Thursday, March 26, 2009

No more teachers dirty looks (almost)

Our final day at Aurora is tomorrow. It has been a jampacked three months here, bringing the school into the age of computers. Prior to our arrival, the school operated in a paper-only environment where student details were stored in binders in a filing cabinet, and monies brought in to the school were manually tallied each week and debited when items from the tuck shop were purchased. Attendance lists and mark tallies were hand written in books with ruler-created gridlines. Now, our student records are stored in a networked Access database system where the staff can look up monies stored in student accounts and quickly print out class lists or export them to Excel. We've issued students ID cards on which their student numbers are encoded as barcodes to make purchases from the tuck shop quick and relatively secure.

Two staff members, Agnes and Sipho, after being trained to use the tuck shop scanner

Previously, communally watched videotapes on a TV held seniority as teacher of mathematics (none of the human teachers here like teaching math), but now students can watch the videos at their own pace in a 9-computer Windows 98 computer lab through a web site which holds 60 hours (40gb) of mpeg video. The same videos have been backed up to VCD to allow for both conventional DVD players and the cd-rom equipped computers to still be able to play them in the event of a network outage/hard disk crash.

I've installed the "Tux" line of open source educational programs in the lab to help me teach mouse dexterity, math, and typing three times a week. Our school fees are very low, but extra-curricular activities, such as computer lessons, are fee-based, so student order is determined via a loose FIFO algorithm combining the date of their last payment and their latest computer lesson. It remains a very popular activity, as the waiting list is about 2 weeks long.

To celebrate the last day of school tomorrow, Dora and I will host a dance contest to show off rhythmic skills of the kids here (seriously, everybody has rhythm here).

Dora's a little busy sleeping now, so she'll post her report "just now" (South African for "eventually").


Linda said...

Oh wow! Technological tools for the school. Good job! (I'm assuming that Tim had a major role in this?)

q.1 - so the teachers STILL don't like to teach math? Is there a particular reason why? (it could be really fun).

q.2 - are you going to videotape the dance contest? I would LOVE to see some of there skills. It seems that the African culture is so full of rhythm & music in their daily lives... (unlike the Vancouverites... where 'no sense of rhythm" sometimes overpower the people WITH the skill).

Dora and Tim said...

a.1 No good reason to dislike math other than the same ones back home. Though it's much more challenging here because these kids, and actually many adults in this black culture just doesn't have the background or any prior exposure to problem solving or critical thinking. They're great at memorizing and rote learning, but when you even change the way the question is laid out, they get all confused again. Math is so abstract and with few manipulatives it's hard to explain.

a.2 Sorry, no video, but we'll for sure show you pics when we're back. Yea...they're really talented in this area.