As noted two posts prior, the teachers at the EFACAP school were so excited to get training on how to use the Internet, we set up a separate training session with them for two days later, Thursday, Dec. 15 2011.
None of us had led such a training session before. Two of the students, annie and Adriana, really stepped up and thought through what we would need to do, and prepared our training session.
At the appointed time, we brought the laptops over to where the teachers were sitting and our training session would take place. (Unfortunately, about 1/3 of the laptops didn’t work for one reason or another, so we had to keep going back to the charging room and getting more.)
We started out by trying to assess their interests and experience levels. Only two of them said they had email addresses, and just two of them said they had used the Internet before. Our first impression was surprise that the teachers didn’t know where to click on the “Web” icon for Internet access. But we reminded ourselves that they had had no occasion to use it before now, with no Internet access at the school. Even so, we asked if they had ever had training on these laptops before, and were surprised to hear “no!” because we knew that they had had a four-week training session when the laptops were first distributed in late 2009. So we asked about that, and indeed, they recalled that they had had such a training session. My big “aha” moment there, and I’ve seen this before, was that if you’re an adult and you’ve never used computers before, and you get training, if you don’t use what you’ve learned for nearly three years after that, you’re going to forget what you learned!
Annie and Adriana had wisely decided to start the session with training on the server, saving the most exciting part—the Internet and email accounts–for last. Our team had brought and set up an internal server for the school, with as basic a wiki as possible installed on it, and we had uploaded a few lesson plans on solar energy and public health that we had created during the semester prior. We explained what the server is, how it will work even if the Internet connection is not working, and that they can upload their own lesson plans to this server to have them any time they want. We then showed them how to access the server, and the lesson plans, and how to create their own page on the server. (But again, my main worry is that if they don’t use it for a long while, they won’t remember how to use it, and I wonder whether they will see value in storing lesson plans on it, or whether this is our idea for them…)
Next, we showed them how to access the Internet, and a web page. We told them they can search for information on google (and for them, google.ht, the local Haitian page was where we surfed). Many of them wanted to watch youtube videos—they knew about youtube. Unfortunately, the OLPC laptops don’t allow for flash, so they couldn’t watch any videos. I don’t know if they’ve found a way around that by now…
Next, there were two people who wanted to go to Facebook—then everyone wanted to do that. They had all heard of Facebook! They were so excited! But in order to do that, you need to create an account, and in order to create an account, you need an email address. So, that was the next thing we tried to do. And I say “tried to do” for a reason. This was the most difficult thing we did during the entire training session, because to sign up for an email account, (we used yahoo.fr), one needs first to choose the email “name” and yahoo suggests one for you. Then you need to give a street address, and to enter a password multiple times (no one had brought anything on which to write down their new email address or password, so how would they remember it? We distributed paper and pens at that point, although no one wanted to stop to do so–they were so close, so excited to keep going at that point.) But the most puzzling thing to them was the two challenge or security questions yahoo requires, if the password is forgotten—first, explaining the concept behind this, and then explaining why they needed two. Some of these questions made no contextual sense to the teachers (Make and model of your first car? Where did you vacation last year? What was your favorite sport in high school?) , but ultimately they all made it through, and were able to choose a question/answer that worked for them. And finally, they had to type in the strange, nonsensical CAPTCHA phrases at the bottom of the page that attempt to prevent against spamming and robot signing up for accounts—and we had to explain what those were all about, too!
Finally, the first person to hit “send” got his address. Then, as the others all hit send, none of the rest of the addresses went through. This was extremely frustrating and puzzling for us. We had no idea what to tell them, why it hadn’t worked. We could only figure that yahoo rejected them, as they all came so suddenly from the same IP address, they thought it was spamming or robo-account creation of some type. (So much for the CAPTCHA phrase!)
So the training ended on a somewhat frustrating note, as only one person managed to get an email address/account that day. The better news is that there were two of the teachers present at the session who were clearly more experienced, brave, and quick to catch on than the rest when it came to using the computers and the Internet. (In a good-news follow up, we’ve been told that these two are taking the lead on training the rest of the teachers in how to use the Internet, get email addresses, and are also going around from class to class and teaching the teachers how to use the laptops for teaching in their classes.)
After the training session was over, we took the teachers into the charging room and showed them what and where all the Internet equipment was, including the server. (It’s all on the upper left of the equipment.)