunteer per group to supervise the students, calm them down, and help them follow the presenter's instructions. Even though this way didn't reduce the noise kids made during the session (which is a natural result of their interaction), it was a success; the session went faster and the kids were made sure to follow all the parts of the sessions. We also made changes to the evaluation forms used by the kids, changing all the questions to make them easier to answer. In addition, we assigned a dedicated member to write down classroom observations noticing the kid's behavior and interaction.

    Israa Badha and Tamer Alkhouli presented the sessions to the two 3rd grade sections. It was really thrilling seeing the kids, who were using the XOs for the first time, discovering functionalities on their own. Many of the kids were smart and fast, they could just follow the instructions directly and smoothly, and even discover the shortcut keys to taking pictures and switching between the different views of Sugar!!

    One problem we faced was that the English teacher left just after the session was started, he mentioned he would come back but he didn't show up again. That was a serious problem since one of our goals was to train the teachers to become facilitators in the classroom to encourage the students to use the XOs.

 In the end we would like to thank each of the following volunteers for participating in today's visit: Morad Z Taleeb, Suhaib Siam, Iman Al-mali, Tamer Alkhouli, Hanaa Al-ali, Rawan Abu Leil, Samar Abu Eid, Aya Hassouneh, Samah Qiwi, Duaa Qiwi, Raseel Qadadha, Reham Issam, Anisa Yousef, Rasha Hussein, Mohammad Khatib, Mohammed Nawahda, Hiba Duriadi, Abdel Hafeth Salah, Lamees Shalash, Eman Hannoun, Yasmeen Shtayieh, Isra' Luna, and Ruba Rasem Hussien. We also appreciate the efforts of Ala' Abu Nada, Noura Salhi, Safaa Halahlah, Ahmad Ramahi spent preparing for the event. We'd also like to thank the Excellence Center in Birzeit University for providing electric cables and distributors, and the Palestinian Education Initiative for making this event possible.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Budros Elementary School Visit - Budros, Ramallah

On the 21st of March, we have visited two schools in the west bank which were Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School and Budros School.

Khalid Ibn Al Waleed summary is posted in the previous post.

The teachers at Budros school used the XO laptop with third grade students 5 times before this visit using the old version. The school principle showed us some pictures taken while using the XO laptop and we saw the students happiness and interaction. At the beginning of the visit, we updated around 37 XO laptop and then prepared the classroom with the XOs and cables. The third grade students were very happy to see us and told us that they love the XO laptop and were waiting for us to learn more. Actually, not only the third grade wanted the XO, other students gathered at the door wanting to use it and learn also.

The students told us that they used record activity to take photos of themselves, and the teacher. Also, they used Tamtam activity to hear sounds of animals which was related to a lesson in science curricula. So we tried to show them other activities in the session, and leave others for them to explore.

The teachers likes the XO a lot and believe in its role in improving the students achievements. The math, science, Arabic and English teachers joined the students in the session and used the XO laptop with the students.

We used gifts to make a challenging environment. We used stickers (stars) and candies to award the fastest students in multiple activities. We divided the classroom to two groups and shared two chat activities (Blue and Green). After chatting a little, math and science teachers used these group chat to ask related questions and receive the answers. They students were very excited and started thinking, calculating and writing to answer the first and gain a star and candy.

They shared other activities like write and paint, and learned how to invite a friend to an activity. We asked them to find some facilities in these activities like changing the color, and they were very happy and proud to find it by their own and helping their friends with it.

The students loved Tuxmath activity. They started counting on their hands and typing the answer. The activity is exciting and challenging. Once one student got it, they go and help each other.

We provided 24 new activities on the XO laptops, some of them are math related. The teachers are very anxious to use the XO laptops in their classes. We were very happy to hear the children's feelings towards using the XO and getting it home with them.

We would like to thank Budros team for the great job: Salam Abu Makho, Ala' Allan, Lamees Shalsh and Suhail Taha, Ayman Qarrout, Fayeq Rimawi and Noura Salhi. We enjoyed our trip from Ramallah, passing by Ein Areek and Billin to reach Budros.
Also many thanks and great job for Khalid Ibn Al Waleed team: Mohammad Khatib, Samer Ayesh, Reham, Ahlam, Anas Abdelrazeq, Anissa Yousef, Hanna Kreitem, Mohammed Nawahda, Abdul - Hafeth Salah, Morad Taleeb, Samah Qiwi, Yasmeen Hashem, Abeer Hammad, Raya.

We also would like to recognize some special efforts from: Ayman Qarout and his friend for bringing a projector, Hanna Krietem, with his help in getting the projectors and booking the room for the training session and for taking amazingly inspiring pictures, Tamer Alkhouli and Ala' Abu Nada, who helped with the coordination of the visit, and Noura Salhi for holding the training session for the volunteers.

We would also like to thank Exalt Technologies for buying the candy for the kids, they really loved it, as well as we did. And the ITC at Birzeit University for lending us two projectors.

Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School Visit - Aqraba, Nablus

Today, March 21st 2010, marks our second visits to Palestinian schools in the Westbank. Last Thursday we visited Abu Falah School in Abu Falah village near Ramallah. Today we've been to two schools, a group went to Bodros school near Ramallah, and another to Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School.

I'll leave it to Bodros group to update you with a summary and Pictures.

We were trying a new approach to get the attention of kids by presenting the Sugar interface using a projector. This wasn't as easy as we thought, kids were really distracted by the laptop once they had it and it was hard to convince them to pay attention to the speaker. That was because that was the first time the kids ever saw the XOs!

13 volunteers left Birzeit around 7:30am to Aqraba directly in two seven-passenger caps. I had to go to Ramallah to hand Candy-bags and PaleXO TShirts to the other group. The guys updated the laptops, talked to the kids, played football with them and they even lined up with them in there morning lines and practiced morning exercises with them!

I've joined a bit late due to the fact that I had to go to Nablus first and from I headed to Aqraba. At the time of arrival, they were just about to start eating some meat-stuffed-bread that the teachers and principal of the school got for us along with the drinks. This was extremely nice from them and they were really nice to hang out with.

That was when we started the presentation. We setup the projector while Samar started showing the kids how to open the laptop and how to turn it on (Which they already figured it out by themselves). Then she moved to showing them the 4 views of Sugar and how to navigate between them, explaining what each one is for. This took some time as we expected, as it was the kids' first time to play with the laptop. All PaleXO members were helping the kids in the class follow up with Samar and apply what she was explaining if they couldn't get it.

One of the teacher suggested that we could go outside of the class in a near place called "Sibaryeh", a nice place with some olive trees and a nice view of mountains and Aqraba. We decided to go on an easier and a more fun experience for the kids by dividing ourselves into smaller groups and getting to know the kids more, what they like, and how fast they learn. That was amazingly fun and easier to manage for us and the kids. I even asked the kids who were accompanying me to shoot some pictures of the nature and for their friends while walking to that place, and soon they really got into it and started asking to take pictures of their teachers.

The kids had the chance to experience and play with multiple activities, including Speak, Write, Tuxmath, Arithmatic, Chat, Maze, Memorize, Record and Paint. Though some laptops were missing Tuxmath for some reason (It must be an error during the update process) but it was okay.

This time we've got candy-bags for the kids, they were holding their XO and candy with the same hand and they ate them while playing around with the XO. After finishing, we took the kids back to the school and gave them the chargers, asked them to fill evaluation forms with the help of the volunteers and gave them another evaluation form for their parents to fill.

This has been an amazing visit! Everything was really nice and I couldn't have imagined it any better, although not losing our TShirts bag at the end of the trip would've been nice! (~20 shirts in that bag). We also didn't have much time to go through Aqraba, but it was amazing visiting it, it's a beautiful place and has amazing views of mountains.

This hasn't ended here, the two groups have gathered and had a 14 people lunch at Angelo's Restaurant. This was full of fun, that some people said that it was "the best day in their life!". And I am sure the kids had the same experience as we watched them playing with their friends with the XO.

We would really like to applaud for all the guys who worked hard in this day. Noura Salhi, Salam Abu Makho, Ala' Allan, Lamees Shalash, Suhail Taha, Fayeq Al Remawi, Ayman Qarrout, Mohammad Khatib, Samer Ayesh, Reham, Ahlam, Anas Abdelrazeq, Anissa Yousef, Hanna Kreitem, Mohammed Nawahda, Abdul - Hafeth Salah, Morad Taleeb, Samah Qiwi, Yasmeen Hashem, Abeer Hammad, Raya. And the Teachers and principle of the school who were extremely nice.

We also would like to recognize some special efforts from: Ayman Qarout and his friend for bringing a projector, Hanna Krietem, with his help in getting the projectors and booking the room for the training session and for taking amazingly inspiring pictures, Tamer Alkhouli and Ala' Abu Nada, who helped with the coordination of the visit, and Noura Salhi for holding the training session for the volunteers.

We would also like to thank Exalt Technologies for buying the candy for the kids, they really loved it, as well as we did. And the ITC at Birzeit University for lending us two projectors.

Stay tuned for the Pictures and videos. 

Thursday, 18 March 2010

First Visit To Schools

Today, Thursday March 18, 2010 PaleXO had its first visit to “Ab-Falah” (مدرسة ذكور أبو فلاح) elementary school for boys. The visits aim to teach little kids how to use the XO laptops and deploy them to ease their education and make it more fun. Our first “PaleXO visiting schools” day was long, busy and exhausting but it was worth every smile we saw on the kids’ faces.

The day did not start very well. We first headed to “Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed” school like we were told to do by the ministry. Apparently, the school had no idea we were coming and only 17 out of 72 kids had their XO laptops with them. We were really disappointed since we were all very prepared and excited to have our first visit. We were also expecting Brazilians to accompany us in our visit and planned to meet them in the school. In a try to save the day, and after several phone calls, we contacted the principle of “Abu-Falah” school who also had no idea we were planning to visit his school. Luckily enough for us, the kids in “Ab-Falah” school were not allowed to take the laptops home with them, so we got going to “Abu-Falah”.

We reached the school around 10:00 am. We had 52 laptops that needed updates and only 12 or 13 flash memories. The update process took very long, by the time we were done updating it was 11 something. As a tip for next visits, try to have the updates done a day before or be in the school very early in the morning so that you will have the rest of the day for the activities. After finishing updating the laptops, it was now time to go to the classrooms. We had 52 students divided into 2 classrooms. The Brazilians were contacted back again to meet us in “Abu-Falah” school and were there through all the updating and part of the classroom activities. They were glad to see the progress we are making and told us about their own successful experience with OLPC in Brazil, they also offered to answer any “football” related questions ;-).

Who said that dealing with third graders was fun and easy? Kids in that age are hyper, love to move, play, and ask A LOT of questions … It is not easy to control them like adults or expect them to be quiet. But the one thing for sure about them is they are fast learners and love to explore what is in the laptop. They were happy to see us, and even more delightful to spend time their XO laptops. We had a schedule to follow, but due to the kids’ nature there was a twist in the schedule for the classrooms. Each classroom tried to do as many activities as possible during the 2 hours but did not make it to the half. In spite of all that, the kids were all involved in the activities. They did not wait for our directions but were eager to explore the activities themselves. Some of them were really very smart and were very fast to catch up with us while some were slower; but bottom line is there was not one child that was left out or was not enjoying the experience.

Finally, it was time for evaluation. We handed out the evaluation sheets to the kids to fill in. After that, the class was dismissed and it was all quiet again.

That was the summary of our day, but there are still few things to point out. First, for next school visits we will need more supply. The supply as in flash memories, cables & some treat for the kids. The PaleXO members had to bring this stuff themselves and still were not enough for all the number we had. Second, before each visit we should contact the class teacher and discuss with him/her what the kids already know on the XO laptops so that we won’t waste the day by going over things they already know. I am sure there are more things to consider but these are the things that were on the top of my head.

One more thing worth mentioning is the fact that this trip reminded us with how beautiful Palestine is. We enjoyed the ride along with the green mountains and the olive trees. We also got to know some villages, a refugee camp and settlements that we did not know before.

In the end, I wanted to thank the principles of the 2 schools we visited for their good reception, and the teachers & kids for cooperating with us today. I would love to thank the Brazilians who made the effort to attend our first visit and showed their support. Most importantly I want to thank (ordered alphabetically) Asma, Aya, Ayman, Hanin, Manar, Maysa, Mohammad Khatib, Noura, Rasha & myself Safaa who participated in the actual visit and of course Alaa and Tamer who were supervising for making this day happen. Not to forget “Abu-Faker” the driver who drove us to and from “Abu-Falah”.

It was one GREAT experience; we had so much fun and cannot wait to have our next visit to schools.

Original post by Safa' Halahla on PaleXO FB Fan Page.