IESC Vietnam Week 2: LEGO, Linh Xuan and Lots of Laughter

2vietnamonepng.pngAs part of Intel’s ongoing commitment to improving education through the effective use of technology, Intel’s Education Market Platforms Group (EMPG) launched the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) in September 2009. This program is a short-term service and career development opportunity, for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to directly support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs. In this blog, Sarah Frawley, an Automation Engineer from Ireland, recaps her team’s second week in Vietnam.

 

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IESC Vietnam Week 2: LEGO, Linh Xuan and Lots of Laughter

by Sarah Frawley

Chúc mừng từ Việt Nam (greetings from Vietnam)! Our Intel Education Service Corps team is into Week 2 of our assignment with the local organization Orphan Impact in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Marissa, Gabe, Bao, Ben and I have been busy visiting new and existing training centres, re-imaging classmate PCs, rolling out teacher training and deploying new classroom management software and [LEGO WeDo](http://www.legoeducation.us/store/detail.aspx?KeyWords=WeDo&by=20&ID=1573&c=0&t=0&l=0&bhcp=1) lessons.
(See Team Photo: Left to Right: Ben, Sarah, Bang, Tad, Bao, Marissa, Diem, Long, Quenh, Gabe )

We are mostly past our initial jet lag and slowly acclimatising to day-to-day life in Ho Chi Minh City. We have had some interesting adventures in electronics stores when purchasing USB keys and batteries. We tend to bring Bao everywhere we go in case we need a translator! We asked in a store if they had any 16GB USB keys; they confirmed that they did. When we asked to purchase it, they informed us that it would be ready in 15 minutes!! We all shrugged as to what was happening behind the scenes here. We actually got them to deliver the USB key in the end!

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We brought the Orphan Impact programme to two new centres this week: Linh Xuan and Children’s House. Linh Xuan is 45 minutes away and we had an adventurous taxi ride there with a driver who wasn’t quite sure where he was going. He indicated initially as we climbed into the taxi that he knew where the orphanage was located, however as the journey continued he began to show signs of uncertainty. At one stage we were reversing on the freeway; at another stage we were doing u-turns while dodging trucks and motor cycles and other oncoming traffic. It was a roller coaster ride getting there to say the least.

We entered the orphanage through large metal gates and it hit us how enclosed the orphanage is. There are approximately 150 kids lodging here full time and we could hear lots of different noises from babies crying to running feet on the playground. Children at this centre range in age from 0 -18 years and the majority of the kids are HIV positive. We learned from some of the orphanage staff that the kids receive medication every day from doctors who visit the centre. It was quite an emotional visit for us as a team and many of us were lost in our own thoughts on arrival.

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The first group of kids were 6-8 years old and were unfamiliar with computers. After a brief intro into the mouse, keyboard, and touch pad, they were ready to launch into the Paint application. Within 10 minutes we could see works of art in front of our eyes from mountains to smiley faces. They really got involved and were not afraid of launching right in.

To show the kids the possibilities of higher education, we organised a Skype call with a group of Vietnamese university students who are studying on an Intel Scholarship at Portland University in the US. We organised the kids in groups of four to participate in the Skype webcast. The children were overwhelmed with excitement as they began to engage with the students from Portland. Of course it was all done in Vietnamese, but you didn’t have to understand the words to comprehend what was going on. It was amazing to see the looks of wonder and awe on the children’s faces as they listened intently and interacted with the Portland scholars through the video screen. There was even time for some singing and clapping to Vietnamese songs at the end. This introduction to the technology will really help inspire them and open their world to the value of technology and the opportunities it can bring outside the four walls of the orphanage.

We had another group at the same centre in the afternoon aged 8-13. We divided this class into pairs, and it was great to see the kids work together as a team through the live classroom labs in Microsoft Word, Internet searching and Paint. Some kids were literally on the edge of their seats as they were experimenting on the classmate PC and fighting over the mouse pad and keyboard. We were all inspired by the kids at this centre. They have a difficult life and are constantly dependent on their medication but they manage to be so cheerful and full of energy.

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‘Children’s House’ was the other new centre which was located in District 8 of Ho Chi Minh City. This is an all boys orphanage of approximately 21 boys aged 8-16 years old. The orphanage director was very excited about the program. He had told the boys they were going to receive computer training the week beforehand and they could barely contain themselves with excitement when they arrived into the classroom. We had the classmate PCs laid out with the lids closed and we got them to power up their own laptop. We had lots of expressions of laughter and anticipation as the classmate PCs were booting up and they all couldn’t wait to get navigating. Our local teachers used classroom management software called ‘Mythware’ for the first time, to demonstrate an intro to Paint, Internet and Microsoft Word. When using Mythware, the teacher is able to share his or her screen with the students and demonstrate an activity while all the students watch. The teacher can monitor how each of the students is progressing at a given task by viewing in real-time multiple student PCs from the teacher computer. When the students need to pay attention they can be ‘silenced’ and their screen is locked until the teacher releases control!

We saw some good results from the use of ‘Mythware.’ It helps teachers maximize time in the classroom by monitoring activities and demonstrating to all students at once.

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In keeping with 21st century skills training, the next big lesson to plan was with the LEGO ‘WeDo’ kits. Gabe had worked on several projects using these kits with students in Portland, so he took the lead in the initial training. We built some LEGO models and tested out the programming simulations to demonstrate use of the motors, audio and sensor capabilities using the LEGO software. We soon had a 90-minute lesson plan ready to roll out to three centers.

The first LEGO lesson was a big success. From the moment the students saw the LEGO boxes to the end of the class, we had 100 percent focus from the kids on the LEGO activities. Gabe taught this first lesson, and one of the local teachers, Bang, translated. We showed some video of robots as an introduction to the lesson and how they were used in the real world. We then told them that by the end of the class they would have built and programmed a robot. We encouraged the kids to interact by asking them where they had seen robots and how they could be used in the real world. The response to this was very positive and the students couldn’t wait to open their LEGO kit boxes and launch into the building activities. Bao also helped out and taught in Vietnamese for the second half of the lesson to demo the programming side.

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The kids began to work in pairs to build their LEGO robot model. We had kids making models of all types, from alligators to spinning birds. Teamwork played a big role in the lesson, and we could see some great team dynamics with one student sourcing parts while the other was building. Within 25 minutes we had five robots ready to program, and we soon had demonstrations from each student on how their robot worked. The students built several different models like alligators snapping their big mouths and football kickers combined with various noises! The programming piece of the LEGO kits gets the kids using critical thinking skills and trial and error techniques which apply to almost every career in the real world. The kids all had great fun and will be looking forward to more and more lessons with LEGO WeDo. We are about to roll this lesson out to a few more centers by the end of the week so will have more to report in the final blog.

We are almost at the end of Week 2. We have made good progress with deploying Mythware classroom collaboration software, launching the training at two new centers, and introducing the LEGO WeDo kits. We have a few more center visits before we depart so our work is not done yet!

P.S. Click here to catch up on the adventures, experiences and learnings from the 14 previous Intel Education Service Corps teams and the other teams who are working right now in Kenya, India and Uganda.

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