When Will The Peace Corps Do Something New?

Here’s an idea!

If you read the NYTIMES Sunday Reviews on October 13, 2013, you might have read how a high school in Detroit is flipping the classroom. They started three years ago with one class and now the whole high school has flipped.

What in the world is a Flipped Classroom, you ask.

It is this: students watch videos of teachers’ lectures at home, or on their smartphones or computers, or if they lack the technology, at school in the tech lab.

Then the next day in class they do what we would call “homework”–projects, worksheets or exercises in small groups, while the teacher is a resource in the room.

Online education is sweeping the country, mostly at the college level, via MOOCs. If you haven’t heard, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses education, available to anyone with Web access.

Okay, how will that help a PCV teacher? What does this have to do with a PCVs out in the middle of nowhere? For example, take Emily Spiegel, a PCV today in Dangila, Ethiopia who had a blog up last week on this site. She wrote that she has a student in her English Club who has no shoes, and a twelve year-old girl who raises three siblings and walks two hours to attend school. How can the Internet and MOOC help Emily or her students back of the beyond?

Fifteen years ago when I worked at the Peace Corps I started pushing for the Peace Corps to give all PCVs a laptop as they left for their assignments, but the old farts in the Administration ballyhooed the idea. (I remembered Jean Seigle (CD Ecuador) nearly fainted on the spot hearing my suggestion.) But I had read where a nonprofit Boston outfit, One Laptop Per Child, had designed and were already distributing ultra-cheap computers around the world. I wanted PCVs to have one of these computers, just like 50 years ago, Sarge Shriver gave us Book Lockers to start libraries overseas in our schools. Since Shriver, however, most of the recent Administrations are afraid of doing anything new, afraid mostly of the pinhead GC lawyers in the building who say no to everything (these are lawyers afraid to be PCVs themselves) and all the Leadership in PC/Washington walk around Washington with their thumbs shoved up their rectums, testing for which way the wind is blowing. (It is no wonder Congress and the Administration is in such a mess.)

Perhaps there is still time for the Peace Corps to open the world to Emily Spiegel’s students in Dangila, Ethiopia, and all Peace Corps classrooms. The majority of PCV teachers are stepping into a developing world classroom without having taught or taken a single education course in their lives. They have no wealth of experience facing kids who barely speak English. A link to the Internet, or a box of CDs of classroom instruction where the Internet isn’t available, can give them a value resource and boost their students’ comprehension of whatever subject they are teaching.

As Rob Dameron, head of the English department in Detroit said in the TIMES article, “I have a YouTube video on subject-verb agreement that has 54,000 views.”

How many RPCV teachers remember the struggle of teaching and explaining English prepositions in a classroom overseas? What if you had a YouTube video on your Laptop that would let students rewind and watch it over and over again until prepositions made sense to them? (Of course, as we know, English prepositions never make sense!)

A computer in the classroom. An Internet connection, or a stack of CD lessons done by experienced educators, will improve the teaching of all PCVs, enrich their classrooms whatever the grade, and wherever the Volunteers are in the developing world.

Think about it.

Maybe this project–i.e., a Laptop for all PCVs-is something the 250,000+ RPCVs and staff can rally beyond and make a reality for the 7,000+PCVs overseas today. Maybe this could be a project the NPCA might adopt and have the organization do something about besides have receptions for themselves in the halls of Congress.

As I said, think about it. And write the Acting Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet at: chessler@peacecorps.gov and tell her what you think. She’ll listen.

If Congress can’t get their act together, maybe the Peace Corps Administration can doing something good for PCVs and America, as well as the developing world.