IESC Ecuador: New classmate PCs & The World Banana Queen

This post kicks off our fall series of IESC blogs; the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs. In this blog, Brett Buyack, a technology expert from Intel HR, recaps his team’s first week of experiences in Ecuador.

Last Friday evening, I gathered with my Intel colleagues and 1,800 locals in a small city outside of Guayaquil, Ecuador as Lizeth González from Colombia was crowned the “World Banana Queen.” Needless to say, this was not the purpose of our visit to Ecuador, but it was a fun way to celebrate the midpoint of our IESC project.

Besides its bananas and other excellent fruit (including “sweet tomatoes”), Ecuador is investing in technology. Our project with Fundacion Nobis to support a new Intel® Learning Series deployment in the Manuel Centeno Garzon primary school in Machala is just one example.

Earlier in the day, we attended a celebration at the school where the Vice Mayor of Machala, the director of the school, and Tatiana Jimenez from my team made remarks to inaugurate the deployment of the 40 classmate PCs.

We had previously trained the teachers and the director to use the Intel Learning Series classroom management software, and with seven classmate PCs connected to a teacher laptop, the director demonstrated giving seven students a quiz on the computer. A group of children, parents and community members watched.

Our team has also spent a lot of time training and configuring the technology. For example, we are working with the teachers in two groups, with simple tasks like mouse and keyboard usage for the beginners and Excel and Word for the others.

On the technical front, we have been working to improve the school’s wireless network performance, which included configuring and testing a second wireless B/G radio.

So where exactly is Machala, you might ask? Machala is the capital of the El Oro province and is a couple of hours by car from Guayaquil. It’s a bustling city, with buildings, buses and people everywhere. Our school – located outside the city – is much more rural. There are six open air classrooms on two sides of an old basketball court, and there are dogs, cats, chickens, and even a duck that roams the grounds. Before the arrival of the classmate PCs on Thursday, we met with a number of government officials including the Ministry of Education’s regional director, and the Vice Mayor of Machala, to discuss the projects and their hopes and expectations.

We also spent time visiting classrooms to observe the style and atmosphere of teaching. I visited the class of the youngest group of students. They were learning about shapes with wood blocks and they sang a few songs. At the end they all gave me high-fives!

We plan to do a lot more training in our second week, and we are hoping for more high-fives as the students and teachers get more familiar with the new technology at their school.

Linda Qian

About Linda Qian

Linda focuses on CSR communications both internally and externally with Intel's global Corporate Responsibility Office. She graduated in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Follow Linda on Twitter at @lindalqian and @Intelinvolved. She is also active on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram.

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