The students with earphones on their heads diligently follow instructions from the screen given in an interactive form. Sixteen computers are connected to internet via one Tigo internet chip and help hundreds of Punta Gorda’s students to learn. The students are clearly into their assignments or “games” as some teachers have been calling the software to attract the children to the computer lab.
Charles Gratton, 19, an English gap year volunteer on Roatan has set up the Punta Gorda computer lab in April. Gratton working for “Project Trust” has soon found himself inundated with students excited about using computers and learning English.
Gratton has hooked up the donated computers after they laid in boxes at the school, gathering dust since 2009. This hardware was donated by Taiwanese government just before the 2009 coup and distributed to schools during the Micheletti presidency. According to Helena Lopez, director of the Punta Gorda School for the past 30 years, 11 Roatan schools received donated computers. Still, Lopez estimates, only three schools have put the computers to any use. Often school staff couldn’t figure out how to set up the computers themselves or had the funds to bring a consultant that would.
To make computers useful a software program and learning strategy was needed. When approached by Camilla O’Brien, director of Sandy Bay’s learning center, an e-learning software manufacturer “Learning Today” has given unlimited licenses of its learning software to any student and teacher on Roatan. The “Learning Today” software is used in classrooms by children and teachers across the US, allowing the teachers to track student’s progress in learning reading, comprehension and math skills.
In the Punta Gorda public school 493 students in grades 1-9 are using the lab every other week. It is often one of their favorite classes. “When they hear there is computer class they [the students] just run to the classroom,” says about the computer course Gratton.
Explaining why her school doesn’t count on funds from FHIS (Fondo Hondureño de Inversión Social) Lopez says that she would have to pay for travel and stay to Tegucigalpa to lobby for money. She says that oftentimes she would return empty handed. “We prefer to work with private donors, its just less frustrating,” said Lopez. [/private]