My time in Ecuador at The Tandana Foundation has been fun. I have experienced a lot. If it has been anything, it has been a wide variety of experiences and tasks, the most predominant of which is teaching computer classes at the local Quichinche and Tangali schools. At the schools, I really got to practice my Spanish speaking skills and gain a deeper appreciation for the power that computers have as instruments of learning. Everywhere I went the passion for computers and learning how to use them was shared by nearly everyone. It’s amazing how much you value something when you don’t have it and how much you take it for granted when you do.
I thought that I would be running around the town fixing computers and assisting people with the machines. I was dismayed a bit to learn that the majority of my job would be teaching children as I don’t like kids much. I was further brought down to see myself as the substitute teacher in the classroom that has no real power over the grades of the kids and to have everyone know it. However, over time I got to know the students more and some of the students and I became friends.
I learned to appreciate the difficulty of the job and see things from their point of view. For many of them, this time was the only time in the week that they would be able to use computers at all. They never get homework to do on computers due to this fact and owning a computer for many is as far a goal as owning a second car. Given the circumstances, I too would want to take advantage of my time on the machine to do as many things as I could with it during class. Seeing this, I began to incorporate playtime into the class schedule as I believe that the free time to explore the machines is invaluable in the learning process.
Playtime most of all highlighted the chasm of difference between the students. While some students were going online and playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas with ease, others were trying to figure out how to exit the Excel program and listen to music with the built-in windows media player. I was told by many sources of the major gap in skill level with computers (even between classmates of similar conditions) but experiencing it myself allowed me to learn a lot more about the economic situation here and learn what effects growing up with or without a computer has on child development.
I think this co-op has strengthened my love for technology and the use of it in learning new things. I have also been able to experience a world very different from my home in the States. I value the time I spent here as a major learning experience and will remember it for a long time. I’m also glad to have used this time to acquire new skills in playing fútbol and using Excel formulas to a greater degree.
Photo credit: https://tandanafdn.org/