Since launching a 1:1 laptop program in 1997, St. Joseph’s Academy has integrated technology throughout the curriculum. Faculty and students have embraced the mission of the school and the Sisters of St. Joseph to be global citizens and to heed our call to service.
In the early years, we shared our expertise locally in a number of ways: from working to establish computer labs in underserved elementary schools in the Baton Rouge community to helping organizations such as Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center with online auctions to enhance their fundraising efforts. We then expanded our outreach to impoverished parts of the world, becoming a founding member of the Cordoba Education Initiative. Since 2005, teams of SJA students, graduates and technology staff members have worked with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council and the Fundación Fondo Córdoba in Mexico to provide access to technology and computer training in schools and orphanages.
In 2010, we embarked upon the first technology mission trip to Nicaragua, working to train residents of Cuidad Sandino to use technology to produce sustainable growth and social justice.
We excitedly embark upon our first service mission trip to South Africa, where we will work with disadvantaged schools in rural South African townships, setting up help desks modeled after our student-run Warranty Repair Center at SJA, teaching hardware and software and setting up network infrastructures.
We brought with us laptop and tablet computers, video cameras, projectors and digital cameras for the South African schools to keep.
We finally arrived at Penryn College. The college is in the hills overlooking the city of Nelspruit and the Crocodile River Valley east of Johannesburg. We ate dinner with a few of the people we will be working with this week so they were able to give us an idea about what their schools needed. We were up bright and early this morning, ready to get to work! We’ve set up different groups based on what each person wants to learn. My group is made up of 12 teachers (of all grades/subjects).
Margeaux Marks: It’s Tuesday, July 5. Today was the first official day of our workshop at Penryn College in Nelspruit, South Africa. We were up bright and early to meet the people we’d be teaching, the selected
principals, teachers, computer technicians, and students from 10 of the surrounding township schools.
From there we split into groups based on what each person wanted to learn, such as basic computer skills, networking and teaching tools. The first half of the day was very slow working with teachers who have no computer experience, showing them simply how to turn on a computer and how to log on. During lunch, our whole crew met to discuss what was going on in each group. In most cases, our group members were either very familiar with basic computer functions, or they were completely “computer illiterate,” as they like to call it.
Once I got back to my small group, we had four new members, each around 17, who had been selected by their school administrators to attend the workshop. Having just learned a few simple phrases in the local language, Siswati, during our lunch break, I entertained the girls with my poor pronunciation skills.
I liked them right away, and I spent the rest of the afternoon working to figure out what they wanted to learn by the end of the week. Even having little experience with computers, they impressed me with how quickly they picked up on things, most times never asking for help and figuring out what to do by themselves.
The difference between these girls and their administrators/teachers is their fearlessness in testing out new machines without any instruction. The adults were uneasy about trying buttons to see which would turn on a computer, while their students were past the log in screen and already playing around with games or looking through the program shortcuts on the desktop.
It was very easy to brainstorm with them about what types of things they want to learn this week, starting with setting up their own email addresses, Facebook pages, and Skype accounts. After seeing that basic computer skills were a breeze for them, I asked them to tell me about some of their hobbies, in hopes that I could put together a list of programs/websites to show them this week.
I want to show them how the World Wide Web caters to any of
their interests. One girl, Tshepile, said she loves to dance, so I
plan to show her sites like YouTube that have instructional videos or dance routines from around the world.
Thobile likes photography, so I told her about free photo editing sites like Picnik. The whole day flew by and got me so eager to prepare cool things to show them this week. Lucky for my group and me, they are staying in dorms here at Penryn College, too.
I’ll stay up all night tonight putting together the most crucial things I want to show them this week, as well as making a list of things they’ll be able to try out on their own time once the workshop is over and they are back at home or their school.
Even though today was only the first day, I’m already eager to
communicate with them after we;ve left South Africa using their new social networking skills.
That’s all for now. Check again for updates on how things go Day 2.