Archive for February, 2008

We thought we were excited about the XO, but our parents loved them even more. After the workshop that teaching matters held for us at KAPPA IV, we took them home. All of us played with the XO software like the camera, the writing, the music, and some of the math stuff too. When we came back to school our teachers told us to talk about our experience with the XO at home. As a class we created a large list of things we did. Out of the whole class, 23 looked at the neighborhood option and only saw ourselves in the XO, 10 of us attempted to chat, 10 used the record activity, 10 used the music activity, 23 were able to go into the writing software and show our parents our work on the feature article angles, and 23 attempted to go on the internet. Though 2 students thought they went on the internet, it turns out at they did not. The best part about this experience was that about 10 of our parents were able to turn on the XO on their own and look at the kids work without help.  We hope to experience more during the february week in a couple of days. The XO managers, us, are responsible for sharing our experience next week.

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We scheduled a meeting with parents of our KAPPA IV students participating in the project for this evening at 5:30 PM to introduce them to the XO, inform them of the project, answer their questions, and ultimately let the children take the computers home. KAPPA IV’s parent coordinator, Rosa Colon, translated the letter we sent home into Spanish and called all the parents last week to confirm that they would be able to attend. Little did we know that there would be a veritable snowstorm in New York this evening! As I write this, there is two inches of snow on the ground and the snow is now changing over to hail and ice. But the parents at KAPPA IV braved the bad weather and climbed to the fifth floor of KAPPA’s building (most of them led eagerly by their children) to learn about this project their children have been buzzing about.

We crowded them all into the classroom and invited them to partake in sandwiches, soda and cookies that the parent coordinator arranged. Then I asked them to complete a survey devised in partnership with the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers’ College (Columbia University). After we all settled in, I took a deep breath and asked “So what have your children told you about this project?” And the answer, which came from many, was summed up simply in one word- “Excitement!” The parents told us how excited their children were about the computers and how they couldn’t wait to take them home. Professor Almanzar and Rosa Colon translated for Principal Carr and myself as we led them through the same activity we used to introduce students to the project. We explained the scope of the project and their role in it.

Then children showed their parents the Write activity and the Record activity. We asked all students to take a picture with their parents for posterity (and fun). After they spent some time becoming familiar with the machines, we showed parents the Journal activity and explained the importance of checking in on their students’ experiences every week. Parents asked questions about the computers and their capabilities and compatibility with software and applications that they know. Then we stressed the rules for students and gave them permission to take the machines home. The parents and children left to trudge home in the lousy weather with raised spirits as they cloaked their XOs in backpacks and under coats. Pictures and more details soon…

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Today we used the XO in the class. We did the same thing as we did yesterday. We had to write our work in the software and then share it with our friends. A big difference today was the managers. There were no problems giving out the computers. The class did it pretty quickly. That was nice to see. Its cool to see that the XO is getting easier to use. We did not use the internet today but thats ok. We got to practice our typing. For homework, we have to rewrite the work in our writers notebooks. We look forward to doing our research on the internet. But most of all take them home. I cant wait to show the camera to my family.

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During this lesson, it was clear that the students understood the protocol for distributing, booting, using, and shutting down the XO. There were no management problems whatsoever.

The lesson involved the student writing down the a new angle for the feature article topic. Though the concept is not easy, the students used the write software to type their new angle and share them. It was clear that students used the XO to show their work by turning the screen while others just read their work. Though in a traditional classroom, we would have chosen to write in notebooks. But we are exploring multiple uses of the XO. However, it is important to note that during the whole class sharing, some students forgot their angles. It seems that they did not type their angles, something that I think would have been recorded if they were using their writers notebooks. I think the keyboard might have gotten in the way of their thoughts. Learning how to type is not easy, and so, we have to make sure the students thoughts are not lost in the typing. For the purposes of this pilot, we used the XO. This class is well equipped mentally to rewrite or rethink any lesson. The teachers guidance is extremely effective and provides the necessary scaffolding to reteach lessons. However, I think the writers notebooks are more useful for the beginning stages of ANY unit.

I think that the XO needs to be used for sharing and uploading work, research and looking for extra resources in the moodle site. We will continue to use the XO for those mentioned items but will reserve brainstorming, notetaking, and drafting in the writers notebooks. The research, revisions, and publishing will be on the XO. A major item that we also have to address is to prepare students for when they take the XO home. We have to make sure that the students log what they are learning from the XO through blogging or sharing through the mesh network. We can create a set of questions or log that will organize their experiences in software and hardware. We are working on it.

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scholars eager to explore!

After yesterdays’ writer’s workshop activity with the XO, I asked the scholars how they felt about the activity.  I asked them if they thought that the acitivity was a success.  Immediately they said “yes” but i sensed a bit of reservation in their tone.  With a little prying they voiced a resounding sentiment: They want to really explore the possibilities the XO affords.  In short, they want more!!

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Today the lesson went REALLY well. I am not sure how it could have been improved. The assigned XO managers make sure that the XO’s were distributed to the respective tables. Then all the students were instructed to turn on their XO and let them boot while we started our minilesson for the feature article lesson. During writers work time, the students completed their activity on the write software and then shared their work with their peers during sharing time.

At the end of the lesson, the students were instructed to shut down and stack up the XO’s in the middle of the table. The managers told me if there were any noticeable problems with the XO’s at their tables. There only seemed to be one problem with an XO. It appears to freeze the screen and not allow to see the work previously typed. Within 5 minutes, it fixed itself and the student continued his task. So, so far, everything is working fine. The real test will be when its time to share their work online and send for their work to be printed as an email attachment. We will continue to explore…

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Schools interested in XO

Spoke to Brian Culot a principal interested in the XO project and invited him to follow the blog. He raised a couple of issues that concerned him having seen the device.

  1. ability to charge devices that do not fit a laptop cart – also security. He thought there would need to be a specialized cart developed.
  2. looking at the device for 2nd and 3rd graders his parents want students to develop keyboarding skills — not as the only thing they do, but as one thing they learn. He has middle schoolers who are still type to slow  to write fluently.   I know keyboarding gets contentious but the machines should support what educators, parents and students want to do with them.. so is there keyboarding software that would work on the linux machine?
  3. He was also concerned  that students might not be able to write fluently with this keyboard… so kids.. can you.. does the keyboard slow you down.. or do you need to learn to type faster as part of writing…
  4. What kind of training/support would teachers need, if they had a curriculum and wanted to explore integrating the tool to support inquiry within in single unit – say a study of ancient egypt.
  5. Brian I know you had other issues, I hope you will post them in the comments.  Educators please ask our kids questions!

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Our second day on the XO

We are the two students chosen from the XO pilot class at KAPPA IV to talk about our experience for the next couple of weeks. Today we were on the XO in literacy class. We had to follow some steps on the board. We had to go to the terminal and type in a code to get on the internet. Our friends were excited to use the XO and learn a new technology. One of us had a problem with the internet. It did not get on at all. But one of us had no problems with the internet. We were told at the end of class that we are table monitors. We need to make sure everyone is on task with the XO. We are as comfortable with the XO as we were on Friday. It takes a while to boot up but after that it goes pretty fast. I guess its not as different as we thought. We did not get a lot of time on it today but we hope to tomorrow. We only had one period with literacy today but tomorrow we will have more time.   

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Day two on the XO

Today was the second day of the XO pilot. It was a great opportunity to assess how the new unit, feature article, interacts with the XO. Amazingly so, the cooperating teacher and I managed to teach the kids how to get on the internet, log onto the TMI website, and teach about the four main characteristics of feature article in 42 minutes. The reason it worked was because the directions were clearly laid out and the students were already comfortable with some aspects of the XO. The students were motivated to learn and therefore listened carefully to instructions.

As a technology consultant I am seeing that the students are not having problems with the keyboard, the internet, or the screen. They students are eager to learn from these XO and are seeing a different purpose for technology in the classroom. Even better, was the impressions of the teacher and the students. The teacher thought the lesson was a great success for both the XO and the unit. The two students also expressed satisfaction in their experience. They did not find any glitches in the directions and thought that the XO was just like a laptop.

Just like any other tool, clear directions make all the difference. On the smartboard, I displayed the steps to XO success. I also wrote it out on chart paper for future daily use. Remarkably, there were only three problems with the internet. But, as we all know, there are many problems with regular laptops and wireless technology. It seems that the XO offers a VERY similar experience as regular laptops. This is a fantastic observation since the XO was underestimated. Thank you Elizabeth and Evan for spending such long hours figuring out the server configuration.

Tomorrow, we are going to have more time on the XO. I will be able to assess how well the students can open the computer and use the writing software to do writers work time. This should not be a problem since they are used to writing in their notebooks. And ofcourse, we hope to see students sharing their light XO to a peer during sharing time. We will see!

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We handed out XO machines to the 6th grade students at KAPPA IV for the first time on Friday. It was a very exciting experience for all involved. Solangel Brujan and Professor Almanzar structured the students’ first experience with the machines to ensure that they know how to open and care for the computers as well set up their names correctly. They also provided the students with time to explore on their own. We focused on the Record activity and the Write activity to start.
The students were totally enthralled. Towards the end of the experience, we asked students to write their reflections in a document on their XOs. I think they convey their impressions better than I can. Here are just a few:

Some first impressions from the students at KAPPA IV (taken from the documents they drafted on the XO for the first time)…

  • My impressions of the XO laptop is that there are many features. This is so cool because you can take it home and finish any work that you can do. I like that the keyboard is quiet. This is the best thing that ever happened to me. It has a handle and it is for Kids. That is so cool. You can take it anywhere. I LOVE THIS NEW LAPTOP. It is so easy that I will use it to study for all my tests. My breath was taken away.
  • I think this xo computer is the the best computer that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s poppin’. It can do things that a regular computer can’t do.
  • What i like about this xo is that it is so cool and it does not make noise. It is better than the computer that I have home because it does not have internet and this one does. I think all the kids are going to buy it and like it.
  • It is cool. The keyboard is really soft and with this little gadget I’ll be able to have a better career and a great job for the future.

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