I haven't had so much fun just playing, since I got my Lincoln Logs set. And this time it was at school.
I had bought an XO laptop, and my kids had enjoyed exploring with it. They had blogged about their initial impressions. Some had even read from their blogs on it at a Barnes and Noble "Coffeehouse Night".
A week ago my classroom received a donation of a second XO laptop. Management of "fair" access to the first one in my third grade classroom had been a challenge, to say the least. Then all of a sudden we had TWO.
(Larry, if you are reading here, you have no idea - THANK YOU!)
Anyway, there we were with two of the coolest things you can imagine for an 8 or 9 year old. Sitting on my desk, next to my grown-up laptop.
Yesterday I somehow figured out how the two XO's could chat, via the built in mesh network. This I had heard about, but when I saw it in action, it was amazing. When my kids saw it, well they just about came unglued. The next time we tried it, it didn't work. So we worked on it, me and the kids.
Today, we finally figured out the procedure for starting a chat, extending an invitation to chat to another XO, the acceptance of that invitation, and getting started.
Once the connection was made, all else was easy. Instant IM mode: capital letters disappeared, grammar/spelling entered a different dimension... The kids were entranced.
I had let our new XO sit on the desk of our "student of the week" for 2 days. She could use it whenever she had a free moment. That was bad enough, but imagine the chorus of "Not Fair" when a couple of kids got to actually "chat" with her from the other XO. We dealt with that, weathered that storm. They know their time will come. But waiting is hard.
Enjoying this success during my lunch, sitting at my desk, I wondered whether you could share other applications on the mesh network. Silly me. Besides chat, I found "write" could be shared. It was kind of like having two keyboards with input to the same document - but not side by side. They could be a long ways apart - like maybe even from one side of a village to the other... this will be amazing, I think.
But when I found I could share "Record", I knew I really had something. Take a picture on your XO, and the other XO sees it. Record a video on your XO, and the other XO sees it. And obviously vice-versa. You don't have to "send" anything to the other XO - it is just THERE, instantly. It was mind boggling.
As you might imagine, when I showed my kids, they went nuts. I joined them. Can't remember a time when I had so much fun in the classroom. The school day ended way too soon.
Somebody might ask, "yes, but were you teaching anything, and were your kids learning anything?" Duh.
During the day we talked about what it might be like in a village somewhere where there was no electricity - but many of the kids had XO laptops, powered by hand cranks or pull strings. We talked about what it might be like for a child sitting in a little cottage sending a message to one - or many other - kids in the village on an XO. We talked, and they thought, about what life might be like in that kind of world.
We are just beginning to understand the potential of this amazing machine, just beginning to understand the collaborative vision of its creators, and just beginning to understand that there is a big wide world out there, and that our life on it is blessed with good fortune.
tags: xo olpc