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.

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