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Ubisoft Computer Lab Update

7 April 2009

In March the solar project was completed at Tchey School, bringing electricity to 4 classrooms in the main building.

Electricity means many things for Tchey. Lights in the library mean teachers can utilize the office and library in the evenings. Informal English classes are already being held there with English speaking Khmer teachers giving classes to the advanced English students as well as a few adults.

Solar cells being installed on the roof at Tchey School.

Electricity means CD players, cell phones and flashlights can be charged. The school can use the electricity to power things we often have to haul generators out there to do. We have yet to discover all the small but important changes the availability of electricity will bring to the school. One building down, 3 to go!

The most important thing electricity has brought is the ability to launch the OLPC computer lab funded by Ubisoft of San Francisco, California. Ubisoft funded not only the computers, but the solar project to power them as well. A pilot class is underway in the computer lab and consists of students ranging in age from 12-14, from grades 4-6. The students were chosen based on their ability to read and write English, their parent’s commitment to allow them to attend class every day, and having good grades in their khmer classes. The computer lab is an extra curricular activity since the class is held in a public school, so the children come each day from 5-6 pm. Half the students attend the morning session, so they return to school at 5 for class. No one ever misses a class!

Being chosen to take the computer class is a great incentive for excellence at Tchey.

On the first day of class, we found we had to begin with explaining how electricity works; why the computer needs it, how to charge the battery, what it means when the battery is low, and in general, how to be safe around electricity. Once we got through that and a basic understanding of how to boot up, how to shut down and how to save, the students were off and running. Within the first hour, they had figured out how to capture video and were running around the class recording everything.During the course of the class, we have found that the students do best if they are allowed to just explore together, either as a class or in smaller groups. One will figure something out and show the others. We’re letting them explore at their own pace and then introducing projects, first around the journaling activities so they can continue to practice their English and begin a command of keyboarding.

Demonstrating the computers to the children at school.

The students are beyond thrilled with their good fortune to be in this class. Other students at the school are working overtime to improve their grades, improve their English and start pestering their parents so they can attend the class when we open them up on a larger scale in October. Being chosen to take the computer class is a great incentive for excellence at Tchey.

A short video clip of the students in class.

We have many people to thank for making this project a success:

Josh Milligan of San Francisco, Ca, was the mastermind behind the entire project and virtually willed it into existence against impossible odds. Ubisoft shared Josh’s vision of bringing technology to rural Cambodia and donated not only all the computers but the funds necessary to install the solar project, buy the fixtures, supply the students and train the teachers.

Dave Claunch Liaison Production Services of Austin, Texas for the Apple computer and printer for the teachers.

Alex and Polly Ryerson of New York City for the installation of the new windows and door and securing the computer lab.

XO computers on the way to Tchey School.

Neil Ferguson of Dublin Ireland and Jessica and Jaz Whitney from Vermont, who cleaned and painted the lab on a very rickety ladder on a very hot day.

Parith Kong, from Smart Training Center in Phnom Penh for a great job on getting the installation done in a timely manner and under budget, training the staff and the personal attention you gave to the project from start to finish. We are impressed with your dedication to developing the rural community through the use of renewable resources.

And finally a big thanks to Theong Rithy, the 6th grade teacher at Tchey, who took on this mammoth project. While the rest of us are busy patting each other on the back for a job well done, Rithy’s work has just begun. His excited attitude, radiant passion for teaching and genuine love for his students humbles us.

The history of this project can be found here.

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