Today I was back at Edinaman to teach my first lesson of Scratch! Teaching this program to a large group of 22 students posed a few challenges, but the class went very well. First I explained what Scratch is: a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, and games and teaches important computer programming skills. Next I went over the basic functions within the program, and then we got into our first project! We started off simple by programming our "sprite" (the little character) to draw a square. I explained to them that programming the sprite is no different than telling the person sitting next to you how to walk in a square, step-by-step. I even had two of the students demonstrate this idea, with one student acting as the sprite and the other as the programmer. Drawing the square helped introduce the important concept of repetition. The students quickly realized that the steps to make a square (for example, walk five steps and then turn to the right) repeated four times. I showed them how the same idea can be used in Scratch instead of putting in each step three extra times. The students seemed to catch on very fast, and, as I walked around the room to watch their progress, offer advice, and answer questions, I noticed that many of the students were already exploring other functions and trying to discover what they could be used for. I was so happy to see this demonstration of curiosity about the computer programming because that desire to explore will be EXTREMELY important after I leave. I can only teach these students so much in these short two weeks that I am in Cape Coast/Elmina with them, and that curiosity and exploration is what will enable them to continue to learn from their computers after I leave. At the end of the day, we all walked to a restaurant in town to enjoy fufu, a Ghanaian dish made of cassava and plantain. Even better, we got to watch and help them make the fufu! It involves pounding the cassava and plantains in a wooden mortar with a wooden pestle. It's hard work, but the result is definitely worth it!
Today was a very fun day of browsing the stores in Cape Coast and teaching the girls in the Abura house. First we went to Woodin's, a fabric store, and then we browsed several art shops, where the vendors' products ranged from large, vibrantly colored paintings to bracelets and wooden elephants. I purchased a few small souvenirs after some aggressive haggling over prices on my part. I'm only kidding, of course. I quickly discovered that this back-and-forth process of arguing over prices is much too stressful for my liking. In fact, " I mostly stood there without saying a word until the vendor lowered the cost of my small wooden elephant to a price that I hoped was somewhat reasonable. So, yes, "aggressive" may be a bit of an exaggeration. I was still quite proud of myself, though! After lunch, we headed over to the girls' house in Abura and I did some more IIIAB scavenger hunt questions using Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, and OpenStreetMap. I am absolutely amazed at how much they have learned in such a short period of time. At the beginning of last week, none of the girls had even heard of Wikipedia, and now they surf the IIAB web like trained professionals! I am so proud of what they have already accomplished in our time together, and I feel so lucky to call myself their teacher.
We left the beach hotel today and picked up the IIAB technology from Edinaman Senior High School to bring back to Kathryn's and run some tests. According to Adam, the server had been running slower than desired over the weekend. Once we got back to Kathryn's, my dad replaced some of the thinner wires with the thick wire we purchased last week in Ghana. We also set up the Axim IIAB to test at the same time, and Tim was able to get Khan Academy working on the Edinaman server (previously it said the "page was not found" when clicked on). Even better, this fix means that the SIM card in the Netgear modem is working because Tim and Adam are successfully able to access the server through it from Canada and the United States. By the end of the call, both servers were working very well!
As promised, today was a great day of relaxation. We spent most of the afternoon sitting by the water and reading. It was great to sleep in past six in the morning, take a shower with hot water, and use air conditioning. However, I am excited to get back to Kathryn's and prepare for next week's lessons and new adventures!
We were back at Edinaman today to finish off our first school week, and I continued my IIAB lessons with the students. It was a day full of fun competitions using Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, and Open Street Maps. The first person to answer each question correctly won a pen with the logo of Cardinal Health, my dad's employer, and the students were very excited to receive them! At the end of class, I had the students think of their own Internet-in-a-Box scavenger hunt questions, and some of the questions they formed were quite challenging. I was impressed with how quickly they solved each other's questions, though! After the lesson, several of the students hung around in the ICT lab and asked me questions about how I became involved in my work and what my role was in creating and preparing the IIAB server. I also gave them a preview of Scratch, the program that I will be teaching them next week, and they seemed very excited to dive into the world of computer programming. After I finished teaching, my father and I headed over to Elmina Beach Resort, where we will be spending the weekend. It will be a great chance to relax after an action-packed week and spend some time along the beach!
Today we were back at the Anansi Abura house to teach the eight girls from the University Practice School. I was finally able to deliver their XO-4 laptops, and the girls were thrilled to open them! They had a lot of fun customizing the color settings and backgrounds of their computers after I showed them the basics, and then we got started with the IIAB material. Again, I gave an overview of the technology we had brought and what Internet-in-a-Box is, and then I had them do some work with Wikipedia. The students had never heard of an encyclopedia, never mind Wikipedia, so I explained it to them as an online book that is similar to a dictionary, but with entire articles explaining the words instead of short definitions. By the end of our lesson, they were experts at searching whatever topic they pleased, ranging from Hermione Granger to the United States of America. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they began using Wikipedia for Schools and Khan Academy to enhance their educations. It's great that they understand how helpful it is to have access to thousands of educational articles and videos at their fingertips. On the way home, we stopped at a convenience store to pick up some snacks, and Maureen and I had a great time trying to figure out what some of the crazy flavors of cookies were. My dad and I couldn't agree on which snacks to buy, so of course we had to buy it all. We ended up taking home mango cookies, chocolate, some sort of Pringles-like chips, and two different types of Fanta! It will take a while to get through it all, but I am excited to see how it all tastes!
Today was my first day of teaching, and it went great! I taught the students at Edinaman from 7:30-9:30 and the teachers from 10-12. The students were all extremely attentive and eager to learn, so they made the teaching easy for me! I gave them a general overview of the databases available on IIAB and briefly explained the technology that we had installed. Then we dove deeper into Wikipedia through some fun little challenges. I gave them various questions, such as "What is the population of Cape Coast?," and the first person to give me the answer for each question round would win. Some of the questions proved to be a bit trickier, such as trying to find the national sports of Canada, but they all did very well. We had a slight delay at the beginning of class because Internet Explorer was not able to run the server properly and not every laptop had Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox installed, but we solved this problem quite quickly. In fact, the students used some of the flash drives that I had given them the day before to install Google Chrome on those laptops! It was great to see all the technology being put to good use so quickly. Several of the students are actually very tech-savvy, and they helped me a lot in trying to get all of the computers working properly. Teaching the teachers was also very fun, and they asked me some good questions that I hadn't thought to teach to them, such as how to save web pages to their computers so that they could access them without connection to the IIAB. I didn't have time to show them this tool today, but I promised that we would go through it on Friday. After teaching, my dad and I decided to take a tour of the Cape Coast Castle. Ghana was largely involved in the Triangular Trade, and Cape Coast Castle was one of the places where slaves were held before being loaded onto ships and taken to the Americas on the Middle Passage. Standing in these dark, hot cells were thousands of slaves were held at a time was surreal, and the stories of the conditions were horrific. The first Anglican church in Ghana was actually started directly above the men's cell, so Heaven existed above ground and Hell below. The door leading from the dungeon to the ocean and ships was referred to as the "Door of No Return," as the slaves were beginning a new life of servitude and suffering. However, the opposite side of the door now reads "Door of Return," as the descendants of these slaves can now return to the homeland of their ancestors as free citizens. Cape Coast Castle was a very difficult place to visit and learn about, but it exists as a very important part of a tragic history.
On Tuesday we went back to Edinaman and replaced some of the wires in the IIAB system with more reliable cables that we had purchased in Cape Coast. We also delivered twenty new laptop chargers to the headmaster, who accepted them and thanked us on behalf of the school. The headmaster and the teachers were so grateful and appreciative, and these small moments are why I have come to Ghana and worked so hard over the past few months to provide this technology to the schools. Later in the day we went back to the Anansi Abura house and installed the second IIAB. This installation went even more smoothly than the first, and we were in and out in no time at all. After getting back to the house, I reviewed my lesson plans one last time and prepared myself for Wednesday's big day of teaching!
Monday morning we went to our first school, Edinaman Senior High School, to install the Internet-in-a-Box. The installation went better than I ever could have expected, and we got the server working with hardly any bumps along the way! The teachers were very appreciative of our efforts and very excited by what the IIAB has to offer. In fact, one of the teachers was already asking when we could install a second one in a different area of the school! Later that day, we had planned to install the IIAB at the Anansi girls' boarding house in Abura, but the electricity was down. Instead, Kathryn, Maureen, and I spent some time at the house just talking to the girls and explaining what I would be setting up for them in the next few days. Maureen works for Anansi with Kathryn back in Washington and has been to Ghana and these schools on previous trips. She is extremely global - name a country, and chances are that she has lived or visited it! The time we spent at the Abura house was great for me to meet the girls and introduce myself, and they had several questions about my schooling back in the United States. I also brought along one of the XO laptops for the girls to play with. They were quickly engrossed in its programs, and I was sad to have to take it back from them, even if only temporarily. However, I promised that I would be back later in the week to bring each girl her own laptop. The eight girls range from 15-18 years old, so I am the same age as several of them. I look forward to teaching them more and getting to know them better in the couple weeks!
We woke up our first morning in Ghana to the sound of loud chanting and singing. The house is surrounded by nearby churches, and religion is taken very seriously in Ghana. In fact, the sides of all the roads are covered in posters promoting various churches. After breakfast, my father and I visited Kakum National Park. Many species live in the park, including monkeys, elephants, and antelope, but sadly we did not get the chance to see any of them. However, we did get to go on the canopy walkway, which consists of six connecting bridges in the treetops. The rainforest and distant scenery were absolutely beautiful. Afterwards we stopped at Hans Cottage, which is known for its "friendly" crocodiles! It was a great day to see just a small part of what Ghana has to offer.