Back then, all those games were published by one company, the Minnesota Educational Computer Company (MECC). Today in my computer lab, each workstation has a similar collection of programs, but just about all of mine are freeware. For those unfamiliar with the term, Freeware is just what it sounds like: free software. For whatever reason, the people or companies that publish the program make it free to be traded and downloaded over the Internet. Since most of our schools don’t have the funds to pay for licensing, and since software piracy is wrong, the Peace Corps has accumulated a pretty big collection of freeware.
There are a bunch of Linux programs (that I run in Windows) like TuxPaint, TuxMath, and TuxTyping (the TuxSuite, if you will). There’s a Tangrams program. There’s a mouse-training program. There’s the whole OpenOffice Suite (open source programs that mimic Microsoft Office).
And just like at my elementary school growing up, I have a hard time finding the right way to integrate these programs into the curriculum. I teach computers, not English or Math, so there’s no natural place in the annual plan to stop and play math games. So last year they almost never came up. The programs were just names on the Start Menu that made it harder for the kids to find Microsoft Office.
But this year, I figure I’ll try to use them a little more often. I have four year 11 classes, and this year it seems more difficult than last to keep them all on the same page. I’ve seen my 11.1 and 11.4 classes somewhere around 8 times so far. I’ve seen 11.2 once.
Third period this morning I was faced with seeing 11.4. Again. And then a light bulb went off in my head: Freeware. I had them play a program called “Sebran,” which Max swore by. The program is pretty basic, but the coolest thing about it is someone took the time to translate the whole thing into Samoan.
Sebran is actually a collection of simple games—Hang Man, Memory, Typing, Spelling, Mental Math—and Max was right: the kids love it. Honestly, the program is probably intended for fourth graders, but no one seems phased by that.
I’d argue there may have been actual learning going on. As much as the girls spent half the period giggling at Hang Man, they were typing and using the mice and making connections. And I imagine it would be nice to have a simple program in Samoan after dealing with the convoluted English words in Microsoft Office for a year.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
Nofoagafou and Junior playing TuxType.
Emma and Maria playing Hang Man.
Today was the Rugby Sevens tournament at Apia Park (I had to stay back at school at hold down the fort.). The boys had a big huddle on the field this morning.