RACHEL arrives in northwest Guatemala
It’s 2018. Now stop for a moment and try to imagine your daily routine without Internet access.The Web and the information that is available to us at the touch of a finger have dramatically transformed our lives. When we need to stay informed, we can just Google a topic—and voila! Not everyone on planet Earth, however, has the luxury of Google.
But students at Adopt-A-Village in Guatemala’s Maya Jaguar Center for Education and Development located in northwest Guatemala are accustomed to innovation. They maintain sustainable gardens and attend classes in rooms lit by solar power. The latest innovation at Maya Jaguar is the recent introduction of RACHEL, a Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning.
RACHEL brings large but thoughtfully selected portions of the internet to regions and institutions that do not have affordable access to the Internet via broadband. I delivered a RACHEL server to Maya Jaguar in early August. Francisco Pablo, the senior technology instructor at Maya Jaguar, worked with me to train the team of dedicated teachers how to navigate the RACHEL interface.
At Maya Jaguar, teachers were encouraged to create their own sites by uploading content to the server that is specific to their classes. In the coming months, they will work on methods to help students to navigate the content they encounter on RACHEL.
For me, it was gratifying to see the teachers’ excitement as they discovered materials on the server that could enhance their teaching. For some months, Alan Crawford, Frances Dixon, and I have been working on ways to bring simulations to the students. Simulations provide a way to explore ideas and phenomena that can’t be visited and observed in the physical world (or at least not easily).
With content from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s PhET project installed on RACHEL, students can now explore atomic interactions, create semi-conducting diodes, and learn the principles of magnetic resonance imaging. All of this, of course, is available in Spanish.
The RACHEL server has proven so useful to students and teachers at Maya Jaguar that Adopt-a-Village is now exploring the possibility of a second device. Two RACHEL servers would make it possible for each of the two main school buildings to have access to content on RACHEL 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please consider a gift of any size to Adopt-a-Village to help make this possible.
Dr. Thomas DeVere Wolsey is an education consultant who specializes in literacy for second language learners and the technology that supports student learning. He teaches graduate literacy courses in in the United States and has organized and led professional development for teachers of literacy in China, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. He frequently offers seminars to teachers at the Universidad de Guadalajara and at the annual conference of the affiliated language learning institute at PROULEX. He is currently teaching in Cairo, Egypt.