From: Eugene Matusov
Submit: Post Message
Date: 12 Oct 1996
I really LOVE your message!!!!!!!!!! Before going step-by-step, I want to make several observations on your message itself:
1) It is driven by your strong feeling that something going wrong and you want to raise your concern. I am really glad that you assume ownership for the entire project that you feel responsible for the kids and your own activity at Barrios Unidos.
2) It is interesting that you wrote your message as discussion message and not as fieldnote. I really would like us to write fieldnotes as messages. If you feel comfortable, just copy this message into format of fieldnote, please. I remember Jesse asked me several times to separate messages and fieldnotes. I can't because the purpose of writing fieldnotes is exactly to document events that is the most problematic and thus interesting. I know that writing fieldnotes is still a bit new and uncomfortable for you but I see how you get more and more comfortable. Fieldnotes do not make sense until they embedded in discussion with somebody who care about their content. In a way, any fieldnote should be a discussion message (and vice versa to some degree).
Now about the substance of your message.
You wrote, "Today the debriefing showed that most of us are dissatisfied with the situation at Barrios Unidos. The computers are not running the software they should run. We have to solve technical problems instead of paying attention to the kids."
I know it is frustrating when software does not work. I'm going to talk with Maurice so he has to check all software by himself prior kids come. Have you ever try to involve kids in your attempts to solve technical problems? Many of the kids like to participate if you give them some room.
" We don't know the software, so we cannot help them choosing something that is adequate to their needs. "
What do you mean by "choosing something adequate to their needs?" Do you think that kids can't choose what is adequate by themselves? Do you think that they can't say what is interesting and what is not for them.? I think that it is important to have something that kids find intereting for themselves -- did you want to say that there was a lack of interesting activities for kids? Please, specify.
"Today there were too many kids, so we couldn't pay enough attention to every single kid. "
In this statement, I see an implicit assumption that every single kid needs constant adult attention. Am I correct? If so, I personally doubt in this statement. Kids also can learn from themselves, each other, and environment. They may not need adults all the time or even every day. Sometimes although they do need to learn from adults. Did you want to say that when the kids needed guidance it was not available because room was too crowded today? By the way, did Maurice move some kids who play board games into next room?
"That leads to a situation in which it becomes very difficult to follow some kind of design that everyone of us might have."
So maybe it is a good idea critically consider this design or think of suggestions about how to change eduactional settings that accomodate kids' afterschool interests and your designs?
"It resembles simply playing with the kids."
Sounds like that you see only alternative to teaching in babysitting. Can you think of a third possibility?
" I don't know if that is what we want."
This is extremely intersting question about what do WE want? And do WE include children? Their parents? Barrios Unidos as whole organization? Are WE united in our goal? If not, what are our goals?
" It might be good, for our own support, to make sure that we have adequate software for every computer, know the basics about how to start it and how to use it, and, very important, what the benefits and demands of each game are. "
Is that what would make you comfortable? If this what you want I can talk with Barrios Unidos people to have an opportunity for all students who want to come one hour (or so) earlier and learn by themselves the games. Let me know if you want this and how many students would like to participate. I also will try to find an organizational form that does not take much of your additional time. OK?
What do you mean by "adequate software"? Please, elaborate on that? Do you mean that this software does not promote kids' interests? If so, why?
If you ask me whether knowing games and software is necessary for me to provide help to child, I'd say no. I personally feel OK helping without knowing myself the activity. I feel that sometimes my knowledge hindrens my teaching. But this is my personal style.
I think it may be a good assignment to write a paragraph on ideal setting at Barrios Unidos as you think about it. What kind of support you may need?