What began as a year-long independent study course intended to prepare students for a service trip to deliver OLPC's XO laptops (http://laptop.org/) along with lessons to elementary school students in St. John has grown to a multi-year student-led independent study experience using computer science as a vehicle for service. This experience is "Service Learning" where learning is combined with service. The true spirit of Service Learning is that the learning cannot happen without the service, and the service can't happen without the learning. Benefits: Some say that the most effective engagement takes place at the intersection of social engagement, political engagement, and economic engagement. This course provides CSG students with an opportunity for civic engagement while learning about technology, culture, lifestyle, and other aspects of life at the recipient school. The service aspect of this course engages girls with technology in a deeply meaningful way. The service becomes the objective rather than the computer programming or the hardware and software troubleshooting.
A secondary gain, but a primary goal, is that students are being introduced to Computer Science in a way that is attractive, engaging, and meaningful. The numbers of women in computer science have plummeted in the past decade, and remain low, so recruiting and retaining women into CS is an urgent need. This project helps to address the initial recruiting aspect of the "pipeline problem" by embedding the computer science into the goal of teaching and service. The science becomes something students learn along the way.
First Year Course Overview: The premise of the first year's course is based on acquiring donated XO laptops, and delivering them, along with training, during a 2-week service trip. This is not simply a charitable purchase and delivery. Students learn about the XO laptop, the open source software available for it, how to network the computers with one another and with the Internet, and hardware and software repairs including troubleshooting. They develop a curriculum, research existing curricula and activities, and plan and prepare lessons for the delivery period. (They will have to deeply understand these concepts since they will be expected to teach them to both students and teachers during the delivery phase of the class.)
After the First Year: Many students choose to take the course a second and even a third year. Some students choose to travel once, sometimes twice. Others choose not to travel and perform their service in other ways. All projects are student-driven, and evolve from the individual's interests, preferences, and perception of what's needed. Please see our Related Projects page, and visit our Etoys website for more information. And feel free to use any of our work and share it with others. We would love our work to be widely used. If you have ideas or needs, please use the email form to contact us.
Thanks for your interest! Please check back periodically to view our progress.
If you are interested in financial support of this work, please contact Christine Murakami who will direct you to the Development Office for Columbus School for Girls. cmurakami @ columbusschoolforgirls (dot) org. (To prevent spam, the address is not typed exactly as it should be in a "to" field. Thanks for your understanding.)
This project would not be possible without the support of Waveplace Foundation, whose mission is to bring digital technology to children in the Caribbean. (http://waveplace.org)