Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

South Africa 2012 – Week Four – Committed

I don’t know who I am, exactly, but this week I found myself sitting with the principal and the CAT teacher of Thalana High School, promising the head of the school board we could hook the place up with internet. When he asked me how much it would cost, I referred to the chicken-scratch numbers in my notebook: a few network switches and 150 meters of cable measured by pacing from the main office to the lab and priced over the phone five minutes before coming into the meeting. “About $225 in supplies and $40 a month?”

The good news is they went for it. Now we have to actually make it happen. I’m fairly confident we can pull it off, but there are some challenges – namely running 150 meters of CAT-5 cable across three buildings. Rat infested crawl spaces here I come!

The CAT teacher and I are pretty excited. We got right on it and started hammering out cables for the lab, installing drivers, and configuring shit. By the time we left we had nine of the 16 computers talking to each other seamlessly – sharing files and network printing and all that good stuff. Not sure when we’ll do the long cable run, but we’ll get to that. We also got all the paperwork submitted to the local ISP, but that’s just a waiting game. Did I mention everything has to be in place in under three weeks?

I visited one of my other schools, Hlubi, that had a small disaster this past year. After Eric, Simangaliso, and I set up a slick little networked lab in 2010, things went quite well. They had a CAT pass rate of 76% last year – a big improvement for them, and a favorable comparison to another school I know of with a CAT pass rate of just 16%.

However a storm came through in January and tore the roof off the lab. Simangaliso managed to get there pretty quickly and move all the computers to safety, but not after they got rained on. I don’t have any pictures of the damage, but here’s the repaired roof – you can see the shiny new tin that has yet to be painted. And here is what’s left of the old roof.

So there’s got to be a over a hundred square meters of roof on the whole school. If any other part of the roof was ripped off, the storm would have found only a few desks to rain on, and very little of value to damage. However the only portion of the roof that was in fact ripped off was the eight or so square meters directly over the computers. Thanks, storm. Good one.

In any case, there’s some question of whether we’ll set up the lab again. The school has a new principal who is not convinced they need a computer course. Maybe that will change. Maybe we’ll convince them to set a few up at least as a sort of library with Wikipedia for Schools and Khan Academy to start. But for now the Hlubi lab is on hold.

Despite the commitments and untold random adventures of the week, there is still time for leisure; particularly the enjoyment of food. I’ll leave it to my Facebook photo album to document our key lime pie.

Until next week!

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2 Responses to South Africa 2012 – Week Four – Committed

  1. Does KA on a stick also contain the exercises and the student perfomance tracking modules that aids coaches and teachers ?

    Thanks and awaiting your reply.

    • Hi, thanks for stopping by!

      KA on a stick does not contain any exercises or tracking. If you want those components offline, there is an excellent project called KA Lite that you should look at.

      If you find that the setup process for KA Lite is too much, then KA on a stick is a zero-configuration way to get Khan Academy videos into the hands of people without internet. Whichever way you go, I’m sure the students will love it!

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