School improvement with technology!

24 07 2019

We are so happy to report that we somehow managed to get the Our Dad Elementary School “STEAM Centre” setup and ready for action in one afternoon! Of course it took 5 of us, two trips back to Jinja from Bugembe for forgotten and missing items, BUT we pulled out off!

The morning started with pick up of our new official Outreach “uniforms” for our STEAM Team. The students who deliver our STEAM education workshops on a rotating monthly basis twice/month love the customized design we drew up on graphics software especially since they helped come up with it. (a STEAM activity in itself last week!) Having the text at the bottom on the back like a “footballer” was a hit as was the custom logo design & fonts. Everyone was certainly earning their shirts today!

We still had about 2.5 hours of installation of primary level and curriculum related software onto the RaspberryPis and Windows stick PC because the internet speed has been fairly terrible this week. The installs included phonics, math and human body games as well as many kid-friendly videos and animations about human health & development, body systems, ecosystems, interactive atlases and so much more. Our students who have been through Ugandan primary (and secondary) education at typical government schools marveled at what a difference these types of resources will make rather than just having posters and chalk drawing diagrams to learn from. The example that they used was howuch better it was seeing a real heart pump in the video instead of just drawing arrows on a diagram and trying to imagine what everything means from the words in your book. All of the 50+ videos we compiled on the Intel Stick PC will be able to be protected on the big screen we painted on the wall in the room with the Kodak pico projector we brought. both this stick computer and the projector fit in the palm of your hand it is amazing and definitely something we will be trying to get more of in the future for the schools we work with here. They’re so easy to transport and use and have a really reasonable price tag!

So we packed up the car. The computer stations, Lego robotics kits, projector and PC as well as a few other low-tech “maker” materials (crafty things). You would think counting to 4 would be easy for such smart kids….4 monitors, 4 keyboards, 4 mice, 4 VGA/HDMI adapters, 4 SD memory cards, 4 Pi power cords, 4 monitor power cords, 4 VGA cables and 4 RaspberryPis …… Well of course we drive the 30 minutes to the school in Bugembe, unload the equipment only to realize that there are only three keyboards….and three mice….it wasn’t the little parts that were missed, like an SD card, it was the big stuff. So Alex had to drive back to Jinja for us…and then back to Bugembe.

In the meantime we got all of the cables and cords run around the room and tacked in place on the walls/floors. We figured out how to get everything plugged in with adapters because many of the plugs are North American (Ugandan plugs are the same as Britian). We painted the final coat on the projection screen and organized the storage for the robot kits. We had some time to make some posters for the walls as well.

Once the missing components arrived the computer stations could be fully set up. The students worked for a little over an hour and had all 4 setup. There seems to be an issue with one of them so they took it back with us to Jinja (a port needs be soldered) and are going to bring it back tomorrow afternoon.

As soon as we had the last computer plugged in and were testing software the bell rang to end the school day. Immediately teachers started coming upstairs to the Tech Centre to check out out and wanted to begin some training right away! Their initial reaction was the same as Headmaster Michael’s reaction earlier in the day: “where are the computers??!” They had never seen such tiny machines as the RaspberryPis and stick PCs! With these tiny machines introduced, they got down to business learning how to boot the Pis and shut them down and how to find the programs we had installed. The big favourite was an outer space themed math blast game that requires you to do quick mental math. It helps kids practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in a really fun and different way then ever before in the usual rote only environment. It was a lot of fun and the teachers were thrilled at the potential for using this with their students.

We will be heading back out tomorrow to provide some further training. The STEAM Team are really looking forward to sharing their computer knowledge and demonstrating the potential of the Lego construction kits to provide hands on experiences for the math and physical science curriculum.


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