Due to some political and religious issues that developed at Nectaktik, CONAFE authorities decided to change one of the two communities where the project will take place. The community chosen was Naxoch'II, located in the municipality of Larraizar. This is unfortunate because the instructor of this community did not receive the training we gave before, making it necessary to train him at the same time as the kids.
So the 9th of September (Thursday of first week of classes), a group composed of the two researchers, one graduate student (Jose Ramiro Espinoza) and Raymundo, the assistant academic coordinator of CONAFE went to Naxoch. The parents' committee was waiting for us.
The community school is composed of two rooms and the toilet. The classroom in which children take third through sixth grades is small and rustic; it is shared with preschool kids that take half of the room with another instructor, lacks enough furniture and has no electricity because there was no wiring from the public lines. We provided financial resources so that the parents can do this electrical installation later. The second classroom, for junior high students, is in better condition and has electricity, so the initial training of the children was held in the second room.
There, we met Carlos Hernandez-Diaz, who is the community instructor for primary school students. Carlos has finished high school where he took an informatics class. He has worked with Windows, is very bright and did not find difficult to adapt to the environment and activities of Sugar.
The third through sixth grades group consists of four girls and six boys. The laptops were distributed and we conducted several exercises using the following software activities of Sugar:
- Introduction to the Sugar environment
- Record - to take pictures and record video or sound
- Gcompris followline - to learn the movement of the mouse. Using the mouse, kids have to push water through a crooked pipe in order to bring water to flowers
- Paint - to make drawings
- Memory - the memory game, using virtual cards representing additions; and others that relate to the identification of uppercase and lowercase letters
- Speak - Spanish Language Comprehension. The child writes something that is repeated by an animated talking face. In another option they can ask questions of the face and listen for the response.
- Turtle Art - The popular Logo Turtle. In this version, the turtle can be programmed in an easy way using graphical programming blocks.
The instructor quickly took the initiative to assign tasks to children and even began to read the Sugar manual in Spanish by himself.
The children enjoyed these activities enormously. They had some problems at first to learn to move the mouse, and they type very slowly. We left them an activity that helps to learn typing. We also left the instructor Sugar manuals for the kids and for himself, and a set of constructionist class plans that use the computer and match CONAFEs curriculum.
During recess, we took some demographic data of the children and instructors. We found that only 30% of the children understand and speak Spanish well; the others required an interpreter. The instructor speaks Spanish and Tzotzil well.
The parents were kind enough to invite us to eat a delicious chicken broth =). This is costly for them and we were most grateful.
The following day we went to the other community, Tilil. Our group this time included one of the researchers: Jose I. Icaza, and three graduate students: Alejandra Fontanes, Ramn Morales and Ramiro Espinoza.
The Tilil community school has three rooms in good conditions, one for fourth to sixth grade, another for preschool and third grade, and another for junior high. In this school there are eight third grade children; other six kids are in fourth to sixth grade. There are an equal number of boys and girls.
Again we had to adapt our plans on the fly: there was a change in the instructor we had trained before. The current instructor for fourth to sixth grade is now Marcela; however, Maria and Claudia, the girls we had trained before, are also at the school and agreed to support Marcela in the use of the laptops. Another problem was that the third grade children take classes in a different classroom, with instructor Maria. For the training we brought all the kids together to the same room. The third problem was that the third grade classroom has no electricity again we left financial resources for the installation of the electrical wiring. And finally we were given only two and a half hours because the kids had to practice for a special event that was to take place on 16th of September, the day of Mexicos independence from Spain.
We run through the same software activities as in the other school only faster. This time the children used the track pad instead of the mouse, and we found out that the kids find it easier to guide mice with the pad.
There were significant differences between the abilities of different kids; from a very shy little girl that initially almost didnt dare to touch the computer, to one of the boys who was ahead of everybody else in learning an activity and trying others on his own. The main dynamic at the classroom was some kid discovering something or doing something exciting and shouting hey, see what I found out !. Suddenly other kids began to do the same and in no time most of the kids were trying out the same thing.
The demographic data shows that almost all of the third grade kids and some of the others have trouble with the Spanish language. Her instructor speaks both Spanish and Tzotzil and we hope will be able to help the children with translation of some of the menus and graphical blocks of the Sugar activities.