These three middle-school children (somehow related to me – don’t ask me how) showed up this morning around 11 am to learn how to use computers. In this small village, everyone knows everything, and people have been dropping by to sate their curiosity about what we’re doing for the past couple of days. The two kids on the left, Upasana and Gagan, are siblings. Upasana is in the 8th grade, and Gagan is in the 6th grade. Sagar, the boy on the right, is in the 7th grade. He must have used computers somewhere before, because his typing and mousing skills were pretty good! We started all of them with playing Solitaire, to get them familiar and comfortable with the mouse, but Sagar had been watching as Shubham had learned some basic Excel skills yesterday, and he wanted to learn the same thing. He picked it up really quickly.

Yesterday, we asked the ten women to come at the same times today. At the first session, neither of the two sisters who were here yesterday showed up; later, we learned that they had gone to the vegetable market that’s open in Bijawar on Sundays.

In the second session, we worked with four of the women who were here yesterday – Kalpana was ill, so she didn’t come. Priya is on the right above, while Sonali, who came by to help us, is on the left. Neha and Megha came by for the third session, but we didn’t see Roopanjali.

I formatted a document with some words bolded, underlined, italicized, and/or centered, along with some paragraphs placed in bullet points and numbered lists. We gave the women a clean copy of the document and asked them to copy the formatting from the example, working through any problems with them. This exercise took the better part of two hours, and we found that this structured review helped them understand these basic formatting commands. We then explained more fully some fundamental concepts (click, double-click, font face, font size, menus, scrollbars, toolbars, select/highlight, paragraph) in Windows and Word, which they were better able to understand because they now had some context in which to place these ideas.

We didn’t get through any of the new material that we had wanted to, but I think I’m okay with that, because they seemed to learn a lot today anyway. I can’t tell whether they’re understanding the concept of formatting, and I’m having trouble finding a way to explain the concept more clearly. I think they just haven’t seen enough documents formatted in different ways to fully grasp the utility of various formatting controls. I’m going to go through some of my own schoolwork and find examples of how to use the things they’ve learned to effectively communicate ideas. Maybe one of my biochemistry lab reports, which has section headings, numbered lists, figures with borders, and numbered pages would work.

A lot of people are having problems using the mouse. Accidentally clicking something and then not knowing how to get out of whatever was just clicked is a big issue, as is the click-and-drag action of highlighting passages in Word. We might teach them how to use Shift + arrow keys to highlight words tomorrow. I suppose they just need a lot of practice.

Now that the weekend is over and the teachers have a very limited amount of time in the evening, we’re going to focus on helping the teachers and the schools. I’d like to talk with the principals of the girls’ and boys’ high schools tomorrow to get a sense of what their plans are, if any, to teach computer skills to their students, so that we can structure our goals around theirs. We’ll likely be working with four of the teachers – Divya, Kalpana, Menka, and Neha tomorrow evening.