Post from Haiti 8/18

Sunshine, 94 deg F, humid

Update from yesterday.  Last night Rita went up to bed and in a short time came back with a stinger in her finger.  We tracked the source to a bee that landed on her shirt and it stung her as she brushed it off.  We found a large nest of bees in the outside wall of the house next to our room.  With no screen or glass in the windows they were flying right in, probably attracted by the small room light.  As she was trying to put something on her feet, she stepped on a second one and was stung again, this time no stinger left behind.  I got the stinger out of her finger as it started to swell.  The finger is still quite swollen this afternoon and may be getting more so.  Her foot has a small swollen spot, but doesn’t appear to be serious.  She is taking Ibuprofen and we hope that it will start receding.

The seminar is off to a great start.  We were late getting to UNOGA, which isn’t unusual, and got a late start.  After handing out T-shirts, name tags and some materials, I gave them a brief introduction to the seminar and we got started.

As the first event of the day I showed the Quick Items:  M and Arrow slide.  Some people instantly see an M in the middle of the slide, others see four arrows pointing up, down and to either side outward from the center.  The group was roughly evenly split between the two possibilities.  After some discussion about individual differences, in the way people see the same object, we moved on. The students were interested and responsive.

The Make A Wish exercise, asks students to write down and describe something that they would like do or have or accomplish in the future.  They are to describe their wish and how they want to see it fulfilled in as much detail as they can.  Some students found this difficult, as I expected.  I gave it to get an idea of their ability to see possibilities for their future.  I will give it again as a post- exercise to see if these abilities change as a result of the seminar.

The Classroom Arrangement exercise from Henry Markovitz’ Group in Montreal was the first of this type for the group and we had the usual glitches getting everybody to understand the procedure.  There are also some translation/interpreter  issues to be resolved, but they were minor.  Fortunately Haitian students are not shy about asking questions and we got everybody on the same page.  Some of the instructions could be improved for them but their requests for clarification also made it clear that they were thinking.  Overall, very  good for a first attempt.

After the break Rita led the group in song, starting with the children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it , clap your hands.  She used the same technique to teach English when we were last there.  In this context, it is primarily for a little fun and helps to build community in the group.

 

The hour of the day was mostly spent playing games .  The Haitians have little access to games and love them.  I chose Jenga for this seminar because it involves strategy and helps to build physical intuition – what will happen when I remove THIS block.  One of the 2 groups became very intense at studying the stack and finding a way to keep is standing.  The other game is Qwirkle, which is a relative of dominoes, using square tiles with colors a shapes on the surface, and is easy to learn.  I chose it because it allows strategy, thinking about future moves and fun.

It was interesting to see that some students learned it more easily than others.  I think there is learning value in holding physical objects and manipulating them.  We will have other exercise that involve manipulation of objects and will provide time to play the game periodically.

We ended the day with the introduction of journaling.  Students are to write at least 5 sentences each day about something learned or an insight that they want to remember.  This is a daily homework exercise.  I will not collect these, but we will start each class by allowing a few students share something that they wrote.  I will also attempt to get permission from a few students to share something with me from their journal that I can take home as examples.

A closing comment:  a student told me that the most important thing he learned today was that problems can have multiple solutions and that different solutions work best for different people.

Enjoy.

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Post from Haiti 8/17

Sunday Evening

Temperature today:  92 deg F, feels like 108.

Yesterday we flew from OHare to Miami, then on to Port-au-Prince.  We were not looking forward to arrival at the airport in Haiti.  It tends to be a very hectic experience with lots of hands reaching for your luggage.  If somebody manages to get their hands on it, even briefly, they expect payment.  Yesterday our arrival was different.  We were stopped in Customs and led to a room where we were asked for our passports and luggage checks.  Then we were led to a diplomatic vehicle and moved to another building where we were shown into a lounge and offered drinks.  After a wait, our passports were returned, stamped, with our luggage.  Hatian Senator Maxime Roumer’s chauffeur took us to Maxim’s house for dinner and a pleasant evening of lively discussion and sleep in his guest house.  Not a bad way to enter Haiti.

This morning Maxim’s driver (his driving makes NY cab drives look like old ladies on the way to church) to the airport for the the 45 min flight to Jeremie.  Renate picked us up and brought us to the guest house.  We had some discussion with Renate and Moise, a UNOGA employee who will attend the seminar, about the event.  Then we played Jenga and Qwirkle and all of us think that they will help to promote divergent thinking.  We spent some time sorting out all the materials and packing them for the trip to the university in the morning.  We will be happy to hand some of the materials to the students and not have to carry them further.

In the morning we will get under way.  I think I have some good materials and am excited to get going.  Check in late tomorrow for a report on day one.

 

 

Update 7/16/14

I have been moving along with the development of materials and added instructor’s guides for several more today.  I have given up on Zaption.  It sounded good and would be desirable, it took too much time to create the tours and technology in Haiti is too iffy to depend on it.  I will have the students use worksheets instead.

Translation is moving ahead with the help of Renate and two Haitian students, Pierre Moise and Pierre Renel.  They are graduation and were busy preparing their final projects.  They are now finished and have some time to help.  I will try to have all the student materials in both English and Haitian Creole and do the same with PowerPoint presentations.

I have purchased a tub of 1000 cubes 1 cm on a side that can be locked together.  Small, but small is good for carrying in my luggage.  I will be using them in several exercises, including Tower Building, Bridge Building, Estimation and Scaling.

I will try to update more often, so keep checking in to see the progress.  We are less than 5 weeks from the start of the seminar.

 

 

 

Update 6/23/14

Late last week I updated the instructor’s guides for the What’s in the Bag and the Estimating exercises.  I have posted them on this site.  They are still marked as Drafts, but I consider them to be close to their final form.  The pattern of the exercise and the use of Zaption are becoming clearer.  Have a look and see what you think.  I welcome comments.

Renel and Moise, the two graduating UNOGA students who are working on the seminar with us, have offered to translate materials into Haitian Creole.  I sent them the first two documents this morning.  It is my goal to have the Zaption tours presented to them in both Creole and English.I am very pleased to have their help.  With some materials in Creole, an interpreter, and some students with some English skills, I think we will be able to communicate well enough to make this work.

Look for another update later this week.

 

 

Update: Drafts of exercises and Other Things

I have been working on drafts of several of the planned exercises for the seminar and have posted them.  They are certainly not completed, but I want to put them out on the web so that you can see where I am headed.  I welcome your questions and comments.

There are a couple of other things I want to let you know about, related to the seminar.

It is my purpose to work the students hard and challenge them, but also to have some fun that will help to keep it interesting,  The sessions are long, 4 hr, including breaks, so we can’t expect to keep up the pace of the posted exercise through the entire session.  So here are some things that I hope will change the pace without entirely losing the purpose of the seminar.

1.  I have discovered that the Haitian students have not been exposed to much in the way of the kinds of games that help to develop strategy skills (or any other kinds of games).  My goal is to have 3-5 copies each of Jenga and Quirkle for them to play during breaks or outside of class.  I would be happy to hear about other games you think might be good.

A related issue:  Shipping anything to Haiti is nearly impossible and always unreliable.  Renate relies an carrying things with her when she travels back and forth.  If you happen to know someone who will be traveling to Jeremie or the Grande Anse region this summer, please have them contact me (prof2223a@gmail.com) if they are willing to carry something for me.  I will get the item(s) to them.

I haven’t quite figured out how, but I have several of the type of drawings MC Escher is famous for and intend to expose the students to them at intervals.

In researching materials on divergent thinking I discovered a teacher who utilizes questions commonly referred to by students as “trick questions”  I have about 15 of them, thanks to Rita’s efforts, and will give them a try.  I have some concern about how specific they may be to language and culture, but I think they are worth a try.

Rita found that the Haitian students love music and used it when she was teaching them English.  I don’t have any specific way to use it (yet), but at least it will be a fun break to start the day or when their brains get tired.  Rita is in charge of getting the music together.

Finally, I would like to have some of the material translated from English to Haitian Creole.  It isn’t a large amount – most of it would be for parts of the exercises that students will see online (think powerpoint slides) and possibly a few handouts.  If you know someone who can do this and would like to have a hand in this project, please have them contact me. (prof2223a@gmail.com)   I may be able to come up with a small stipend.

I am looking forward to your input.  Please help me to make it a better experience for the students in Haiti.

 

 

 

 

 

Divergent Thinking and Problem-Solving Seminar

Welcome

To

Divergent Haiti

The place to find information related to the

Divergent Thinking and Problem-Solving Seminar

August 18 to 29, 2014

Sponsored by

University of the Nouvelle Grand Anse

Jeremie, Haiti