28 March 2009


    Letters & packages
  • [received] from Michelle: A wonderful friend-montage calendar and a "Webale" card expressing just how awesome and supportive a group of friends I have back home.

  • [received] from Brett Bell: Perfect package of goodies and reading materials. I definitely was confused at first by the People magazine until I read that it was for TJ. It was also perfect timing because it came right before I had some PCTs visit, so I didn't have to just feed them local food. You gotta treat the PCTs right, right?

  • >[received] from Allie: Yet another amazing package and utterly delicious. Ditto on the good timing with PCTs.

  • Lastly, a quick apology that I haven't sent out more letters recently. Most of my other PCV friends are in a flurry of packing up and getting ready to head out, so I've been writing a fair number of in-country letters and going to visit (and party) with them on weekends. It'll be very quiet around here after about Mid-May and they will be missed.

27 March 2009

PICTURES!!! - Computer Lab - Woot!

Below are some long awaited pictures of the computer lab in place and being used:

Madame Quilina (pr. "Kee-lee-nah") reviews parts of a computer with P1 (Kindergarten) students.

This is ideally what a computer lesson looks like.

But it more often than not it looks like this.

(For any teachers out there, we have a number of pretty big classes - how would you like ~150 3rd graders?)

Or this.

(Painted walls = fun physicalish work for me, I also painted the shutters and Mr. Onyango complimented me, saying, "Jones, did you train for that work?" I guess it's just in my blood, right Grandpa Dick?)

Yeko, teaching some P7s (6th graders) where to put your hands for touch typing. (We hope to have a competition with prizes for the fastest, most-accurate typer in the near future.)

Madame Negesa helps a student who's learning to use the mouse.

This isn't really related to the computer lab at all, it was just unbearably cute to pass the store room and see this kid curled up, deep asleep, in a wheel barrow.

So, as you may be able to see, things are going pretty well. Classes are coming in regularly to use the computers to practice math and other subjects. I'm working to make sure the computers have lots of content for teaching, are working, and are locked down (which is more important than it sounds).

Plans are in the works to have a Computer Lab Opening Day sometime soonish. It should be quite the celebration with the hopeful guest of a Member of Parliament (Congress-person), a band, a choir, and presentations by all the classes. I'm planning to record as much of it as possible to share back at home.

That's all for now, Peace.

01 March 2009

Have Internet? Have time? Wanna Help?

This is just a short blog first to say that---


Of course there are many problems to trouble-shoot and continued improvements to be made to the lab, but as of this last week pupils and teachers began to use the computers. We are just beginning slowly, with the hope of beginning full lessons in the lab sson, much of which will be based off the open-source educational software, GCompris. In addition to helping teachers teach and manage classes in the computer lab and teaching computer classes to teachers and community members on the side, I'd like to continue adding resources to the computers. But, there's a bit of a problem: the internet here isn't lightning, and although I know there are many many resources available, I often just don't have the time to go sifting through looking for gems. So, if you have the time, you have the connection, and you have the will, you too can help. Both downloading stuff for us, or just finding good resources that I can get from here would be excellent.

For those of you willing to accept the challenge, here are a couple details you want to keep in mind.

  • Most of the users are kids (like K-6) who's first language is not English. Although teachers and high-school kids should have access as well. So...

  • ...they tend to like what kids like--fun sounds, pictures, interactive games. But, of course it's always better if these are somehow related to learning and education (but that's not a strict requirement :).
  • If you find software, it should be compatible for Linux. For programs you usually have to look for this explicitly, but content (e.g. pictures, documents, web-sites, movies, sounds) will all be directly viewable/playable on Linux (we even already have a nice assortment of Bill Nye and School House Rock thanks to another volunteer (Thanks Thomas!!!))

  • I'm able to download whole websites using a program called Httrack, so even suggestions of really cool websites is good.

  • If you decided to be an angel and download big things for me, you can just pop them on a cd, and pop them in an envelope, and pop them to my via my normal address

Here's a couple things that I know I want to do, but haven't been able to get to yet:
  1. We would like a decent encyclopedia, but there aren't many (as in none) that I could find that are made to also work on Linux. So, I have a small version of Wikipedia, but I've found a larger, DVD-size version here Wikipedia for Schools. Being big, however, is also preventing me from getting it.

  2. There seem to be a lot of resources available at UNESCO Open Training, but I haven't had time to look through many of these and it often seems an extra step to carry out an order for most things. If you feel like digging through this and happen upon something cool, feel free to have it sent straight to me and just let me know, so I can compliment you on how awesome you are.

  3. Here's a list of English-learning sites, of which I'd like to pick one or two to download:

  4. Lastly, I've been looking into "Kensington" locks which would allow us to lock the computers to the desks and greatly hinder any thief that might want to try and take them (which is quite a big concern here). I've found them in Kampala for about $20 each, but if you can find them for cheaper (like free), it would greatly reduce worries over here. (Just as a side note, the computers are currently being kept in my house at night until we get a night watchman -- bit annoying to pack and unpack them every day, so security really matters quite a bit).

So, that's that. My eternal gratefulness and that of Ugandan children can be yours for the price of a few hours of goofing around on the internet.

I hope to put pictures of the lab up soon. Know that I am missing you all,