The following is a guest post, written by Melody Alvarez, who is volunteering with the Peace Corps and is stationed in Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). We’ve been working with Melody and other Peace Corps volunteers working in schools across Chuuk State, to introduce tablet-based technology into the classrooms. Melody’s school, Romanum Elementary, on Romanum Island in the Chuuk Lagoon, has no electricity or Internet connectivity at present. Thus, we sent a Ready-Set Solar Kit to accompany the tablets and enable them to be charged.
In addition, our team had worked on a 10-lesson “Technology Training” curriculum to assist with instruction for those who have never used such technology before. The tablets also came pre-loaded with approximately 10 educational apps, so that the they could be used for school-related purposes despite the lack of connectivity at the school(s).
Below, Melody relays her initial experiences introducing this technology to Romanum’s 8th graders, none of whom had ever used a tablet prior to this experience.
I wanted to give you some feedback on how my 8th graders have been
doing. We use the tablets in Special Class, which is basically an elective class; it is not a mandatory class, however, all the 8th grade students attend. The first part of this class we spend about an hour/hour and a half on English and Math test prep. The second part of class is when we use the tablets.
I wrote “What is technology?” on the board.
No answers from the class. I wrote the definition (which I realize is not technically accurate but I had to make it at a level my students would understand) “something that needs a battery or generator to work.” Then I gave them some examples: Computers, cell phones, MP3 players and DVD players.
Then I wrote “What technology is on Romanum?” I divided all the students in to groups and they worked together to come up with a list. After 10 minutes the groups took turns making a list on the board.
Then I wrote: “What is a tablet?”
Students answer: “A writing notebook” “the yellow paper”
(we have writing tablets with yellow lined paper at our school)
I explained that I was talking about a type of computer, not the writing paper.
Next I wrote: “What can you use a tablet for?”
Student answers: playing games, Math-Calculator, listening to music, watching movies, writing (I explained that on a computer we call it typing) and camera.
Then I asked my class “Why did I teach you about technology and tablets?”
Student answers: To understand, to be smart, because you want us to know what technology is.
I ended class by telling the students to be on time to school on Monday or I would lock them outside. I did not tell them that I had tablets for them to use because it was a surprise. The reason for locking the classroom door is because I knew that the tablets would be a distraction to the other students.
Monday was a rainy day so I gave them 15 extra minutes to arrive and then I locked the door. There were 9 students inside and I gave them the tablets and let the students figure out how to turn them on and it was only a matter of minutes. Then they had to figure out how to unlock the screen and that held them up too, but not for long.
After a few days, I made a schedule of pairs to rotate whose turn it would be to use the tablets, since I have 17 students and only 3 tablets. I plan on changing their partners after about a month so that they can change up who they play with.
So far each student has had 3 turns with the tablet. (We only have special class 3 days a week.) Mostly they like the camera, but they are also playing the games and they are learning how to edit their pictures.
Here are some pictures of the students using the tablets, and some that they took of themselves.
It looks like Melody’s students have already mastered the art of taking selfies!
UPDATE (3/16/15): We found out from a comment below (thank you Greg Keeble!) that Melody’s 8th graders had the highest English test scores in the state of Chuuk!!!!!! Hooray for Romanum’s 8th Graders and for Melody!!!!! I contacted Melody, let her know the good news, and she provided an update on the remainder of her school year with the 8th graders:
“I do believe that technology can have a positive impact on the students. I held an optional class after school. It was for two and a half hours. The deal was if we spent an hour or an hour and a half on test taking skills focusing on English (writing, grammar rules, reading and oral) and Math then they could “play” with the tablets. I said this was an optional class but almost every 8th grader attended the class. They also had to go to their regular classes in the morning or they couldn’t come to the afternoon class. Needless to say 8th grade had the least amount of absences. I tried to show the students and the teachers that the better a student’s attendance, the better their grade will be. My 8th graders worked really hard to learn how to use those tablets.”