‘The Learning Village’: Education with iPods in Haiti


How Can Technology Change A Nation?

Here is a report about a project  called “The Learning Village” in Haiti that aims to educate children using iPods:

In this idea, kids and adults living in Haiti can actually learn using little more than iPods and solar chargers. A few of the key strengths of the idea include:

  1. By using audio & video, we can teach people that cannot read.
  2. The process is user controlled (students can learn at their own pace).
  3. The process is repeatable (students can watch videos as many time as they’d like)
  4. The entire family can learn with one iPod (making it very affordable).
  5. Education can move into areas where schools are unavailable or struggling.
  6. Teachers can learn to be better teachers right where they serve.
  7. Where schools are available, iPods are easily integrated into classrooms

First they created 5 videos covering information ranging from shapes and colors, to numbers, characters from the alphabet, found objects, and more. They loaded these videos onto 6 iPods. and identified 20 children in a remote community to learn with the iPods. They measured exactly what the children knew about the information in the videos and then introduced the iPods. The children were shown  how to operate them, and money was left  for the local pastor to charge them using his generator.

One month later we returned to administer the same test again. We shall refer to this as the “post-test” since it was administered to close the experiment.

The results were STAGGERING. There was an average increase in score of 44%! That is without any formal teacher present! In addition to the notable increase in scores, students turned in more than 140 sheets of practice papers (which we did not give them supplies for nor ask them to produce). While chatting with them, several explained that they had even taken it upon themselves to form their own informal discussion groups as they sat around their yards discussing the things they were learning on the iPods. Incredible!

Here is a typical result:

FROM HERE: While we are thrilled with these initial findings, we know that we need to repeat these experiments to see if different communities will deliver similar results.

We’re calling it “20 iPods in 20 days” and are officially announcing it right here, right now! Please consider helping us with this project. This next experiment will test five communities simultaneously, using 20 iPods which we do not presently have. In addition to the actual iPods we need to raise funds to pay for things like fuel, personnel, protective cases, charging cables, and so forth. This 1-month-long, 5 community, 20 iPod, follow up experiment will cost $5,000.

Follow the link if you need more information or to donate to this worthwhile project.


What I want to do when I grow up


The One Laptop One Child project aims

to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

There are 5 principles (apart from it being a non-profit organisation):

1. The kids get to keep the laptops.

2. Focus on early education.

3. No one gets left out.

4. Connection to the internet.

5. Free to grow and adapt.

Most of the more than one billion children in the emerging world don’t have access to adequate education. The XO laptop is our answer to this crisis—and after nearly two years, we know it’s working. Almost everywhere the XO goes, school attendance increases dramatically as the children begin to open their minds and explore their own potential. One by one, a new generation is emerging with the power to change the world.

So this is what I want to do when I grow up:


See the Flickr photostram here .

 Thanks to Angela Maiers for the link.

‘Hope is something shared between teachers and students’. Freire

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‘There is a relationship between the joy essential to teaching activity and hope.  Hope is something shared between teachers and students’. Paulo Freire

I would like to add ‘and parents’ to the above quote.

I had a most uplifting experience at a Staged Assessment and Intervention meeting last week (and that’s not a sentence to be typed lightly!).

The class and support for learning teachers were there but the parents were not. This was no surprise: they had not been seen in the school since they enrolled B 5 years before except for a meeting called to allow him to return to school after a period of exclusion recently.

Much to our surprise and pleasure, after a quick phonecall, B’s dad arrived.  

We had, in fact, good news. B had calmed down since his first and only exclusion and was performing well in class. We had identified a significant dyslexic difficulty and felt that his level of frustration about the mismatch between his ability and his performance in reading and spelling had led to his acting out. We were able to assure his dad that his literacy delay was not an indicator of general slow development but was very specific.  We were wanting to discuss how best to teach B so that he could perform his understandings without the barrier of print.

Well, this is common for me. I attend such meetings up to 10 times a week.

So why was this one so different?

Well, B’s dad talked eloquently and thoughtfully about the problems he had had at school (not so very long ago). He had been excluded for fighting so frequently that he ended up in residential care and felt he had learned nothing. His understanding of the difficulties his son faced – and possible solutions – far outstripped ours, needless to say.

But what was most profound was the connection we all felt. B’s dad did not bring his unhappiness and sense of failure to the meeting. He came with a strong love for his child and a desire to ensure that B does not go the way that he had. But he also had a sense of  proportion in that he understood the pressures on teachers to ensure that all the children in their care are successful, effective, responsible and confident. (I have to say that this is not always the case!!)

Although he needed persuasion to cross the threshold, once he was there he gave so much of himself for the good of his boy that we professionals were all silenced. Later we agreed that the encounter had brought tears to all our eyes.

‘Loving’ is not part of a teachers’ job description. Neither is ‘unconditional positive regard’. But I believe warmth, genuineness and empathy are essential characteristics if we are to work in partnership with parents and carers and the community for the benefit of all our children.

Here is Carl Rogers expressing my thoughts better than I can:

..In my early professional years I was asking the question: ‘How can I treat, or cure, or change this person?’ Now I would phrase the question in this way: ‘How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his [sic] own personal growth?’ 

And this is to celebrate the return of Wordle:

Children’s Book Tree


Following the success of last year’s initiative customers at Blackwell’s book shop on South Bridge can once again support Edinburgh’s most vulnerable children through an exciting initiative, The Children’s Book Tree.
Blackwell’s are working with City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Women’s Aid and Edinburgh Young Carers to help make Christmas a little better for disadvantaged local children. The scheme means that children who will be living in difficult circumstances at Christmas, who have caring responsibilities beyond their years or those who won’t be at home for Christmas and will have few personal possessions, will each receive a book to treasure.

The scheme is coordinated by volunteer Lizzie Poulton who explains: “The Children’s Book Tree is different from other charity donation schemes as each child has had the opportunity to say what their interests are and what kind of books appeal to them. Customers can then choose a book for that child, knowing that it will not only be a present they’ll really appreciate, but that books and stories can inspire, reassure and provide escape for children in difficult personal circumstances.”

The children have each put their Christmas wishes for a book on a gift tag which is then hung on a Christmas tree in store. All customers need to do is choose a book they think that child will really appreciate, from dinosaurs to fairies, Jacqueline Wilson to James and the Giant Peach. Staff in the children’s department will be more than happy to help people with their selections if they are unsure. The customer than pays for that book and leaves it with staff in store who will ensure that it gets wrapped, before being distributed to the right child for Christmas day.

The Children’s Book Tree is now in store and will be until Sunday the 20th of December. Please pop by, select a tag and buy a book for a child. If you are in a rush ready-selected books with labels are placed beneath the tree or if you are unable to drop in the shop you can call Blackwell where a member of staff will be happy to select and take payment for a book over the telephone.

The tree has only been in store since 25th November and is already a success as customers shopping for Christmas presents are taking a moment to buy an extra present for a child who will be spending Christmas away from their family, in a refuge or caring for others. One child who requested a book by popular teen author Louise Rennison, will be in for an extra treat as the author herself purchased the book for that child and added a personal note, when visiting Blackwell’s this week. 

Having a Choice

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Here is a great article by Kathy Lette on the education of women worldwide. She supports the charity Plan UK,  which works

to help girls overcome the incredible odds that keep them locked in the cycle of poverty… Altogether, more than 43 million [girls] are currently out of school. Girls are at the back of the queue when it comes to schooling; and as a result they are forced to endure a lifetime of missed opportunities and lost potential.

I did my teacher training at the Institute of Education in London in the department of – wait for it –Tropical Areas (I planned to work abroad). I was not just the only person on the course who had never visited such an area, mine was the only white face, and I was the youngest by about a decade. Most of the others had lived and worked in Africa or Asia all their lives, had acquired qualifications, at enormous personal sacrifice, and had managed the supreme effort of getting cash and time to train in the UK. My, but I had so much to learn; the teaching of  History being only a tiny component.
A frequent and lively debate we had (while others on more conventional courses were learning how to use the Banda machine) was whether girls should be educated at all. That this should be a contentious issue was an incredible concept to me. The arguments were sophisticated and thoughtful and largely centred upon a genuine ( though we now know, misguided) but entirely economic imperative. It is clear nearly 40 years on that educating girls is not just about justice for 50% of the world’s population. Mothers play the pre-eminent role in breaking the cycle of poverty as we can see in the wonderful concept of  Microcredit which gives hope to many, many women and their families in the poorest parts of the world. Microcredit is

the extension of very small loans to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit.

Gender (and class) inequalities still exist in Britain of course, as Lette amusingly describes. However, these are insignificant compared with the injustices in other parts of the world.

A good teacher is like a bolt of electricity (Ed Balls)

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  How wonderful to read that the award for the outstanding new teacher has gone to a young man who was told he’d never become a teacher because of his dyslexia. In fact his parents were informed by his primary head that there was ‘a debate as to whether dyslexia really exists’.

 The Guardian reports that the first thing that new students learn from Edward Vickerman is that he won’t be writing on the board: ‘ He can’t do it properly’ said one of his students. ‘But he’s got his own brilliant system. It’s cool’. Unfortunately no details were supplied.

 It is astonishing that someone as dynamic and enterprising as this teacher – department head of business at the age of 26 after a career in hotel management – should have faced such blinkered thinking as recently as the 1990s. Luckily for Edward Vickerman his mum, a head teacher, and dad, severely dyslexic himself, along with many ‘brilliant’ teachers, believed in him. His determination and ‘vim’, ingenuity and communication skills were also vital elements that enabled him to break through barriers to achieve his ambition.

 Edward claims that being dyslexic makes him think differently. ‘It forces me to think outside the box; to find ways of using new technology to teach; to include everyone, in a way that didn’t happen to me. When I left school, I wanted above all to come back as a teacher. I wanted to change the system’.

 The report continues:

It is a measure of Vickerman that he was tripped up very early. He can take himself back, instantly, to a moment at the age of 7 when he was given a bag of wooden letters to try and improve his halting inability to write his obviously fizzing ideas down.

‘I had to out them in alphabetical order,’ he says. ‘ I got about as far as D. I couldn’t identify any of the lettes, or make the sounds they stood for. They could have been anything.’

What a terrific role model and inspiration.

The Meaning of Life!!

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Today the most powerful and also the most difficult task in raising a child is helping him to find meaning in life. .. To find deeper meaning, one must become able to transcend the narrow confines of a self-centred existence and believe that one will make a significant contribution to life … In order not to be at the mercy of the vagaries of life, one must develop one’s inner resources, so that one’s emotions, imagination and intellect mutually support and enrich one another. … When children are young it is literature that carries such information best. (Bettelheim ’76)