Learning NOT to teach: the value of open access computers

Just over a month ago, we opened our Computer Lab on Samos, in partnership with Glocal Roots.

When you have a room with 15 computers and a population with limited IT skills, it’s easy to think the priority is to start teaching how to type, how to use Microsoft Office or Google Suite. You take it further by promoting online courses that carry ‘university credits’ from American schools, or advertising websites to get certified English certificates.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all very valid and important learning goals. And for the half the day, we do all this.

But what's hard is to let this powerful computer space go unmanaged. To step back and stop getting in the way every hour of the day.

But that’s what we’re doing, and it has huge benefits.

For 6 hours a day, this Computer Lab is an open-access space for anyone - I mean anyone - to come and use a laptop.

There’s no limitations and no rules (other than no eating and no downloading illicit content). What there is is facilitation, an internet connection, and the freedom to choose.

60 visitors a day come to use these computers. Kids come for gaming; fathers come to practise typing whilst their young infants watch Tom & Jerry; someone’s watching a Bollywood classic; someone else video calls a friend.

To state the obvious, it's pretty much an Internet Cafe. Nothing grand.

Except that it’s on an island where thousands of asylum seekers don’t have much access to internet, and certainly no access to computers. Where having connectivity is a precious resource. Where no one’s prioritising recreation as an important, essential human right.

In general, humans are very good at doing nothing or doing everything. Of turning a blind eye to a problem, or throwing ourselves 150% into fully-structured programming that can be as impressive as it is imposing.

But our Computer Lab isn’t that. It’s a quiet and unpretentious space, where an outside world of waiting lines, noise and traffic is replaced by headphone-muffled silence, personal choice and a world-wide web.

Help keep the electricity on, the wifi strong, and its usage long by donating towards The Computer Lab. Just head over to our Donate Page and choose an amount to give. www.actionforeducation.co.uk/donate

Thank you.

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