IESC Rwanda: New Skills in the Land of a Thousand Hills

The Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel classmate PCs in developing countries. In this blog, Russ Earl, a software engineer at Intel, recaps his team’s work with World Vision in Rwanda.

Intel's "Team Inshuti" in Rwanda, which means "friendship" in Kinyarwanda

The tea break would be shorter on this muggy day in the Land of a Thousand Hills. Why? The teachers from G.S. Nyamata Catholic and G.S. Nyamata E.P.R. were eager to return to their Intel classmate PC’s so that they could spend more time improving their computer skills.

Our IESC team was assigned to work with World Vision Rwanda in Nyamata, a city 19 miles south of the capital Kigali, with two main objectives: 1) Train local teachers to improve learning through the use of technology, and 2) Help World Vision establish a Community Knowledge Center (CKC) where residents can receive computer training and use the Internet to open their horizons.

Our training was based at E.T.O. Nyamata, a vocational school that offers courses in topics ranging from carpentry to computers, and where the new CKC is based. Our training included the E.T.O teachers as well as World Vision staff and teachers from local secondary schools. Topics delivered to the 17 recipients included computer basics, productivity suite skills, Intel’s classroom collaboration software, and social media. We also incorporated pedagogical concepts from the Intel Teach program on how technology can improve the quality of education.

Teaching programming with LEGO WeDo kits

Participation was great, and you should have seen their excitement when we demonstrated a Skype video call! Also, they loved working with the LEGO Education WeDo Robotics kits. It was fun to watch the participants, some with little or no computer experience, construct an alligator, connect it to the classmate PC, and write code to make the alligator sing and move about!

After our initial training modules, we divided into two groups, honing computer skills with the secondary teachers, and working with the World Vision staff and E.T.O. teachers around how to run a self-sustaining CKC. Jacky, one of the teachers at G.S. Nymata E.P.R., role-played how she would teach spreadsheets the following week. Innocent, one of the E.T.O. teachers, created an impressive flyer to draw community members to the new CKC.

Rwandan students learn computer skills on Intel classmate PC

In our second week, we found ourselves training at the Nyamata Catholic Church, which 18 years ago during the genocide was the site of a massacre that claimed 10,000 lives. We watched proudly as our teachers delivered OpenOffice lessons to their students, most of whom had little computer experience, and all of whom were born after the genocide. It was gratifying for our IESC team to observe the newly-trained teachers and to interact with students as they all learned new skills.

Amandine demonstrated formulas for adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying cells on a spreadsheet. We had 19 classmate PCs for 66 students but no one complained about sharing. One student would take a turn typing as their neighbors watched attentively, often with arms of friendship around each other. Many didn’t understand how to select more than one cell, so with one hand I guided a student’s finger to the shift key, and with my other hand I helped another student slide his finger on the touch pad.

After computer lessons, we taught the students how to throw a Frisbee.

Towards the end of this session, which also included word processing and creating slides, we rewarded the students with a fun diversion: WebCam Companion! Through this Intel Learning Series software, students stared at their animated faces on the screen, and then turned away laughing. At this point they were sold: one student asked how he can get his own Intel classmate PC.

It was a privilege to work with World Vision staff and my Intel teammates to help introduce Intel classmate PCs to schools in Nymata, Rwanda. I now have a better perspective on the challenges that the Nyamata students face and am optimistic that the technology can help them to acquire additional skills to help them compete in today’s world. I look forward to learning about their progress in the coming months.

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