Interested in One Laptop per Child, Marshall Islands? They’re looking for a volunteer now that I’ve returned to the US. Get in touch.

Launched laptop project with 25 students at Ejit Elementary School (1:1 for grades 4-7). Ministry of Education IT loaded the laptop boxes into the boat and across the channel to Ejit Island.

We had a great time.

The principal warned me to be careful walking to these islands, because small sharks could swim up and bite my ankles. Oh.

Laura Elementary School - full size

The laptop project launch is being delayed at Laura. Although we’ve made a lot of progress with weekly classes, there are too many teachers of grades 4-8 who are skipping the training (two still need laptops). Many teachers from lower grades attend training even though their classes will not receive laptops.

Woja Elementary School - full size
Trying out a new Panorama app. The left end of the photo is the lagoon side, and the right end is the ocean side.

Woja Elementary School - full size

Trying out a new Panorama app. The left end of the photo is the lagoon side, and the right end is the ocean side.

The Woja Plan

The Ministry is planning a launch event on Ejit for next week, my last week. They are postponing the launch at Laura until later. They also want to add Woja Elementary School on Majuro Atoll. This is separate from Woja, the outer island school on Ailinglaplap Atoll.

A map of all schools is embedded below on the blog. The schools which I’ve worked with are the cluster of purple and pink markers in the south:

Old maps of Majuro and Arno Atolls vs OpenStreetMap today. These maps were drawn during the German colonization of the Marshall Islands. Later the Japanese and American militaries would connect many of the islands in a continuous band.

Laptops at Ejit and Laura

Ejit, low tide. Ocean side at left, lagoon side at right.

The teachers at Ejit and Laura schools are prepared for classes with actual students! We’re working out plans to finish up in the next two weeks, before I leave.

Just like at the first school, Sandy and I plan to visit each classroom and teach an intro class on the mouse, typing in English and Marshallese, and using the camera. Then we usually have time for the teacher to cover an activity like Typing Turtle.

On the small island of Ejit this is easy: there are 9 students in grades 4-5 and 9 in grades 6-7. We ought to have this done in a day, possibly as early as the 28th.

Laura is a larger school: each grade has two classrooms with around 35 students each. My current plan starts the school off with 75 laptops. Each day, half of the laptops would be charging, and the other half would be in a computer lab. If we teach three or four groups per day, it’ll take three days of my last week for everyone to get on board.

Laura is in a rural area on the opposite end of the island, about 40-50 minutes’ drive away. So I ask, “is there a place where I can stay?” And a teacher said there’s a trailer for the school volunteers, which is open and has access to WiFi from the high school. We have to clear everything with the principal, but I’d be excited to live on site, try the restaurant there, and explore some unknown territory, see the sunset.  Laura Town is maybe half the size of Central Park, but that’s huge by Marshallese standards:

Teaching Teachers to Code

Last Saturday was the first teacher-training at Delap School since we began laptop classes there.

These classes have been fast-paced and exciting, so I prepared a set of cool activities for the teachers to pick up next: FotoToon, Map, and online resources like Simple English Wikipedia.

But the internet and school server and projector weren’t available on Saturday. So plans changed.

First, we talked about bringing Laptop Class 1 to the remaining students. In our first week we visited six classes, and the remaining five need to be scheduled.  The teachers who signed up for the first week were all men.  Slowly and surely, with Sandy’s help, we’ve gotten everyone on the calendar.

Next, we came up with a curriculum for Education Week. Parents will be visiting classes on Wednesday, so everyone wants to run a laptop class.  We listed a few fun activities and some more serious-looking ones, too. I’m excited because with so many classes going at the same time, teachers will be running the show!

Finally, I showed TurtleArt and Pippy to the teachers.  There are no Legos on Majuro, so my description of TurtleArt blocks fell flat.  Pippy has a surprisingly cool ‘Camera’ program which takes your photo and spins it around and around.  The teachers laughed at this.  I then suggested we change the numbers at the end, affecting spin and scale of the photo.

I tried to get them editing the ‘Hello’ program to say the Marshallese greeting Yokwe instead of Hello, but everyone put their names into the code instead of changing the Hello.

Teacher Training at Laura and Ejit

This week we had our first after-school teacher training at our more remote schools on Majuro Atoll: Laura and Ejit.  These schools have been invited to teacher training before and after my arrival, but they’re far away. I was meeting most of these teachers for the first time. At Laura, we handed out laptops to six teachers hadn’t had any experience with the laptops before.

Ejit went well - the teachers’ laptops have seen a lot of use, they had good questions, and they suggested moving our next laptop class to Tuesday.

 

Laura is much more remote, so the Ministry has done less to prepare them for the laptops. We had trouble bringing in teachers from both campuses.  Laura Elementary School has grades 1-6 on the ocean side, and grades 7-8 in another building, to the north, on the lagoon side.  There’s significant distance between them:

The training classroom could fit our teacher session, but how could it be a computer lab for 35+ students at a time? How could it serve students from both campuses?  I had trouble doing the training because there wasn’t even a chalkboard in the room, just a bulletin board and pads of paper.  We didn’t bring a projector, so that didn’t work either.

One of the teachers suggested we fix up the room in the photo below, which is vacant because the roof is leaking:

There’s another building on campus which is in good condition, but it’s been given to a guy named Terry for his media production company.  I don’t understand how this works, exactly, but it sounds like Terry has a lot more clout on the island of Laura than I do.

Classes at Delap School

After last week’s launch at Delap School, Sandy and I have been going from class to class, introducing the laptops to students.  Today I taught my sixth class, and with 30-35 students in each class, that’s over 180 students!

In each class, we cover taking care of the laptop, have students write their name, spaces, capital letters, and Marshallese letters. We also do fun activities such as Record, Maze, and Physics.

 

More about Marshallese letters: the Marshallese language is known as “kajin Majōl”, and that’s written with a letter ō which is called the “uh”.  Until the 2000s, the Marshallese wrote this letter and others with an umlaut ( ö ).  Their alphabet was compiled by missionaries and didn’t accurately match pronunciations.  The kids are used to reading both forms.

In most classes there’s a student who volunteers the words ‘keyboard’ and ‘mouse’, and a few more have used a computer at home.  I ask students to write their name before I explain capital letters, so it’s easier to find students who know how to type.  There are plenty of students who don’t know, and we help them figure out the mouse and spacebar and other keys. A lot of times, they help each other.

 

A group of our sixth graders clicked around in My Settings and even got into the GNOME Linux desktop.  I decided not to ask too many questions about this, in case they thought they were in trouble.  I’m going to point it out to the teachers, so they know how to switch back to Sugar.

Our first class with fourth graders was funny: they are just starting to use English in the classroom, so when I ask a question like, “do you remember spacebar?”, they all answer in Marshallese “hyitt!”  Then when we were turning off the laptops, they kept turning them back on.

Posts by Nick Doiron; shorter updates via Twitter

Relayed from Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands

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