Making Connections in Cambodia

I don’t know why, but sometimes I am reassured when technology doesn’t work perfectly. It’s cliché but true to say that the world has gotten much smaller. Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and even old-fashioned email mean that we can be in almost constant contact with anyone, anywhere, at any time. However, it seems to me—as old school as it sounds—that part of the adventure of travel and exploration can be the glitches we encounter and are able to overcome.

So, Keith Hajovsky, Kim Smith and I had a little adventure in communication when we spoke on Skype last night to share updates on the WOWi project at the Tchey School. After several failed attempts at a clear connection from the school,  we were able to briefly catch up once Kim and Keith were back in Siem Reap—a thirty-minute trip from the school grounds.

Diana reviews a video that the students created a month ago

Over the past few days, Keith, Kim, Robin Smith, and Diana Gross have started the skill-building process to work towards a final project in which students create animation sequences using Flash. Diana started by reviewing a lesson on photography and videography that she had taught the kids a month before.

Then, Kim took the helm and helped the students use Photoshop to manipulate green screen photos of general scenes in Cambodia and Texas. This served as a real-life context for teaching them about Photoshop layers and how to work with them.

There are roughly 15 Cambodian kids participating in the pilot program, many of whom have had no more than a year or two of computer experience. One of the students has stepped up to serve as translator for those whose English skills are weaker. Most of the students have launched into the project with gusto while other, shyer, students are taking a more tentative approach.

From Keith and Kim’s report it seems that wariness won’t last long. I could almost feel the momentum building as they explained how the project will unfold and how, very soon, students in the U.S will be part of the process.

Kim helps the students with their Photoshop skills

In fact, Diana is working to connect the Cambodian students with a former class of hers in Maryland via Skype next week. If all goes well, classes from Austin may join. After viewing some photos of Siem Reap and the school, David Conover’s class at Conally High in Austin can’t wait to start their piece of the project. The photos made the place and the project seemed all the more real to them.

And what about the connectivity problem at the school? It appears that has been overcome. That doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be more challenges, but my guess is this team’s determination, coupled with the wonders of technology, will help them prevail over any glitch they encounter


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