Thursday, January 24, 2008

The XO Laptop - An Education Project

So far, I haven't spent much time with the XO applications that ship on the device. My children have been dabbling with TamTam and some of the others.

I have been fussing with getting Firefox, Flash, Skype and running. In the meantime, I have been learning a lot and experiencing a fair degree of frustration. This frustration is probably similar to the frustration/crankiness/feeling-dumbness that novice computer users experience at one of my workshops about Sketchpad or Fathom or some other application. When they are unfamiliar with the keyboard, don't understand the file system and can't find the sample files they are supposed to load and it feels like the experience is flashing by them, it is no wonder that they might think the whole thing is stoopid.

I think it is often useful to put ourselves back in that learning mode to regenerate empathy. It is like when Math teachers try to get a CAS to do what they are very comfortable doing on the blackboard. They have trouble and it should generate empathy for their students who will have trouble with whatever approach to algebra is employed since they are new to it.

OLPC has an insightful response to the rather lousy review that the Guardian gave to the device (it's for the kids - stupid!). The reviewer sounds like he was trying to do a lot of the same things as I am. We talk about paper-trained teachers. Well I am paper-trained and Windows-trained!

Like the Possum Lodgers, I can pray "I'm a man, but I can change. If I have to. I guess." But it is not so bad yet that I have to invoke their motto "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati", "When all else fails, play dead".

1 comment:

Ross Isenegger said...

From the cross-published version:

Interesting observation Ross.

It IS a good reminder as we look for the familiar bits so that we can see the changes and differences. I find it intriguing because it show what skills we actually call on most likely without knowing it. Those are the ones we should perhaps be helping people learn even now. They may seem VERY basic to us but the XO is helping us see what they are I think.

So here is my starting list if I remember correctly from the first day I got it. (some may not really be for beginners but since we call on them maybe I am wrong - maybe the underlying stuff is more important than we think):

- how to start it up?
- how do I find a program
- what do all those symbols mean around the screen?
- what do all the keys do?
- do I have to save things (and if I do)
- how do I do it?
- where do they go? (even if I don't have to save them)
- how do I get them back?
- what is the file structure like?
- how can I see the "tree"?
- can I really screw things up in any way?
- if I lose EVERYTHING how do I re-image?
- how do I add programs?
- what is this Journal thing?

And of course - how does Linux work! OK so that may not be necessary for most people.

I actually enjoy the challenge of the XO but then I do know my way round other machines - I enjoy the risk taking and that to me is a significant and useful feeling.

Geoff Day on Thursday, 24 January 2008, 15:24