Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Internet and Resurrected Dinosaurs

The Tuasivi computer lab took quite a beating in October of last year. A power surge managed to break 13 of 14 monitors and computers had flames coming out of their power supplies that you should only see when roasting weenies, competing in a drag race, or watching a NASA space shuttle take off. Oh, and the printer and switch for the network broke also. Like I said it was rough. Needless to say, 2010 looked like a daunting year from where I was sitting when school began in January. Here, you teach Year 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 Computer Studies (about 65 students) with one computer. Yeah, one.

So rather than pity myself and the students too much, I spent a good part of the beginning of this year applying for some UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies – a surge protector and battery all in one) from the main office in Apia. At the same time I received some very generous help from Volunteers Supy, AJ, Koa, and Jordan, as well as Returned Volunteer Dylan to get some replacement parts for what had been lost. So a HUGE thanks to all of you.

I also requested new computers and a printer from the main office and received five brand new computers in March along with the printer. LCD flat screens, 500 GB hard drives, 2 GB of RAM. They are super nice. Compare that to the 4 GB hard drive, 256 MB of RAM computers that I used all last year and it’s like comparing a Ferrari with a Model T.

However, even though those computers are old (some even from the 1990’s!) they still worked just fine and gave more kids the opportunity to learn. So I set about using the parts I got from those very awesome people I listed above and resurrected those dinosaurs. The lab went from one computer to 12 student computers and the server. Basically the year went from impossible to very doable.

Since the computers have been up and working I’ve been teaching my Year 13 students how to do email within our classroom over the network. They’ve learned how to compose, reply, forward, and send and receive attachments. It’s been very rewarding for me because I think it has been one of the most useful things I’ve been able to teach them that they can use in the future.

That said email isn’t really that cool unless you can use it with the Internet. So I decided to sponsor a field trip for my Year 13 students to use the Internet. Today we took a taxi to the main town, Salelologa, where you can use the Internet at several tiny Internet cafes. For all but one of the eight students it was their first time using the Internet! We went to a cafe at a hotel, where there are only two computers (that’s the usual) and checked out what exactly the Internet is all about.

I had them make real email accounts at Gmail, do some Google searches, Wikipedia, and even checked out YouTube. We saw pictures of their favorite celebrities, watched some music videos, and many students sent emails to family and friends living overseas or in Upolu. I’m not sure who had more fun - me or them! It was so cool and I felt most, if not all, wanted to come back another time.

My Year 13 students using the Internet for the first time!

One of the new computers.

The computer lab now.

On the top, a computer with a new power supply that wouldn’t fit into the system unit so I had our groundskeeper cut a hole in the metal case and it just sticks out. Haha, at least it works. On the bottom, and even more ghetto, is my server that has the same problem except that I just had to cover it with old cardboard. Whatever.

Some boys watching our school Easter program in the hall two weeks ago. There were church songs and performances of the resurrection and crucifixion. What a great setting for it too. Jesus looks good up there.

The ocean behind my house at way low tide. Upolu in the background.

Tide’s in at the top, out at the bottom.

Usoali’i, a former student now going to university in Apia, came to back to visit me!