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Appologies for not posting in a few weeks. We have been very busy planning workshops in order to create a more formal training program around the OLPC. I had a tech break-through today however, and thought I should share. Some background first – NYC schools have a robust wifi network of Cisco routers that do not broadcast their SSID’s – and for whatever reason, the traditional work-around of manually editing the networks.conf file doesn’t work. So we wrote a simple python script that connects directly. The problem however, is students have to go into the terminal each time and type in “python wifi.py” – this is fine for grades 4+, but unrealistic for early elem.

From here on out will be a mini-tutorial on how to connect to hidden wifi networks (networks that don’t broadcast their SSID) in NYC and place an icon on the desktop to control the connection:

Step One – download ExecCommand.xo

JT Olds wrote a great little xo application for running shell scripts. Download it from the wiki: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/ExecCommand

and open it from the browser activity – it will place an icon on the desktop that looks like a gear.

Step Two – setup Sudo

Sudo is a linux application that allows you to give special privlages to users.  Since we are trying to connect to the wifi from the desktop, we are the OLPC user – which does not have the correct provlages to run some of the commands we need to.  SO:

  1. open the teminal activity
  2. type in “su -l”
  3. type in “yum install sudo” – let it download (you have to be online obviously) and say “y” to any packages
  4. type in “visudo”
  5. press the “i” key
  6. scroll down and find where it says “Default requiretty” – type a “#” in front of this (comment it out)
  7. scroll to the bottom and add this line “olpc ALL = (ALL) NOPASSWD:ALL”

Step Three – Modify the ExecCommand application to connect to your wifi

  1. still in the terminal as the su user
  2. type in “nano /home/olpc/Activities/ExceCommand.activity/bin/exec-script.sh”
  3. remove the second line (leave the first) and add:
    sudo -i service NetworkManager stop
    sudo -i service network stop
    sudo killall /sbin/dhclient eth0
    sudo /sbin/iwconfig/ eth0 essid <enter your ssid here>> key <<enter your key here>>
    sudo /sbin/dhclient eth0

That’s it!  Unfortunately you disable the NetworkManager – which I guess you could try on your network and see if it keeps the connection.  For some reason, we have to in NYC.

BTW this ExecCommand application is great for lots of this – launching Firefox from the desktop for instance…

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I took this photo with an XO using the Record activity during class – students are getting ready to draft their feature articles.

Yesterday, the Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University conducted focus groups with the students to learn about their experiences with the XOs over the February break. Many of the students dug right in and experimented with all of the activities. They used the Record activity, the Tam Tam music activities, and wrote parts of their Feature Articles for Literacy class. The most surprising thing was their collective interest in the Measure activity. The students liked watching the sound waves move. It made us realize that they are eager to learn how these other activities work!

The students were definitely eager to chat. All of them tried the chat activity, called their classmates, and tried to make it work. None of them could make it work because they live too far away from each other to be in range without the Internet. One student helped her mom crunch some numbers using the calculator activity.

I will try to post some of the data about what students did on their own once ILT tabulates everything.

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The past two weeks the students have been completely immersed in the writing process with their feature article unit. Clearly, the students have become very comfortable with the XO’s, as if they had used them for a long time. As I sat in the back of the room helping a student edit their work, I took a glance at the rest of the class and witnessed any consultants dream; independently engaged students with all the necessary resources. The production and cooperation in this class has clearly changed since the last time I worked with the students in the memoir unit. Those memoirs were fantastic, but this unit entailed learning a new genre and a new technology. I have been very pleased with the outcome of this unit and am now planning the final publishing of their work on the TMI moodle site.

Today I played around with two documents; one on the xo and one on a pc.  Because they are feature articles, I pasted the work in a 2 column table so that the writing could look like a newspaper article.  I tried to copy and paste their work on the writingmatters ezine and found several things. I found out that the writingmatters website accepts the xo work in a two column table but not from the pc. Also, I didn’t have to change the font size to 12 on the xo document but I did have to on the pc document. However, a consistent problem is the slow speed of the xo. It’s not  a big difference, but with the lack of classroom time, I can expect impatient students getting somewhat frustrated if the xo is slow to boot. In time though, all of these students have gotten used to the pace of the xo.

As this xo pilot wraps up in the next week, Mr. Almanzar and I are discussing the implications of the xo in the writing process, technology and instruction integration, technology management, and classroom dynamics. Most importantly we are going to compare and contrast the work of the xo students from their previous genre and the current feature article. We will also evaluate the work of students from different levels; E.S.L, special education, level 1/2, and level 3/4. We will also look at the feature articles across the classes, making sure that we can gauge if and how the xo impacted the students writing.

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Having an XO is the GREATEST!!

Having an xo for 4 or 5 weeks was a pretty good experience. I learned the functions of it like how to get on to the internet by writing in terminal wifi .py. Its a certain code to acess the internet or block ther users except for the school internet wireless connection. Writing my feature article was fun because I was doing actual research on the xo. I got plenty of information to make my feature feature article a 4 for a grade. Probably, a laptop would of much more work because its for audults and kids wouldnt know anything about it. But really I thought it was slightly similar in a way, we all know its a pc different but it had a voice record and video but highly advanced. Having this xo is really fun and I hope the department of education will let us have one.

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4 weeks in counting

Having a xo made me really feel happy because it’s like a little toy but a toy that you helps you get better as a writer and etc. I feel i got a good grade because of the xo it helped me write fast and put me in a position that made me really think of ways of making my feature article better and better every week. There’s really no comparing the XO and the P.C thier both so different in so many ways , you can just tell by the way they look. Also, having a Xo is hard work because it’s a new thing and not everything will work the way it’s planned to.For example, for the first week I had a lot of trobele getting onto the internet.

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Xo’s and our unit…

After a 4 day conference down in New Orleans I returned to work today and after reviewing the students work over the last few days, I felt elated.  The feature articles are really coming together: Students  take to their saved drafts with an enthusiasm and willigness to improve that is gratifying.  The cohesiveness and continuity that having personal laptops affords has certaintly emboldened my students to stretch their writing toward a new level.  The editing steps, which are normally among the most challenging in terms of student motivation, have been completed more pro-actively, and certainly with far less reluctance than previously.  The economy of space(i.e- having everything on one clean draft) and the ease of changes made contribute to this progress. An additional thought:  Using the xo’s has also fostered a notable commonality among the students.  To explain, I’ve noticed that the students are more amendable in allowing their peers  to review and offer critique to their work.   Speculating a bit, I would suggest that the collective use of the Xo’s has promoted a certain vestedness among students.  In other words, they see their immersion in the unit of feature articles against the backdrop of a an exciting new technological experiment, and each compliments the other well.  More to follow……

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Drumming and the XO

I have been learning a lot about my topic using the xo. My topic angle is how drumming helps build mental and physical coordination. I wrote my outline and started drafting my feature article at school and home. My teacher lets me take them home so that I could continue typing. This has been really cool because now we dont have to share the computers with all of the other kids. We all did to get finish our memoirs in october using the regular laptops but having the xo gives me more time to draft and revise. I have copied my outline below.

Physical benefits of drumming
1. what are some ways drumming can help your respiratory system.
2. coordination
3. overall agility, flexibility, stamina

Examples of real life drummers
1. matt ritter
2. neil peart
3. claudel mejia

How to make drumming available for everyone
1. people interested in drumming
2. interview answers
3. facts and statistics

I got to put this on the teaching matters classroom and my friends make some real cool comments about my work. They said to rock on, but to add more details to my outline.

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