a question of resources

the case of materials & technology

Last Friday our school celebrated Dia de la Paz or Day of Peace.. and I had myself a rant about the resources (or lack thereof).

>> Each class is crazy with projects – peace signs and translating songs (Lennon: Imagine / MJ: We Are the World) and creating posters. In my 3ESO class the professor chose to use a Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech from 1989, as given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. (I am thinking of you, Debra Nyby!)

When I got to school, I ran for poster board (cartulinas), scissors (tijeras), glue (pegamiento) and a large compass (compass). The teacher´s idea was to take the words of the speech (approx 100 words from various phrases) and recreate them in the shape of a peace sign. Great idea! Getting the students to organize the words in a way that make sense is quite a riot when they don´t know all the words. Phrases like ¨each other¨ and ¨human beings¨ throw them for a loop because they are looking at them separately and not in the context of the sentence… we are working on this. But I digress.

The main idea here is that the poster board was not a sufficient size for the project, so we had to use two. There was no banner paper available (I am reminiscing about Homecoming and other events where we spent hours painting signs) – but no big deal, we forge ahead. Lets cut the words out .. ok. In a class of 24 students, we had 12 pairs of scissors. This leaves 12 pairs of hands idle, and likely, 12 mouths yapping because they have nothing to do. I got these 12 pairs of scissors from the secretary. Had someone else gotten there before me .. no scissors for me. Ditto the 2 sticks of glue, and roll of tape.

We have 400+ students in our school. We can paper the town in poster board, but things like scissors and markers and glue are scarce. Many of the students have their own pencil cases which include a myriad of pens, erasers and other things. But if I want my kids to color or draw, I need to bring my own markers. This? Is a disaster. Not only is it 75% guaranteed I will never see my markers again but I am spending my own money to bring some of these things to school. This is hard for someone like me – I am very hands-on and have been preparing activities that would be best served by some decent materials. I make a good deal of things on my own and bring them to class. But if we want to work in class … its a bit challenging.

The other hot button issue is technology. We have smart boards in the 1ESO classrooms which include a computer, a projector and various tools for drawing. Depending on the teacher, they may use it to screen videos or show interactive maps or it may never be turned on at all. I am hesitant to teach any technology-based lessons because 9 times out of 10 the internet will not work or the video will never load. Our internet is questionable, and sometimes we have no connection at all. So why base a lesson on a youtube video that you may not be able to watch? Instead we rely on audio, the chalkboard and our books. I just introduced charades to my 1ESO, with outrageous success, so for now we say the hell with the books and try to be as interactive as possible. They need to practice speaking and this is the only way ..

In addition, all the kids have tiny laptops from the Junta (the government). One of the professors recently noted that the laptop seems to work best as a paragua (umbrella) rather than a laptop, because the kids carry them over their heads when walking between classes. Functional, right? I think the theory is that the kids have internet access while they’re at home, and can save their homework on pen drives rather than print them out. Save paper? Sure. Smart idea? maybe .. not?

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