Meaningful Adventures in the Dominican Republic

Service Learning for Computer Science Students

Marist College Service Learning Computer ScienceIn June, 2014 Spanish and Computer Science students collaborated in a two week service-learning project led by Dr. Kevin Gaugler and Dr. Carolyn Matheus. The group travelled to Cabarete, Dominican Republic to provide a technology-education summer camp at the Centro de Aprendizaje y Desarrollo Integral, a local school with few resources. The goals of the camp were to provide junior-high and high-school students with useful technology-related skills that they could use to help their community, as well as provide the school with a “product” for promoting the school. To this end, camp attendees were guided through the process of developing a Website for their school (www.colegiocadin.com).

Using the SOLE model, camp attendees worked in groups that rotated through a series of activity stations led by Marist Computer Science and Spanish students. In one station, students used the Raspberry Pi to learn basic aspects of computing and networking, including an introduction to programming using Scratch. In another station, students generated and edited text, images, and video for the website using Android XO tablets—most notable for being used in the One Laptop Per Child program—and were introduced to a variety of educational applications and collaborative software. In the final station, students learned about generating and editing Websites using HTML. Throughout the camp, all students were exposed to strategies for project planning and project management.

Marist students were afforded the opportunity to apply their knowledge in the field while giving back to an underprivileged community with limited access to technology education. Computer Science students gained hands-on experience setting up a local area network and providing technology education to an economically repressed population. Spanish students gained real-world experience as curriculum developers and interlocutors between the team of Computer Science students and camp attendees.

Marist students gained cultural and historical knowledge of the Dominican Republic through this innovative and engaging service-learning project, as well as through trips that explored the cultural and natural landmarks of the Dominican Republic’s north coast. On the weekends and in the afternoons, the group visited a Jewish museum in Sosua, learned how to surf, snorkeled around coral reefs, went zip-lining through Monkey Jungle, and explored local beaches and caves. This program will be offered on an annual basis.

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