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Observations - Rory Usher

I attended the Awarenet sessions held at C.M Vellem school on two occasions and interacted with a class of approximately 20 students between the ages of 14 and 15. Despite the numerous challenges that this community faces economically, like many others in this country, the main area of concern at the school was the lack of literacy and specifically that of technological literacy. My chief involvement in these Awarenet sessions at C.M Vellem, apart from my photographic duties, was to help the children in solidifying their grasp of using the Awarenet software as well as helping them in aspects such as spelling and grammar.

I found that the main issues that children faced with gaining traction with the technology was a combination of a lack of familiarity with the software coupled with grammatical issues. On both occasions the children were asked to write blog posts either based on a personal experience of theirs or from a picture of a specific person or topic given to them by the coordinator Terri-Lynn Penney. As a single coordinator it was evident that Terri-Lynn was at times overwhelmed by the number of requests regarding grammar and so it became starkly clear that some form of voluntary participation programme would be highly useful as it would allow more children to be helped more frequently.

The availability of internet access continues to plague many of the schools in which Awarenet projects have been installed and this was evident at C.M Vellem on my final day of observation as the internet was temporarily down and so Terri-Lynn was unable to connect the kids to the web in order to perform research. These are not technological aspects that are insurmountable but reflect a growing need to address technological innovation both in the educational sphere and on a more macro, national level.

The lack of internet activity on this day also nullified one of the main tenets of the Awarenet project which is a heightened level of social interaction. Due to the lack of internet access the children who had written blog posts were unable to post them to the web immediately and this severely limits the social potential of the use of Awarenet at C.M Vellem. This lack of connectivity highlights the gap that is widening at an extreme rate in this country between the privileged with access to the internet, for whom it is taken for granted, and those who are neglected due to lack of economic strength.

By: Amber Davies on October 16th 2013 03:50 [0 comments]

Aware Yet?

Observation Report

I have visited CM Vellem, and consequently used the Awarenet software on 4 separate occasions. The class is of roughly 20 students aged 14 to 15 years old. While there are a number of issues that face these children in their community, computer literacy and English language skills are the most significant in the context of the involvement of the Awarenet software and Village Scribe association.

My role in the Awarenet classes run by Terri Penney of the Village Scribe association was chiefly concerned with assisting the children in the general use of the software and on occasion conducting a lesson for the class along with my group members. The lesson was based on the problems we had identified in our previous lesson with the class. It had been noted that they tended to struggle particularly with tense and more complicated vocabulary, which while challenging is of a level they should be able to match at age 15.

The Awarenet software gives the students an opportunity to practice their English in a fun and interactive way, while gaining valuable computer literacy skills. However, while the lessons often exercise the English skills of the learner, I feel it would be very challenging for the teacher (in this case Terri Penney) to address all the spelling and grammatical errors for every student in every lesson. Obviously the presence of my group and I helped play a pivotal role in addressing these issues, which in turn suggests that a student volunteer program would be significantly valuable, particularly if instituted on a large scale, so as to reach all the schools.

Unfortunately a large majority of the schools which host these lessons on the Awarenet software do not have access to the internet and will therefore only have access to the resources on Awarenet when in the actual lesson. This is only possible through the setup of a network via the machine the teacher will bring into the classroom. This means that the limited time available (both due to the schedule of the students as well as the teacher) is used for them to complete the project given to them for that lesson, and as such limits the time they are able to explore the various material on the Awarenet network. As Awarenet was designed to create a safe environment where student communities at schools across the globe can interact and share resources, the above renders its purpose almost redundant.

In conclusion, I believe that the core issues surrounding the digital divide and Awarenet’s role in bridging it in association with Village Scribe are numerous. Simply put, the English exercises are incredibly useful for these children but the scale of the help they receive needs to be increased. In addition there are other problems with teacher/volunteer resources and the time that the children have to make use of the software. However, the biggest issue of all for the children involved is that they have the potential access to all these resources through Awarenet but this is enormously hindered by the fact that there is no access to the internet in their schools. In a world where some countries have made high speed internet a human right as per their constitution, these schools are more than deserving of serious attention, in order to allow for cohesion among all the other projects created for their aid.

By Amber Leigh Davies

By: Amber Davies on October 16th 2013 03:48 [0 comments]

How to write a blog

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By: Kerushan Pilay on October 10th 2013 02:41 [1 comments]

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