Cynthia Bogard, Edeyo Foundation

How long does it take kids who have never seen a computer before to “get” how to manipulate a mouse to make it click on an answer or choose a color and draw a circle? About 15 minutes, if our students in Haiti are any indication.

 

Students at Edeyo School in Bel-Air Port-au-Prince and their teacher experiment with Microsoft’s computer-assisted learning platform – Mouse Mischief.

The New York-based Edeyo Foundation (Edeyo means “help them” in Haitian Kreyòl) provides tuition-free education to nearly 400 pre-school and elementary school children in Bel-Air, an already very impoverished neighborhood utterly devastated by last year’s earthquake in Haiti. Most of our children now live either among the dangerous ruins of their fallen down homes or in the makeshift stick, tin sheet and tarp shelters that have become “home” to more than a million Port-au-Prince residents since the quake. Because the Edeyo school is one of the few functional institutions in the neighborhood, we worked hard to get our school up and running after it too was demolished in the earthquake. At first, we operated in donated festival tents. Then we rented a small building and in October, we built a second temporary building to house our pre-school, kindergarten and first grade. Just the fact that school for Edeyo students has resumed and is held in buildings, not outside, puts Edeyo ahead of many schools in beleaguered Port-au-Prince. While we don’t quite have electricity yet, that didn’t stop us from beginning to implement computer-assisted learning recently by demonstrating Mouse Mischief, Microsoft’s PowerPoint based, multiple-mouse learning platform.

Our first demonstration, pictured above, used one of the templates that teachers all over the world post for free download on Mouse Mischief’s access site. Students took to the concept quickly, using mice connected to multiple mouse access hubs to choose between answers in multiple choice and yes/no templates as well as learning to manipulate their mouse to circle correct answers or draw lines between two matching items. Even though in this class of fourth graders ranging in age from 10-14, only one child had ever seen a computer prior to our demonstration.

The Edeyo team just completed two days of teacher training in Haiti during which we demonstrated how this program could be used to create original materials in English and Kreyòl to teach numeracy and the English alphabet and vocabulary to pre-school and kindergarten children. We also created a content unit on the culture of the Arctic Inuits for use with sixth or fifth graders. This series of Mouse Mischief presentations included a photo-rich, information packed, PowerPoint in French and English on various aspects of Inuit culture and the geography and ecosystem of the arctic. This was followed by a Mouse Mischief-assisted review of the information learned consisting of true/false questions, multiple choice and matching and identification screens that included drawing. The teachers had fun learning how our Microsoft-donated wireless mice worked as they struggled to click and circle the right answers. But they also saw the tremendous potential of a program like this to provide materials to their students that would otherwise not be available. As we proved, all that’s needed is a computer with a charged battery and a small projector and multiple mouse hubs linked together and run off of the computer battery to open a window to a world of limitless content for students in this country, where quality educational materials are scarce. Thanks to Microsoft for the projector and hub donation as well as the mice.

Our next steps include providing regular computer training to our teachers; first, to enable them to run Mouse Mischief and later, to enable them to create their own original Mouse Mischief lessons. We are also working on getting Internet access at our school. And our just-opened pre-school building will also have electricity, provided by our privately owned diesel generator for now.

Edeyo has big plans for the future. In the next year or two, we hope to build a new school on our own property, one that uses solar energy to power our dream of having a computer lab and a classroom computer for each teacher. Meanwhile, however, with just a computer, projector, linked mice and the Mouse Mischief lessons created by teachers on our New York staff or adapted from the free download site, we have infinitely expanded the classroom materials available to our very impoverished students.

Computer assisted learning can enable schools in impoverished countries all over the world to leap over the restrictions imposed by poverty and low quality materials and significantly raise the educational outcomes and future prospects of the students they serve. That’s why we at Edeyo think of this software as Mouse Mischief magic!

 

Cynthia Bogard is a member of the board of the Edeyo Foundation which is registered in New York as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization and is a Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Follow our progress, meet our students and teachers and donate to help us achieve our goals by visiting: www.edeyo.org.