Winds of Change
by Timothy FalconerAs I write this, Hurricane Omar is about to make landfall on the US Virgin Islands. From my talks with our friends, it's fair to say that everyone's scared. Guy Benjamin School has been closed all week. Ferry and mail service have been stopped. Mary Burks has moved her live-in boat to Hurricane Hole. Jan Kinder has been boarding up buildings since 6 AM. Everyone's braced for impact.
Looking at the satellite images tonight, I'm reminded of our first Waveplace proposal, which starts: "Each summer and fall in the Caribbean, locals watch the weather with a collective pending dread. Every counterclockwise swirl of white that makes its way westward over the Atlantic might be heading their way." Later it discusses how the Caribbean suffers greatly from "economic downturns", which couldn't be more relevant this October, with a very bleak tourist season expected.
From the start, Waveplace has had the same mission: "to create a thriving new industry in the Caribbean independent of tourism." By teaching children to create with computers, we're setting the stage for a future where they can earn a living exporting their creativity to the world without leaving their homes. Never has this need been greater than right now.
In the last year, Waveplace has achieved some pretty remarkable things. We've held pilots in Nicaragua, Florida, Haiti, and the Virgin Islands. We've given laptops and training to more than 100 children and taught 25 adults to become Waveplace mentors. We've shot some incredible video and created two versions of our courseware which are now being used by groups around the world.
To finish out the year, we hope to complete our documentary and courseware. Before that though, we're having a live video event with all four pilot areas on Friday, October 24th at 4pm ET (GMT-4). Children from St John, Haiti, Florida, and Nicaragua will present their Etoys storybooks live to the world, so be sure to tune in by visiting http://waveplace.com/awards. If you can't make that time, you'll still be able to watch the recorded video later.
Speaking of video, Bill Stelzer somehow found time away from his own hurricane preparations to upload his latest new video of our pilot in Nicaragua. Watching this one brought me to tears. Never has the heart of our efforts been so skillfully expressed. Bill's a true talent. I can't wait to see his fuill documentary.
(the next morning) Great news! Everyone's okay. Omar missed Saint John.
Teaching With Love
by Mary ScottiEach day the children in Nicaragua waited excitedly in the schoolyard. Others on their bicycles anticipated the first glimpse of my taxi as it rounded the bend toward Buenos Aires. Waving and calling out greetings, they would ride along the puttering cab towards the school. Boys gathered round, anxious to be the ones to unload the computers. A mad dash for the door ensued as the children jockeyed to be the first in the classroom. The mentors were usually engaged in playful banter with the children. During the entire pilot, this excitement never waned.
The tone had been set from day one. Of course the laptops themselves generated an unexpected privilege and opportunity for the children. From the interviews I learned that each child believed the computers to be important to their futures -- that they would propel them into the world of the "professional." Still the fellowship and accomplishment that unfolded hinted at much more. Without struggle, the mentors developed into engaging guides, never simply teachers with a lesson to deliver. They too were enrapt, fostering and supporting the children and each other in their progress. It was this continual atmosphere of cultivation and innovation that was so inspiring.
This is the key to the success of Waveplace. By encouraging mentors and guiding the children to become active participants in their own education, a special magic happens. There is always a danger that a teacher can take the Waveplace course and teach the material in a rote manner. The mentors in Nicaragua were aware of this and expressed their desire to become 'trainers of trainers' to insure this doesn't happen. They very much want to spread the joy of this approach, inspiring others to, as they put it, "teach with love."
The pilot ignited a spark which continues to grow. It is my dream that these future engineers, executives, doctors, police officers, teachers, stargazers and mentors, dreamers all, will have the opportunity to carry that spark forward for the benefit of all Nicaragua, and the world.
by Donna McAvoy, Immokalee teacherLast summer I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Waveplace Program in Immokalee. I was so impressed with the experience on many levels, most especially with the passion of organizers, trainers, investors, teachers, volunteers, and students. It soon became apparent to all of us that something very special was going on. On the last day of the program, I was sitting next to a smiling gentleman who whispered, "God is pleased."
As a result, I was inspired to implement the Waveplace course with my 5th and 6th grade technology students during the regular school year. Each session, after learning a new feature of Etoys, they are presented with a "starfish challenge" and never cease to amaze me with the quality of work they produce.
Etoys requires my students to use logic, higher level thinking, and problem solving, as they work on projects that are personally meaningful to them. As a result, the classes are truly experiences in constructionism. At times the kids are so actively engaged in their work that one can hear a pin drop. Later the some of the kids might put their heads together and converse in small groups, while others walk around the room to see what their peers are doing. Other times, thirty students can be sitting on individual computers around the perimeter of the room with their backs turned, engaged in one conversation, as we work to solve a problem someone has encountered.
I also provide time for them to explore Etoys features on their own. One day last week one of the students said, "No offense Miss, but aren't you supposed to know, you're the teacher?" I went on to explain the concept of "educational evolution" (which is my greatest ambition) ... the point where my students become more knowledgeable than me.
I am so grateful to Etoys and Waveplace for making such a valuable learning tool available for my students and for the providing me with the opportunity to experience the joy of educational evolution.