So there they were, a tall American guy with more hair and a short guy with less hair, respectively Roger and Sarith, waiting for me at the Siem Reap Airport. They had a car with AirCon, which is great on an unbearably hot day.
I asked Roger and Sarith, what are their main objectives with the XOs. They said they see computers as a tool to teach Khmer children English and major computer skills, to become eligible to compete for the jobs in town. Right after lunch we went to the café and I showed them what children can possibly do on the XOs: digital book storage, Internet, pictures, educational games, etc. They admitted that it is far beyond what they had in mind, and they probably will not have the resources to teach all the activities to kids. We decided to go to one of the schools they built and let children try the XOs. We had 3 computers; two were bought by Roger on eBay, and one that I brought.
So on Friday morning we headed to Poum, a village just outside of Siem Reap, where The Cambodia School Project www.khmerschool.com built one of the schools. In total they built 4 schools and are sponsoring them going forward: providing for the schools, pupils (created a sewing girls cooperative), fixing bridges, roads, etc. Roger worked one year in a hospital in Vietnam back in 1969, and Sarith was a guerilla fighter against the Khmer Rouge (see his full story here http://www.khmerschool.com/Site/Sarith.html).
As we arrived in Poum, I realized that it is a place like I’ve never seen before, a rural school with no electricity or running water, but where 280 children get educated 6 days a week. They are happy to go to school as it is so close to their homes, right in the village! They are taught in two shifts: morning and afternoon.
In the beginning we picked 6 students (for 3 computers) and decided to show them several activities, while others were standing nearby and watching foreigners and their green things with horns. We started with Speech activity. Children typed in “hello”, “dog”, and other words they know in English. Some typed “I love you” and all were surprised to hear the XOs say it back to them. Next, I showed to them Hanoi, Implode and Missing Letter activity to practice their English, then music making in TamTamMini and finally how to take pictures… That was a major hit. Children were very serious, when posing for the camera, no one smiled, as maybe they thought that it was the right way to have a picture taken – serious means respectful? Surely they laughed watching other kids do it, and dragging the shyest ones to sit in front of the computer to get a snapshot. Then more children joined in. They were ecstatic about pictures as well, as none of them have probably ever seen a camera or a computer before.