How Do You Explain A Child Like Justin?


Back in May 2010 when we asked our Champion Teachers (CT) to pick a student from their class to be their "tech support" for the other children, naturally they picked the academically strongest kids. Fast forward to June 2011, it was no surprise to us that the number of kids that they recommended for the second training have grown. It also didn't surprise us that the academic make-up and background of the students varied this time around. One of those children was Justin.

Debugging a teacher's project

Prior to our training, Mitch and I had a short conference with incoming 4th grade CTs as well as our pilot (now 5th grade CT) teachers to ask them what we should cover as well as things that they want us to address in the training that time around. Mr. Samonte raised his hand and asked if we can add more students to the training instead of the original 4 that we had last year and have highly recommended that Justin be put on the list which was eagerly seconded by the other 3 teachers. They all excitedly chimed-in information about him when I asked, "Why Justin?" (translated from Tagalog):

  • "Everyday he comes up with something new and shares about Etoys or Scratch. We always see him huddled with a group of students during recess. He's really good with programming."
  • "I talked to his parents, he uses the XO for hours to figure out something. They've never seen him work so hard on an assignment before."
  • "He has helped me with my own projects. Sometimes he would recommend things that would make my project better. He's one of our "go-to" person."

What's most exciting for me was to hear the fact that Justin was never thought of as a strong student prior to this program. He was considered "low performing". His grades was mediocre at best and his engagement in the classroom was poor ("Maybe because he was too shy", one teacher volunteered). Students in this school are highly competitive and highly aware of their "ranking" compared to other students. One can imagine how this affects the self-confidence of a child like Justin who has long been considered an outlier to the process.

This lack of self-confidence was evident to me during my 3 days of Etoys (computer programming) training. Several times during the course of the training I was interrupted by either some of the students or one of the teachers: "Mam Cherry, Justin already figured that out! He taught us that...Justin tell her!" or one of them would signal to Justin to come over and help them catch up. Now I am not much of a diva and I do like to share the stage so I always asked Justin to please come in front of the classroom to share. He would always bow his head or stare at his keyboard and politely smile and shake his head.

Justin accepting an award from Mitch

During breaks however I would take a peak into his laptop or ask him what he was working on. He was always a step ahead of my lessons and on top of that, have done his "drafts" in Scratch. When asked for details he quietly (almost in a whisper) tell me the step-by-step of his project, glances at me sideways, awaits for confirmation that he did it correctly, I smile..he smiles back shyly. And so it was that way for the entire training. He was too modest and shy in sharing but observed from a distance, he could be seen joking with fellow students or helping Mr. Samonte (they were sitting next to each other) with his project.

During the second phase launch of the project in Lubang, Justin was the child that they called when they were all in a panic over a project that wouldn't load.

What these types of programs allow is movement away from a cookie-cutter learning to more of a differentiation to address the different type of capabilities of children. Justin's potential was not realized in the old cookie-cutter way. His ability was deemed unmeasurable in comparison to the current metrics.

Nowadays, Justin is showing great improvements in school. He is much more engaged and is always finding ways to translate lessons in the classroom to some sort of a project in Sugar. There's always a crowd around Justin. And yet, as always, he is described as unassuming, humble and gracious when extending his help and is taking his new found fame in small strides.

This article was first published on eKindling's blog and is reposted here with their kind permission.


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the question is though, which change most contributed to the transformation?

is it the XO by itself, or is it the opportunity for a child to do something on his own, and teach other children?

the latter can also be achieved through other means. the montessori method for example is designed to allow children to be independent and teach others.

greetings, eMBee.

Stories like this one are really inspiring. I have spoken to an adult who told me how using a computer over 30 years ago transformed him. I think there are a certain number of students that computers are their thing and when they have the chance to use one they shine.

Justin tried his lot in this. He is my example to follow

Justin tried his lot in this. He is my example to follow