Monday, October 24, 2016

Brainpop comes to JWOC

Written by Sarah Thompson (JWOC's Education and Volunteer Manager)
The Brainpop app is still being actively used in our Free Classes Program here at JWOC since the licence was kindly donated to us 6 months ago, through tablets generously donated to us through Team4Tech! Scholarship Student teachers Kimchhay, Dany, and Sitham play an active role in training other scholarship students and volunteers on how to use Brainpop to the best of their ability in the classroom. Kimchhay conducted a Brainpop workshop during our monthly teacher development workshops last May and has since encouraged the Free Classes teachers to integrate it more in their lessons as a supplemental tool. 

Many teachers we spoke with enjoy using it with adults and expressed the feeling that Brainpop visuals and videos can help the teachers better explain a difficult grammatical idea or concept. One teacher said, "I am talking about the visuals on the tablets which is very attractive for students to involve with our lessons. All videos are relevant with daily life activities so the students could catch the meaning even more than explaining by examples." Another teacher commented that Brainpop provides extra grammar ideas and has funny games that are stimulating for the students. The quiz sessions are also helpful to reinforce difficult grammar concepts and allows the teacher to check that the students are actually understanding and retaining what is being taught. 

While Brainpop is an excellent additive here at JWOC, a few teachers still are not very confident in using it to complement their lesson plans. Technology usage is slowly integrating into different aspects of Cambodian society and we are working to ensure that they are comfortable integrating it in their lessons by focusing on more Brainpop training in our teacher development workshops. Introducing new technology in the classroom can be difficult for students with no tech background, however, here at JWOC we believe building their IT capacity and pushing them to use new tools will better prepare them for the future and allow them to become even better educators.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Vantha's Scholarship 101: How does the JWOC Scholarship Program really work?

Hello, my name is Vantha Kuon. I’m the Scholarship Program and Office Manager and I’ve been working with JWOC since 2009; It has been more than 7 years now, but it still seems like yesterday to me. In 2009 I started with JWOC serving as a Bookkeeper and project assistant. At that time, I assisted in all JWOC project activities when they required my help, working in and outside the office with the local community. It was my first experience working within an organization; it was my dream job when I was studying at high school!
I am extremely excited to be a part of all of JWOC’s programs, especially scholarship program; I am lucky enough to see how the program can change the students’ life for the better. From working with them when they start their scholarship as they enter the big wide world, to helping them face life’s many problems, to understanding the value of working and giving back to their community before graduating.
What each student can learn, what they can share and what they can do for their community through JWOC’s programs makes them feel the words “Learning today, Leading tomorrow” in their hearts. They not only support their community but also their nation.

I would like to share with you the scholarship recruitment process so all of you can see how JWOC is taking on new students who need help from us to achieve their future dreams. The JWOC scholarship program is open for all students from both in Siem Reap and other Cambodian provinces. 

We make announcements to the local high schools, NGOs, in different districts of Siem Reap, through our social media and old and new JWOC operating areas. The students who wish to apply will come and collect the application forms for themselves and for their friends and relatives. We also put the application form online so it can reach those students who may face difficulty in travelling to JWOC as they live far from Siem Reap city. The application form includes questions that give us information about their family, education, career experience and their dreams.

The application forms and subsequent interviews are the first opportunity for JWOC to get to know the student’s ambitions in depth and to see which applicants require a scholarship to help them grow and have the willingness to give back to our local community. To just see their application would not be enough for us to decide which students are suitable and need help from us, so we meet face to face and understand their real motives and ambition to further their education and careers. We then talk to their references; these can include their village chief (who knows/understands their family background and current situation), their teacher and/or their employer to gain an understanding of their attitude and characteristics towards working. The final step of the process is visiting the student’s family in their home town; this ensures we are definitely handing the opportunity to the right students and families.

You can see photos from our scholarship program recruitment process below:
Scholarships are advertised in local villages
Interviewing an applicant at JWOC
On the way to a home visit
Meeting with the student's family
Another family visit
Being a JWOC scholarship student means not just the chance to study at university but also to receive support and capacity building to develop knowledge and skills as well; examples of training we conduct include: personal goal setting, using the internet efficiently, career training (how to find a job, CV writing and interview techniques, stress management).We also work one on one with each student to provide personal problem consulting, helping them to stand up and deal with any problems (whether in university or elsewhere) and make sure they do not give up! 

This extra support really helps them to become stronger and stronger from day to day, molding them into adults and helping them to fit into the job market. Everything that we do in our scholarship program tries to make our students feel as though JWOC is their second home and family; we always stand behind them and support them.  

Over the past 10 years we have had 123 students graduate from our scholarship program, these students have gone on to all manners of success in their life. Some students continue to give back to their community through their personal careers and businesses, others are working in the education sector as teachers and school directors to share their skills and knowledge with the next generation, and some are working in different types of NGO, helping their community through their programs and others are working in the different sectors.

JWOC’s Local Advisory Board was formed in 2015 and is made up of our scholarship alumni; they meet with us every quarter to spend their valuable time to work with and connect JWOC and our scholarship students with real opportunities for growth throughout the Siem Reap community.

I, myself really don’t have the words to describe the value that our Scholarship program is giving to the community and the amazing support of each and every sponsor. This approach is really a transformative opportunity that teaches people how to support themselves, their family and their community, not just a handout for them to live. This really inspires me to continue working hard with scholarship program so I can see my people and my community develop and grow.
On behalf of current and graduated scholarship students, I really appreciate all the support from our sponsors; it means so much to all Cambodian students and communities. All of this would not be possible without your support.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Riel Deal - Trymore comes to Cambodia!

“Each one of us is able to help another”, I believe these words to be true and that explains my passion for volunteer work. I am Trymore, I’m from Zimbabwe and I’m currently volunteering at JWOC as a Financial Literacy Advisor. Volunteering at JWOC has been special as it has allowed me to use my knowledge and experience in reaching out to local communities in Siem Reap.
This is my second long term volunteer experience in South East Asia. It has been almost four years since my last experience and I had been craving for this opportunity. Through volunteering I have discovered a lot about the world, it’s more than what the media shows. Cambodia has been a beautiful story of how human we all are. Very few people understand and speak English, nevertheless I have been able to get directions from these very same people, interact in sign language conversations over meals and communicate thousands of emotions with a smile.

So how did I end up here?
I’m still young, full of vigor and fully aware that I have to make the most of my prime years. Taking a break from work I was exploring which places to go and it dawned on me that I could do some voluntary work. I spent a long time searching for what I wanted, but from the moment that I came across JWOC there was a connection. Their volunteer opportunities were attractive, this made me curious and as I got to know the work they do – I was sure this is the place I wanted to be. My idea of an adventure took on a new meaning; it became an adventure with purpose.  
The work I do at JWOC includes the development of Financial Literacy workshops for the rural communities in Siem Reap. These workshops are designed for the villagers who are mostly illiterate. As a young finance professional, I agree that financial literacy is important for the alleviation of debt, creation of wealth and improved living standards. JWOC’s mandate to educate these people is admirable. Through the development stages I engage in discussions with the JWOC scholarship students who willingly share their stories and information on the town that I find very helpful.
Working with the staff at JWOC is a delight; they are committed individuals who tirelessly serve the community. I was fortunate to have volunteered around the time they have their staff capacity building training day. The trip was a good experience for me and I believe the same for the staff, it was well organized, met the objective of the day and was so much fun!
The results this team delivers is unbelievable considering the number of projects and programs they have running. From the Free Classes program I have had good English conversations with kids as young as nine whose command of the language is exceptional thanks to these classes. I have managed to have a tour of the villages were JWOC worked under their Clean Water program and visited a house which was still being supported by one of the wells 5 years after installation. I have bumped into people who have been assisted by JWOC in a restaurant or at a gas station and the stories they share are amazing. One scholarship alumni I met is now employed in a reputable international organization.

During my time here I have assisted in other areas, reading a book on Father’s Day for the children at Sunday art class is one of my most memorable experiences. I enjoy photography and occasionally join the community support team when they go to the field on weekends to conduct training's. The training is done in Khmer, but while capturing moments during these training's I know that each image will convey a story to the world of what JWOC is doing.

Siem Reap is a melting pot of cultures, a place where anyone can belong. Indeed I was shocked to find a lively international community of expats and tourists in this small town that I only got to know from my flight booking. As a volunteer I’ve had days off which has allowed me to explore and also visit the historic Ankgor Wat temples which are breathtaking to see at sunrise! The diversity this town displays encompasses the whole world within 2km, various restaurants serve cuisines from all parts of the world and some operate 24 hours. The integration between the locals and foreigners is well orchestrated unlike most places I have been. Life here is generally relaxed - something I have appreciated while being on a break.

My desired outcome from this volunteer experience is to have these people understand financial management in a functional way. They are illiterate but from the workshops they will develop sound financial practices that will allow them to pay off their debt, start saving and improve their livelihood. After the workshops I will be involved in the analysis of the results and assessment to see the positive or negative impact, this might involve me visiting Siem Reap after my volunteer period is over. Otherwise I will be in communication with the Community Support Manager as I make every effort to have the workshops successful.

I would like to thank JWOC for the work they are doing, I have only managed to work for the few months that I’ve been here but their good work has been going on for more than a decade. Sometimes the best job in the world does not give you status or salary but allows you to contribute towards other people’s lives. Would I advise any professional to volunteer with JWOC? Yes! Take the leap!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Now and Then: JWOC's Community Center and Art Class!

JWOC's Community Center is the home of JWOC and has been since 2008, each week hundreds of enthusiastic students in our Free Classes program are given the chance to learn and gain an education at no cost. The Center has four teaching classrooms, library, IT suite and safe and engaging outdoor area for students to play and learn. It is also home to our Scholarship program and office, which is the center of all JWOC operations throughout Cambodia. 

Without the Community Center JWOC would not have been able to reach nearly half of those within our Community to give them the educational opportunities and hope for them and their family for a better and more prosperous future. As we look back at our achievements in our 10th year of serving the community, we want to share some pictures taken when the Community Center was first commissioned in 2008 just to show you how far we have come thanks to your support.

We invite you to continue your support and generosity as we continue to work with Cambodia’s poorest to give them and their families a brighter future.

Top: Land before construction  starts, looking out from JWOC's office entrance.
Bottom: Children are given the option to play with outdoor equipment and sports after class.

Top: Land was cleared for construction you can see the current office (original building) in the background.
Bottom: A small playground provides shade from the heat. Classroom A & B (to the left) are the largest in JWOC, and can accommodate 25 students per class. 
Top: Seen from JWOC's entrance, digging has started for the foundations of the building.
Bottom: Hundreds come to learn in our Free Classes program each day, but they must leave their bike at the entrance. They are watched over by our Caretaker Sokha, who has worked with us since the opening of the Center.
Top: Work begins on building classrooms A and B. Foundations are being dug and prepared.
Bottom: As well as classroom A and B, students have access to a toilet and wash facility (center) and hand-wash station (left). Each student must wash their hands before class and receives Hygiene training each term. 
Top: Foundations are set for classroom A and B.
Bottom: Students wait for their English class outside classroom B; they must wait outside until the teacher is ready and in lines of boys and girls.

Top: A group participates in the first ever Art class at JWOC! They were read books in English and Khmer.
Bottom: The same space in JWOC is now used regularly for students (Scholarship and Free Classes) to study and socialize.
Top: Children from the first Art Class are read a book in story-time.
Bottom: JWOC offers regular Library and Art classes now held in our library, students are creative and make many wonderful things.
Top: The first ever circle time takes place at JWOC's Community Center!
Bottom: JWOC now offers a monthly Art in the Community that offers all children in the local community the chance to get creative at a local pagoda.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

JWOC & Monkey Junior: Utilizing Technology in the Classroom!

In the wake of our recent project with volunteers from Box as arranged by Team4Tech, the JWOC teachers have been making the most of the new tools and resources available to them, such as the learn-to-read program Monkey Junior created by a company named Early Start. Equipped with a new repertoire of tablet-based apps they are now able to deliver much more engaging lessons for the students attending our Free Classes at JWOC. These students generally come from households which are unlikely to have any computers or smart phones in their possession. Providing them with the opportunity to develop not just their language learning skills but also their kinesthetic capabilities and collaborative abilities.

Teachers Kimchhay and Dany have been especially active in using Monkey Junior with their younger students. As well as reinforcing the students understanding of key vocabulary it also allows students to hear words pronounced correctly by native speakers. Speaking to Kimchhay after his class he was especially enthusiastic about the way in which the app brings together vocabulary flashcards and pronunciation with sentence construction and developing phonetic awareness.

Dany used the wireless connection to the projector to demonstrate to the students how to work their way through each stage of the course and then distributed tablets among the students so as they could work in pairs to complete two levels of the colors section. She explained that after playing with the app herself for a while it was easy for her to identify which level would be suitable for her class. She also explained that she preferred it to several other apps we have piloted as its user interface makes it easy for students to learn independently, allowing her to spend more time with those students in need of extra support.

The smooth integration of educational apps into existing educational environments is never a straightforward process but with Monkey Junior we are happy to report that teachers and students alike have integrated it into their classes within days of discovering it. While such apps can never replace our invaluable teachers they can be great resources for supplementing and building on what students already know so we certainly hope to be able to make full use of the range of courses in apps such as Monkey Junior over the next few months.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Meet Narla Phay - JWOC's First Scholarship Graduate

Can you please introduce yourself?
Jum Reap Suor. My name is Narla Phay, I am 32 years old and I was the first scholarship student to graduate from JWOC’s Scholarship program.
What was your life like before you got JWOC Scholarship?
Well, I moved to Siem Reap 13 years ago to continue my education and degree at university. For the first two years my parents paid for my school tuition, but at the end of the second year they ran out of money which threatened my place, I was ready to drop out. 'My parents had borrowed money from their neighbors at 120% interest rate to pay for my education, in the countryside you have no choice'; we were struggling to repay! Looking back, I was very lucky as I was such an awful farmer, my parents saw no potential for me helping in the rice fields! However, my family earned a really small amount of money so if you send one kid to college then the other family members will have no education or medical care – they really sacrificed a lot for me!

How did you get your JWOC Scholarship?
At the time, I was working for the tourist police in the Siem Reap to help cover my everyday expenses and one day JWOC co-founder Brandon Ross came to my office as one of his guests needed a police report to claim a new airline ticket. We got talking and I told him about my situation and how I was struggling, so we exchanged numbers, and then two weeks later I came to interview for a job at Journeys Within Boutique and for the first class of scholarship students! I started my new job at the hotel front desk on April 20, 2006.

Can you describe what it was like when you first started at JWOC?
At the beginning it was just the three of us (Managing Director, John Walsh; Narla and Brandon Ross) working together on the projects, it was tough! At that time I was attending school and as JWOC was only a few months old at the time the projects were just being set up and we were learning the community’s needs.
My first volunteering project was the Clean Water program (the original JWOC project), but I soon became involved in the Microfinance program as one of the co-founders, working with Brandon Ross we were one of the first organisations in Siem Reap to offer loans to poorer people. We didn’t have our own office or the Community Center at that time either so we had to share an office with the tour company inside the hotel.
The first JWOC Scholarship Students; Narla is second on the left
What was it like volunteering for the Microfinance project?
We gave out small loans to borrowers that wanted to create a business or expand their current one. At the beginning we would go out and interview future borrowers in the local village near JWOC to find out what they would do with the money, how the business would work and discuss the risks involved. This was all new to me and Brandon, but we’d spoken to the community and they had told us that this is what they needed to help them and their families. Every Friday I was in charge of going out to collect the loans, everyone always paid back on time!
Narla collecting loans for the Microfinance program
What is your most significant memory whilst being a Scholarship student?
Narla with a newly installed well and family
I remember one woman, she had HIV, she had three children and her husband had died; she sold drinks on the street and never expected anyone to give her a loan – in Cambodia if you don’t have any collateral then you won’t get anything. But I remember her crying when we decided to give her a loan and 'it was that opportunity that totally changed her life. It made the volunteering all worth it – knowing you were really helping your community.'

What has your life been like after graduating from JWOC?
JWOC’s Scholarship program has totally changed my life; I was about to drop out of school and my parents were in a lot of debt. After graduating I now work full time with Journeys Within Tour Company as Tour Concierge and Customer Service Director after being promoted. I was also able to repay my mum’s loans that helped to pay for my early education and then help my brother move from my hometown to Siem Reap. On top of this I’ve managed to now save to buy a piece of land and to have my own car – all of this because of the opportunities given to me by JWOC.

What's your connection with JWOC today?
Narla attends JWOC's 10th Anniversary Party
Even after I graduated I still want to be a part of it all so I am now on the JWOC board as an ‘in-country’ advisor. I work closely with staff in Cambodia as well as the board in the states to make sure that decisions made will benefit the local community. I now use my position within the tour company to tell people about my story and introduce them to JWOC. It’s my hope that through this story guests will see the impact that JWOC has had on my community and want to support others that were in my position. I also use my position to help inspire other young Cambodians to fulfill their potential, as Brandon and Andrea allowed me to.

I would like to say thank you to JWOC and its supporters for giving me the opportunity, which means so much to me – without JWOC I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you. I would most likely be working in a rice field in my home province without an education and the knowledge to pass down to my children and their children. I think I will have a bright future; in fact, I know I will. Thank you!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Advancing Educational Opportunities in Cambodia - Team4Tech Returns to Siem Reap with Box, Mobile Tech & Collaborative Spirit

By Julie Clugage, Executive Director

For the last two weeks of March 2016, Team4Tech immersed 10 volunteers from enterprise software company Box in the educational landscape of Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Our objective: strengthening the capacity of the local education nonprofit Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) to enhance the quality of their programs by integrating digital resources and technology-assisted tools.

JWOC’s mission is to reduce poverty levels in Cambodia by increasing educational and economic opportunities for 800 underserved students per year through their free classes program.  The classes focus on teaching English, technology, science and art, and they are taught by university students who receive full scholarships from JWOC in exchange for six to eight hours of teaching per week.  Through this process, JWOC is able to not only assist the scholarship students directly with the cost of their education, but also develop their skills, work experience, teaching and leadership capabilities more broadly.
This second Team4Tech project with JWOC deepened their commitment to technology as a tool for learning.  In November 2014, nine volunteers from VMware had set up a new computer lab, with 26 PCs and new software to help students learn English, as well as technology to advance science and art classes.  The new computer lab helped JWOC students build their English and digital literacy skills, but was not large enough to accommodate use by all of JWOC's 800 students each week.  Therefore, the goal of this second project was to extend the reach of technology into the classrooms, with the purchase of 25 student tablets, five teacher laptops, and four projectors.  This new integrated technology will help teachers develop creative problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills among their students - skills that are vital for securing gainful employment in the rapidly globalizing economy of Siem Reap.

After six weeks of preparation and research, the 10 Box volunteers were eager to not only observe classes at JWOC, but also dive into their own design process.  Over the course of their 11 days in Cambodia, the volunteers worked side-by-side with JWOC staff to deploy the new technology, deliver training workshops, and coach 42 university scholarship teachers to design and rapidly test new lesson plans.  The training used the framework of human-centered design to enable teachers to brainstorm ways that technology could build 21st century skills among their students.
On the first day of the workshops, we heard the testimonial of one the teachers, Khav Meth, explaining why design thinking is needed in Cambodian education:
In the 21st century, design thinking is one of the most important learning experiences for educators to apply in the real world with a difficult challenge.  Actually, most textbooks are written to address problems that already exist.  But there are thousands of problems which have not yet unfolded. Design thinking is a structured learning process to solve a real-world problem, encourage creativity, and have a collaborative experience in the classroom.  Adult pupils would have a more creative mindset if professors changed from memorization-based instruction to innovation-based curriculum.
In sub-teams focused on the subject areas of English language learning, science, digital literacy, and digital storytelling, the volunteers demonstrated recommended educational software and worked with the teachers in 50 hours of 1:1 sessions to build new lesson plans. The preparation paid off as at least 10 JWOC teachers tried out their new lessons on the tablets this week, using BrainPop and video interviews in their English classes, astronomy apps in their science class, and Scratch Jr to teach basic coding.  The teachers all reported back that their students loved learning with the new technology, and asked for deeper dives in the second weekend of workshops.

The JWOC teachers weren’t the only ones hoping to integrate technology into their work.  Another important element of the project was developing a more collaborative file management policy and an improved student information management system for JWOC staff to track the performance of their students over time and optimize enrollment in their free classes.  With donated licenses from Airtable, the Team4Tech volunteers were able to configure a new system for JWOC that dramatically improves on data governance with data type control and references between data objects, mobility with native mobile apps, and security control to provide proper access.  The new system successfully replaced six silo spreadsheets and paper forms, combining them into one cohesive data model with eight objects and 2,000 records.

After two weeks of hard work, one of the Box volunteers reflected: “We started a conversation, and they are going to finish it.”  We left Siem Reap inspired by the perseverance of these Cambodian lifelong learners, and we are excited to continue witnessing what the JWOC teachers and staff can accomplish with their new technology and skills.  They have an inspiring vision for creating expanded opportunities for their students, and we will be eagerly following their progress!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Team4Tech at JWOC 2016 – The First Few Days

On Thursday 24th March 2016, JWOC was delighted to welcome two Team4Tech leaders– Julie Clugage and Danielle Martin – and ten Box volunteers to JWOC. We set them up with fruit and water and then did some icebreakers and introductions for the rest of the morning. After a team lunch at a nearby restaurant we had an hour-long session in the early afternoon exploring the schedule for Friday-Sunday as well as the project aims, the sub-teams and their goals. Then the Box volunteers went out on a tour with Josh and 3 scholarship students. Makara showed them around the squatters’ village then they went up to USEA for a tour of the campus, before returning to their guesthouse to take stock of their first day together in the heat of Siem Reap and the immediacy of JWOC.
            Friday morning we did a bit more work with the volunteers and sub-teams in the morning then they all spent the days in meetings and observing lessons. They really enjoyed being in the classrooms and seeing the teachers and students in action. The volunteers priorities were generally preparing for the workshops at the weekend, based on ideas developed in the weeks prior to coming to Siem Reap, Some of this involved working out what was actually happening in JWOC -  in the classroom or in the office - interviewing the relevant JWOC staff and proposing ideas to the staff. The volunteers seemed pretty energised at the end of it, although some of them were faced with an evening making changes to draft presentations and workshop plans!
Saturday morning brought the first of the workshops, with good representation from the scholarship students with numbers never below 30 and generally closer to the 40 mark in attendance. The workshops took place in our recently wifi-enabled, newly furnished classrooms A and B, with students now sitting in groups of 4-6 around large tables, a classroom set-up more conducive to the communication and collaboration skills we hoped the scholarship students would be working on throughout the day.
First up were the 21st Century Skills and Design Thinking sub-team, and although the nomenclature might not be the most wieldy, the ideas espoused were to form the foundations for all of the workshops. Ideas of critical thinking and creative problem-solving were defined and simple demonstrations of every day uses of such skills were explored. The workshop participants were asked to consider the importance of design in everything we do – from the shape of spoons to the workings of large engines – and then led through the different stages of the Design Thinking process. Solenne and AlanaVenosasked the students to apply these stages to the following challenge: design a better bicycle seat for a defined set of users. After interviewing other groups (the ‘empathising’ stage), students defined the task for themselves then set to work brainstorming (or ‘ideating’) and prototyping their proposed models. The finished products were displayed around the room and students invited to question and comment on each other’s designs – the closest we could get to the ‘test’ phase.
After lunch the scholarship students were introduced to the projectors that are part of the investments being made into JWOC’s IT infrastructure. This session was led by Alan Leung, who is part of the SIMS sub-team working behind the scenes to train JWOC staff on how to use a piece of software called Airtable to better manage the copious amounts of data we gather about the beneficiaries we work with in our different programmes. Then Sumat Lam greeted his audience in some well-received Khmer and explained his ancestral ties to Cambodia and delight at being able to return for a third time to his parents’ homeland. He discussed some basic ideas about digital literacy, including the ways in which every teacher can teach digital literacy just by incorporating any smart technology into the way they deliver lessons. The final presentation for the day was about the tablets which are such a huge part of this phase of the engagement between JWOC and Team4Tech. Alex Reynolds explained about some simple functions which will help teachers more effectively control their students’ use of tablets in the classroom, including a type of parental control app and some of the basic tenets of sharing files online. Then it was time to draw the curtain on the day’s interactions and for the workshop participants to disperse in their different directions, tired but with heads full of new ideas and perspectives and looking forward to another day of developments and revelations.
Sunday’s focus was on educational technology. The three subject-specific sub-teams took the lead on leading scholarship students through a range of different tablet tools and apps which could be used to create more interactive and dynamic classrooms. From simple whiteboard tools and voice-recording games to curriculum-length English teaching game-based apps the morning session was a crash course in the potential that devices such as the tablets have for accelerated learning and sharing opportunities in classrooms. From scanning the night sky for Orion’s belt to making videos based on interviews with each other via a quick taste of some salty potatoes there was something for everyone to engage with as Nate Schlein, Lauren Swartz, Jasmin Pamukcu, Matt Jones and Kelly Halamekrolled out multiple options for all the different subject teachers who were in attendance.
Having learned so much over the previous three sessions, Sunday afternoon brought the turn of the students to apply their learning. Alex got them viewing and uploading documents in google drive then Danielle brought them through a design thinking lesson planning task, with scholarship students sitting in small groups depending on their experience and area of expertise. The aim was to develop a lesson plan which incorporated a selection of activities and apps from the weekend’s workshops. The Science team came up with a new Astronomy lesson while General English teachers created review lessons for their students ahead of the end-of-term tests in two weeks. Digital Storytelling teachers worked on an interactive lesson based around effective interviewing skills and using voice-recording apps and the Digital Literacy concocted a lesson plan whereby students would learn how to create an email account and then make a video of that process in Khmer for other students. As any of the numerous photos from the weekend show, the smiles stayed huge, collaboration and creativity were the order of the day and everyone who participated came away from the day fully confident that they had not just learned some new information but whole new ways of thinking about teaching, learning and even thinking itself.
In the week ahead we look forward to putting these lessons into practice, as well as doing as much work as possible in the different sub-team focus areas. The bonds formed between participating staff and Box volunteers over the weekend promise to become stronger and lead to some interesting collaborations and developments during the remainder of their stay with us here at JWOC. A massive thanks to them all for their efforts and commitment, as well as to everyone who attended the workshops for their energy and determination to understand and learn.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

JWOC goes to the Cambodian Science and Engineering Fair!

I introduced myself a month ago and talked about working to bring science to JWOC, but I wanted to post again to tell about my favorite experience so far in Cambodia! Last week I had the opportunity to represent JWOC at the 2nd Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival, where our goal was to showcase JWOC’s science program and inspire visitors about the possibilities afforded by science, technology, engineering, and math (more commonly known as STEM). We prepared six exhibits; each covering a different topic. We wanted our exhibits, covering everything from electricity to biology to chemistry, to teach something new while allowing students to get hands on.Aside from me the team consisted of Nesa and Vantha, two JWOC staff members, and Phally and Thoeu, two JWOC scholarship students. Each did an incredible job all week explaining in Khmer to students about our demonstrations!

The first day of our trip we took the long six hour drive to Phnom Penh, got our booth ready, and went to bed early, ready for a busy week. Our goal on the first day was to teach two things: first, the reasons for the differences between plant and animal cells and second, how plants drink using capillary action. To teach the first we had students look through two microscopes showing plant and animal cells and think about the benefits a cell wall offers plants. For the second, we had students guess and discuss why cabbage is stained different colors when left in colored water.We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but we hoped kids would enjoy our demonstrations. Luckily, immediately after the doors opened (and constantly for the next three days), we had a circle of students surrounding our booth! It was clear just from the looks on their faces that kids were enjoying learning in a hands-on manner.

Throughout our time at the fair, that didn’t change. We alternated exhibits, showing something slightly different each day, but no matter what we had on display we never seemed to run out of smiling and laughing kids as they played with the exhibits and talked to us. Probably the most popular exhibit was Oobleck (look it up!), a non-newtonian fluid that is either a liquid or a solid, depending on whether you apply pressure to it. The last two days we had bowls of Oobleck out for students to play with while investigating the material’sproperties, and they could not get enough of it. It was a bit messy, but it was worth it to see the surprised and curious faces as students tried to figure out why the Oobleck flowed like a liquid, but turned into a solid ball when squeezed. I don’t know who had more fun, the kids or us at the booth, trying to explain it! By the end of the third day, we were exhausted from having spent three full days at the fair, but thoroughly happy that we were able to be involved.

Stepping back a bit, I want to talk about why the science fair was so meaningful for me.The slogan for the science fair states that “Cambodia runs on science. Let’s make that science Cambodian!”I think that’s such an important goal to pursue. There’s so much promise amongst the Cambodian youth to make an impact on both their own country and the world as a whole, but in order for that promise to materialize students need to realize the opportunities that are available.

At the fair, students could learn about robots, bugs, 3D printers, physical therapy, and so much more. Over the course of the fair, nearly 20,000 students had the opportunity to be inspired by ways they can improve the world with various STEM disciplines; just as importantly, they learned that science and engineering can be fun. I love that I had the opportunity to help inspire thousands of students, and I know that because of events like the science fair Cambodia is becoming a better place. Without a doubt, being able to be part of that impact makes my time at the science fair the most rewarding thing I’ve done in Cambodia.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meet Khung Votty: Free Classes Interview

Hello! Please Introduce yourself
My name is Khung Votty an I’m 12 years old, I have 2 sisters and a brother

Are you in school? What grade do you study?
I study in grade 6 in school and my favorite subject is Math. I like math because I like doing the homework, when I grow up I’d like to study accountancy and be an accountant.

Why do you want to be an accountant?
I enjoy playing around with numbers, but I also want to help my mum. I can help her with her finances so our family has more money.

What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I like to help my mother, she is a housewife so I help her with the household chores, mostly cooking rice and washing the dishes. I love to play football when I can!
What’s your favorite food?
Tom yam soup and fried vegetables

What position do you play in football? What’s your favorite team?
I play as a striker when I play and my favorite team is Real Madrid, but my favorite player is Neymar!

Do you like school? How does it compare to JWOC?
I do like school, but I also like coming to JWOC, it’s a lot of fun and the teachers often have fun lessons planned for us when we arrive! We play lots of games, practice our spelling and learn new grammar each lesson.

How often do you come to JWOC?
I come to JWOC 4 days per week to learn English, I’ve been coming for almost two years now and I’m at ‘way ahead 2a’ level (intermediate level). I want to increase my English knowledge, I often go to the library and read the English books and my favorite book is ‘The Blind Man’.

Do you do any other activities in JWOC?
I was in JWOC’s Got Talent, I sang and was also involved in a dance performance.

Do you think JWOC has helped you to realize your goals?
JWOC has definitely helped me, my English is much better than it was!

Thank you very much for your time!
Thank you, Bye! 

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