A Day in the Life of CREE

The day was Monday, April 8, 2019, towards the end of a 10-day assessment of our Kolibri Implementation Project and general education program called CREE.  CREE stands for Regional Center for Educational Excellence.

We start out from Camasca, Shoulder to Shoulder’s Educational Headquarters.  Camasca is at the center of seven municipalities that comprise the StS Service area.  The others are Santa Lucia, Magdalena, San Antonio, Concepcion, San Marcos de la Sierra, and Colomoncagua.  These towns are located in the middle of Southern Intibucá, on the border with El Salvador.  It is part of a UN designated area of extreme distress where farmers eke out an existence among steep terrain with poor soil where yields are getting worse as the climate warms and becomes drier. 

On a map our seven municipalities all fit within a 35 kilometer square.  Zooming into Google maps quickly shows roads that wind around the mountains and down through valleys, making travelling around difficult and time consuming.

This day our visit was to the town of Colomoncagua, the capital of the municipality with the same name. We work at the high school in the center of town, as well as in a village in the municipality called Santa Ana.  “Colo” is about an hour’s drive over very bumpy roads from Camasca; Santa Ana small village another half hour down roads even more severe.  My activity monitor records over 10,000 steps for the ride out and back. The going is slow and fatiguing as we bump over large rocks or jostle through drainage ditches in the roadbed.  I feel at times as though walking might have been easier. 

The Colo Colegio or High School is one of the last schools into which we introduced our curriculum delivery technology.  On the way in, we met the Director.  He is a distinguished looking older gentleman who has been at this school for decades.  My staff shared that he is not generally in favor of technology and does not have a computer or cell phone.  He declined an earlier request to allocate a secure unused science lab space for use by Kolibri.  This left the teacher with only a rotating classroom in which to teach math and begin with Kolibri.

When we started with the high school in March 2018 the only equipment we had available for Colo was a server.  Our objective was to let the teacher learn the system and the team would return at a later date with additional equipment.  Our usual method is to begin with “presentation mode”.  This consists of a server and display device, usually a projector; sometimes a large screen TV.  The team monitors the progress of the teacher’s learning curve and requires the creation of lessons and student user names with passwords before they return with tablets.

In the case of Colo, the team’s reconnaissance trip a week earlier found an example of Honduran resourcefulness that led them to bring tablets for the class this day.  What they found is that the teacher, Veronica, had found a router locally and attached it to the server.  She then arranged her class into four-desk clusters and found enough students that could bring in cell phones so that she could utilize Kolibri to deliver Khan Academy videos. See photo below.

The photo also shows Edel, our Director of Information Technology, adding and configuring a second router and installing a recent performance release from Learning Equality so that the server can handle the full class of 55 students concurrently.

As soon as this was completed, we passed out the tablets and walked the students through the Android initial set up.  We assigned half the class to router 1 and the other half to router 2.  Edel gave them the IP address of the server and instructions on how to bookmark it for future use.  Veronica then asked the students to log onto the server and complete the assigned exercise.  
Shown below, she answers questions from two students.

We get a tour of the school including the science lab.  After some discussion with the Director he agrees to give Veronica the use of the Science Lab.  It is a good space with secure door and windows.  We move the equipment into this room. The Colo colegio, like most secondary schools operates double shifts, so our tablets will get plenty of use, about 500 students most days; plus an occasional chicken.

Our next stop is to a Kinder which is only blocks from the colegio.  Here our team has collaborated with a local teacher to install two large Android tablets with HDMI connection, loaded with Starfall and other Apps aimed at teaching English letters and sounds, numbers and colors.  This teacher was able to successfully solicit World Vision for the donation of two large screen TV’s.  Most of the kids don’t have televisions in their homes, so the colorful videos draw attention and engagement from the kids despite our intrusion. 

English language instruction is a Honduran government priority and accordingly ours.  We have currently included a total of four Kinders with this experiment along with our bilingual school in Camasca and various other teaching aids in primary schools, new junior high’s (centro basicos or CEB) and colegios. 

The CEBs represent the Honduran government’s new strategic effort to get more of the population to stay in school beyond the sixth grade.  These are 7, 8 & 9 grade additions to the primary schools, located close enough for walking.   They are at best taught by one teacher per grade versus specialist teachers at the 7, 8 & 9th grades located at the colegio’s in the municipal capitals several hours walk away.  Some of our CEB’s are small and have only one teacher for all three grades!  The CEB’s are the focus of our Kolibri grant installations.  In addition to Khan Academy, we are deploying our new CREE channel which features the digital Honduran textbooks.

Our next stop is to visit the Santa Ana CEB, and one of our Kolibri grant recipients.  This school has been running presentation mode and is about ready for tablets.  Edel installs and configures the router.  He then works the teachers through signing on with their cell phones for practice.   

The 7-9th grade math teacher Xiomara Esperanza Sanchez is pictured second from the right. Xiomara is our “leader” in this CEB and has helped the other less tech-savvy teachers be able to use the platform.  On the board is the class schedule for use of Kolibri. 

At the conlcusion of this training, the team agrees that this school is now ready for tablets.  The team decides to try out having this school come and get the tablets from our base in Camasca and configure them for themselves.  In another municipality they are trying out a still more aggressive version of self installation and local suppport that, if successful will facilitate further scalability with our limited staff.

After buying water, we return to Camasca to get ready for the review the next day with the Department Director for education in Intibucá.   High on the agenda is to obtain her support for obtaining the government achievement tests results for all the schools in our service area.  This will allow us together to assess the contribution of Kolibri to improved education. We have collected usage measures from all the servers we visited this week.  We make plans to collect all usage measures again in June.  Our plan is to review the complete program again first week of September.

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