The dearth of OLPC training and XO preparedness must change


Just as every teacher I have spoken with wants more training, every school wants a technology expert. This was the case in Rumginae, and at the Jim Taylor School before it, and I was to hear it again in the Solomon Islands.

In Rumginae's case, the argument could certainly be made for more training--they were one of the first schools to receive the laptops, and as I understood it, their training was just two days in length. Because there is always a learning curve, the training that schools are currently receiving is five days in length--a working week--according to what I was told.

A couple of days' training and then...go to it! Teach!

Not so easy for an adult who has never seen nor used a computer before they are handed an XO. Not so easy for an adult who has been taught in a certain way all their lives, and has in turn, taught in a certain way all their lives. And now this laptop is supposed to come along and change everything--revolutionize education. And we'll give you a week to get ready for your life and work to be revolutionized.

This is not a critique of Rumginae. It is a critique of the majority of technology-in-education projects (in places that did not have technology before) that I have studied. And it is my empathy for the teachers--being a teacher myself--that makes me so interested in the subject. I cannot imagine what such a mandate must be like, because I've had technology all along. But I'm getting a better idea, from being able to talk with teachers around the globe.

This dearth of training and preparedness must change. Not just regarding the teachers, but also in order to provide for a local tech expert who can maintain, manage, fix, repair, and possibly train others. Every school, every teacher, has wanted these things. And the lack of a tech expert is a larger burden, the more remote the location.

Yet these things are not budgeted in, not considered as a part of the OLPC projects so far. I respect that most projects are working with constrained, limited resources. But this is an issue that certainly threatens to only get more serious as time goes on, whether because teachers aren't bold in using the technology to change their mode of teaching, or whether the laptops or batteries eventually break, or the server or Internet connection stops working, and no one is there to fix these things.

I must admit, at each school, teachers appeared to be doing their best. At each school, teachers were excited about the laptops and grateful that their school had been chosen to be included in the OLPC program. At each school, there were some teachers who were intrepid, adventurous, game, creative, and really working with the laptops. But the project shouldn't depend on the creativity and bravery of a few. All teachers deserve training.

And at the Jim Taylor School, there was a teacher who made a point of expressing his interest in becoming the tech expert (and I learned the good news that--through whatever channel, this news was communicated--and he has now been designated as one of the two tech experts-in-training, which is great.) No one expressed that interest to me at Rumginae, but I also didn't expressly ask the teachers, either.

Teacher training, and the training and provision for a tech expert, are subjects near and dear to my heart, and I'm going to push for these, and try to figure out how to make this happen in Haiti...

You can read responses to this post at Final Ruminations from Rumginae (Part III)

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