On Saturday July 7th, 2012, we conducted a Teachers’ Update Training session at Our Lady of Merces High School, Merces, Goa for the primary school teachers who have been involved with the OLPC project at the school. Besides Harriet Vidyasagar who has been with the Merces OLPC project since its inception, Bindi Dharia, an intern with OLPC USA, was also present for the training, which was conducted by Salil and Gayathri.
It had been almost one and a half years since the last Teacher Training at Merces, and with so many new Sugar activities having come up since then, it was essential that we have this training before the new academic year began in full swing. We also needed to stress the importance of using Turtle Art in the XO classes. Turtle Art had been part of the previous training, but hadn’t been incorporated into the XO classes last year. After the Geometry Camp that we conducted in April this year, we were convinced that Turtle Art was an invaluable tool to use while teaching basic geometry to the children. It was therefore decided to start the training with a refresher session on Turtle Art, focusing on simple geometric shapes – the square, the rectangle and the rhombus – how to draw a square in Turtle Art, and then tweak the parameters to turn it into a rectangle and then a rhombus. The teachers responded well with hands-on participation on their XOs; some of them who finished early even went on to draw the more difficult triangle.
Following the Turtle Art session, we went on to explore the new Sugar activity ‘I Know India’. I noticed that between the time I had had my first look at this activity and the training, the activity already sported some new features. ‘I Know India’ allows you to explore the states and cities of India, and when run in the Play more, allows you to test yourself with a quiz about Indian states, state capitals and other cities of India. It is a very nice activity that can be used to introduce people to the geography of the country, and I am sure children of Class 3 and 4 will take to it very well, since they already study about Indian states in their Geography class. The activity does require a few improvements, especially with the English in the text that comes up, but this was easily taken care of. I sent out an email to the author of the activity Alan Aguiar, bringing this to his notice and offering to correct the comments, and by the next evening, I already had a reply from him instructing which files I could modify to correct the English. I could do this only after the training was over, but even so, it was heartening to know that support was readily available and that it was so simple to fix the problem. The activity does refer to Union Territories as States, but I am sure that will also get corrected in newer versions. Harriet suggested that the teachers give their inputs about how the activity could be improved or enhanced further, and a few ideas came up – having a section on famous monuments of India and their locations – ‘Where is the Taj Mahal?’ or ‘Where is the Sun Temple?’
The latter part of the training was spent in introducing the teachers to some of the new game-like activities that are available within Sugar, starting with the word-based activities ‘Letters’ and ‘Across and Down’. ‘Letters’ requires you to create words from a jumbled set of letters (the longer the word, the more points you get) while ‘Across and Down’ is based on the popular word game Scrabble, and is played similarly. Besides these, we also introduced the teachers to ‘Numbers’, which is an activity that has been around for some time, but hasn’t really been used in the XO Classes in the school. I recalled that during the Digital Stories workshop last year, the children did use this activity quite a lot and enjoyed competing with each other to see who would get to a score of 100 first, so we decided to demonstrate the activity to the teachers, with the idea of getting them to use it in the XO classes this year.
We managed to finish the training in time, but also decided that we would try to have another update training after a couple of months to cover a few more activities that I have in mind, which I think will work well in the school. For now, the teachers have enough to work with.