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.
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 to prepare for a trip to teach young students the Scratch programming language. Students learn about the XO laptop, the open source software available for it, how to network the computers, and learn about hardware and software troubleshooting and repair. They also develop a lesson to be posted to the project's website where children of the world can download, access and use the lessons in their own classrooms. Please visit http://www.columbusschoolforgirls.net/olpc to view the continually growing collection of lessons that students have developed over the years.
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.
This course meets approximately once per week. The general outline is as follows:
Learn the Sugar operating system
Learn to add and delete activities, how to use the journal, and basic Sugar features
Develop ways to teach Sugar
For each lesson, come up with teaching strategies and ideas for a companion "game" to go along with the lesson
Learn how to take apart (and put back together) an XO laptop
As a class, select a subject for which we would like to develop a ten-lesson teaching "unit"
Break the subject into an appropriate number of lessons, and have each student work on a single lesson for use by global communities. Sometimes, CSG Lower School teachers are used as subject matter experts. Sometimes CSG students are our beta testers.
Teach CSG's 4th graders to practice "in front of a room"
Prepare for the trip
Work with the school to teach 3rd-8th grade students Sugar and Scratch.
Develop curricula to be used by students in developing nations.
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. pgullett @ columbusschoolforgirls (dot) org. (To prevent spam, the address is not typed exactly as it should be in a "to" field. Thanks for your understanding.)