The beginning of the monsoon and the first rains could only make the much awaited visit to Khairat village more exciting. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer enthusiasm and energy of the teacher Sandeep Surve who almost single handedly ensures that the OLPC project at the small village school in Khairat is a continuing success story. He is supported by volunteers from HBCSE (Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, Mumbai) who visit the school every week and help with new and novel ways of using Sugar activities on the XOs. On June 17th and 18th, Harriet Vidyasagar and I accompanied Prof. G. Nagarjuna and Rafikh from HBCSE on a visit to Khairat. . For Harriet of course, it was a reestablishing of ties with the people and with a project that she has been long associated with, but for me it was the first visit, and a very eventful one at that.
The first day was mostly spent interacting with the children at the school, and watching Rafikh and the children doing collaborative work on the XO, while Surve updated us on the recent happenings and progress on the project. The next day I recorded on video an interview with Surve (which I hope to post on the blog soon) and couldn’t stop being amazed by the man’s dedication to the project and his enthusiasm and drive despite all the difficulties he faces. Besides using the XOs with the students in class, he also uses the XO to create question papers for his students (using the Write activity). Then he either prints the papers by making a PDF file that he copies from the Journal onto his pen drive and takes it to the nearby village for printing, or (and this was amazing) he shares it with his students in class over the XO’s mesh network, so that each of them have a copy of the question paper in their journals. He then asks them to log out and restart their XOs, and the students then answer their individual question papers using the Write activity. The restart is required of course so that the students don’t end up writing their answers on the same shared document.
Surve also showed us a Memorize game that he’s created for the children – matching vehicles with their names. He doesn’t have any Internet access in his school so he goes to a cyber cafe in a nearby village, downloads images from the Internet onto his pen drive and then uses them to create the game in Memorize. Though there’s no wired or wireless Internet in the village, Internet access can easily be made available with mobile broadband dongles – this is one of the facilities and infrastructure that the project desperately needs but can’t have due to nobody funding the project at present. In the interview Surve spoke of a ‘wishlist’ of things that would help him immensely in the project – very basic and relatively inexpensive items like Internet access, a dedicated computer for the school, a printer for administrative work, and a projector or large monitor to share downloaded educational multimedia content with the class.
Harriet and I thought it would be really nice if we could have teachers in the OLPC project at Merces, Goa interact with Surve from Khairat so that they could learn from each others’ experiences. As for me, I decided I would definitely visit Khairat again and explore how I could continue to be associated with the project on an more regular basis.