The first task for the day was to beat the traffic out of Guatemala City. This meant a 5:45 a.m. departure. We worked our way out of the mountains, on very, very windy roads. The vistas were beautiful with cloud capped mountains on both sides. Guatemala is a beautiful volcanic land with folded steep hills throughout the country. Following breakfast that seemed like it was at Dennys, we reached a beautiful agricultural valley. This area was rich with fruits and vegetables, and it was clear that this was a special place. It was a humid place with lush tropical trees sitting next to cacti. Workers could be seen walking up and down the road with their tools of the trade preparing to harvest bananas, papaya, and more. Road side stands filled the way offering varieties of vegetables and fruit.
We reached Zacapa around 10 a.m. for our first school visit of the day. It was to the Lutheran school attached to the University. The grounds were very nice, and it was clear that much attention was giving to the learning in this space. We met with the principal of the school, and while explaining to him the mission of the Global Learning Exchange to bring a technology-infused reading experience to the schools of Guatemala through a variety of different shaped programs, we also had a chance to observe the students in the school. All of the students were eating lunch and playing. The variety of foods ranged from traditional Guatemalan dishes to traditional junk food. Some of the student bought from the vendors in the school courtyard and some brought their lunch. This school was considered a middle class school. It costs about $40 to attend this school every month. This rules out many of the students in Zacapa, but it provides a strong school for some. Next, we had an opportunity to showcase how our XO Tablets worked with a projector as well as how the XO Tablets worked with small groups. It was amazing again how the engagement level went through the roof, and how small hands that had never touched a tablet devices took to the mechanics of getting to content that they preferred.
At the school, we found two of the major things that we need from our partners, a space for this type of learning and a teacher or more that are interested in bringing this to their students. We found a teacher that looked like a natural leading with technology. This situation was a contrast to the day before where we were working in a back yard after school program that served the poorest of the poor. The second visit for our day took us to the town of Gualan. As we crossed over the bridge, you could see this beautiful hillside school that had views of both the river and the mountain. We met with Luis, the school leader, and it was clear from the beginning that he was someone that understood the power of literacy and the amplification power that technology can have on learning. We took our learning experience to a first grade class. This school clearly has order and learning taking place. The students were eager to interact. They were welcoming, and they were practicing their English. Thank goodness. The students showed incredible interest in using the books, math games, and memory games that we showcased, and the staff and students were eager to know when we could bring this experience to their space full time. It is an easy space for our partnership, but I believe that it is important to get easy wins in this difficult work. There was much debate in the car about whether our program should be targeting schools that were even poorer or whether we should be OK with supporting these middle class schools.
I'm not sure that I know the answer, but I do know that we need school leaders and teachers that can embrace this project to make this really work. In addition, we are fine tuning the opportunities that schools throughout the United States will have to support this program. We are looking for partners, and we know have a better sense of how we can all work together on this project. Below are some photos from the day with captions.
|Our first visit today. A beautiful space for learning attached to the University. |
|A classroom space|
|Jose and Dave discuss the mission of the Global Learning Exchange with the principal in Zacapa.|
|Lunch is served in Zacapa. |
|I'll never complain about my computer lab again. They were using this room the best they knew. |
|Our second visit today. A beautiful, progressive school in Gualan with a great view of the river and mountains. |
|These students had computer access once a week for 30 minutes. Yes, there were on Facebook and YouTube. |
|The power of a technology-infused reading experiences is seen here. |