Friday, November 25, 2011

Back in the USA

It had to happen: I returned to the US. Here I am at the airport with Junior.

Before then, Adam and I biked up a mountain. This mountain, actually:

At the top, you could see the whole plain: the ocean, Port-au-Prince, Croix-des-Bouquets, Double Harvest, and more. Photos to come later.

What else? We did an RFID/NFC project with some kids:

and I learned how to sew! Awesome.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Westward to Petit-Goave

I spent this Sunday traveling to a potential new microfinance site outside the Haitian city of Petit-Goave. To put it in perspective with some earlier trips, it's the bottom left marker on this map of places I've been:

This was mostly a mapping trip. Every sign, every well, every school and bakery I could capture on camera will soon be recorded on OpenStreetMap.

I also got to try douce marcos, a chewy local delicacy. Here's the business's sign and their latitude/longitude on OpenStreetMap.

But there plenty of other photos which I took for the sake of the view:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perception of Difficulty

How experienced I feel when I start working on someone else's code:

Or even this:

(CC-BY-SA-NC Wayan Vota)

How I feel when I actually find and fix the bug:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flower Bridge: neat hacktivity

As a civil engineering major, I am a huge fan of the Bridge activity, the winner of a Physics Game Jam organized by OLPC.

The kids at Ecole Shalom have no trouble with the Physics activity, but Bridge requires much more precise mouse motions and clicks. I showed it to a few students and they enjoyed the mechanics and sound effects, but we didn't get any bridges built.

Last week, I got the idea to change up the game. As you play, flowers rise up and you can use them as supports for your bridge. I connected the flowers' growth to a solar sensor. Put your computer in the sun, and the flowers will grow and support the bridge. Watch out for clouds and saboteur classmates, because without sunlight those flowers will wilt away! ALSO to stop kids from cheating by connecting the sensor leads, the maximum flower height is too high for a train to climb.

See images from our classes

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big day for literacy and education

Today we welcomed Dr. Terri Bucci and other educators to Ecole Shalom. Terri is running a teacher-training seminar in town tomorrow, and several of our teachers will be there, so we decided to demonstrate how the XO laptops could be used to promote literacy in the Haitian Creole language.

For reading material, we used an illustrated story kindly offered to us by the IOM. Vivid pictures explained the situation (a mother and baby seeking shelter from a cyclone) and vital safety information. As the class read through the story, I asked questions about what was happening, and directed kids to mimic sounds that the character might hear. We noticed that students in the back row were doing most of the reading, so I asked the front two rows to complete the story. All in all, this had to be one of our best classes in terms of engagement and participation from the kids.

That group had to leave, but later in the day we held a grammar class with 5th and 6th grade, followed by an after-school sensors project with 1st and 2nd graders. This is building up to a larger project where we can use Crikey (the modified Measure activity that I'm working on) to respond to sensors with recorded sounds. I also want to add to our set of sensor-based activities by working with the Physics and Bridge activities.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hope and Holidays in Haiti

Due to holidays on November 1 and 2, there were only three days of school this week. By working closely with the teachers, we still taught a computer lesson to each grade and held great after-school sessions.

Kindergarteners are learning a new color each week. These activities use interesting visuals and also help children learn French. There are small differences between French and Creole words for fruits such as the papaya, articles of clothing, and even the colors themselves. Migueline, the kindergarten teacher, leads the kids in a song incorporating each item in the pictures.

Older students are learning to type by writing down details of stories such as La Paysanne and La cuisse de poulet. I downloaded the public-domain audiobooks from LibriVox and play them in sync on a few computers. The students tell us to pause the story whenever they hear a new character, and then they type that character's name into Write. They even help each other type faster so they can continue listening to the story!

We also did a mapping lesson during a visit by officials from the American embassy. We had a good talk about how OLPC can change the ways teachers educate, from the old style of rote memorization to participatory education with room for discovery, individualization, and science. See more on