Sunday, February 17, 2008

XO Joy

I know it seems like I've gone off the deep end with all this talk here, and in other places, about the XO laptop. Well, sometimes things happen, and you have to decide if you're on the train or off. I'm on, and my classroom is a marvelous mix of exploration and chaos right now. It's exhausting sometimes. Mostly, it's just so much fun.

XOXOXO cLast week my classroom received another donation of an XO. We had our first donation a couple of weeks earlier. I had brought in the one that I bought right after Christmas vacation. So my kids were pretty amazed. It was funny, in some ways. I told them, exasperated, that I had just figured out how they could share TWO XO's - and now we had THREE, for goodness sake. They thought this was pretty cool, and wondered if we'd be getting more...

It's not like we don't have any other computers - we're swimming in them at this point. The XO's have put us perilously close to 1:1. Just when I thought I had all computer management issues worked out, we have three more.

But these three are so different. They connect to the internet (and thus the kids' blogs), but they can't print to our printers. They can chat and instantly share applications with each other, but they can't get to all the kids' work saved on our network. One of the biggest hurdles is it's difficult to show the kids how to use them, and find enough time for them to explore on them. It's not like a different OS, or platform - it's more like using a computer that uses a totally different language - that also does totally different things.

XOXOXO bWe are having a truly great time with them. This past week they started producing PowerPoint presentations about our XO's. They were taking pictures of them, working with a partner, still learning PowerPoint (only the second time they've used it) - but having a bast. They were almost done when we got another one - so we all rolled our eyeballs in joy as they took pictures of the three, and had to change slide content. Some of the presentations turned out pretty good, and I'll put 3 or 4 of the best online, soon. Naturally, we will be doing video later on....

Waterproof XOThen there are the things you just never do. Like send kids to different parts of the school to see if they can still chat with each other. Good grief. We are still experimenting with the range of the mesh network - it is definitely bigger than from our WAP. But I knew I had really gone too far when I found myself pouring water on an XO keyboard so my kids could take a picture of the XO's waterproof qualities for their presentations. I really did this, I can't believe it. Of course the XO was fine.

This joy of exploration with children is one of the bonuses that comes with being a teacher. I don't get to do it every day, but I'm really thankful when it comes.

And yes, the kids are writing about our XO's. They have blogged their initial impressions (when we only had one), so there will definitely be more.



Anonymous said...


I appreciate you sharing your successes and challenges. Here's a thought. I only have one but want to give it to one of our grade one or two classes. Do you think there's a way your class your mentor/tutor some grade one students? Not sure if we how or if we could but just wondering if you're interested.

Mark Ahlness said...

Hi Dean, it would of course be real cool to do some live stuff back and forth, but all that's blocked by my school district. What does come to mind that might be interesting (and do-able, right now) would be to set up a chat via a Jabber server like Tom Hoffman had set up for a while at I'll keep an eye out to see if another one pops up. Thanks! - Mark

Jeff said...

Hi Mark,

I've just set up a blog called XO Experience:

I have an XO that I haven't touched yet...not because I haven't wanted but because I brought it to school and the students have been all over it. I saw an opportunity to have students reflect about their experience with the laptop and wanted to hear what they have to say about the machine, after all it was developed with them in mind. So I went to our high school writing center and have some high school students who are interested in writing about their experience.

Of course I don't want to stop there I want to get voices from all over the world in one spot talking about their experiences with the laptop. So that's my goal: To create a site of student voices who have used or are using the XO laptop.

I would love to get your students involved. We can create a username just for your kids so that they can log in and just write. That's what this is about just writing. I don't care about spelling, about complete sentences..I care about their experience.

If you're interested....let's talk!

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark,

Thanks again for keeping up with this. Mine is sitting at home because I keep forgetting to bring it to school. Today when I was doing my 15 minutes of blog reading and reading your blog and your kid's blogs the kindergarten class came into the lab (I have sort of a cubicle in the lab). There is a special ed student in the class who wanders off. The teacher did not have her usual parent volunteers, so I had Parker come and sit with me and I read him your student blog and showed him the XO laptops. I told him that next week I would bring mine and he could try it out.

I am SO glad you are using them this way. They ARE so different and take time to figure out. I think there is value in the figuring, but it takes time... Something I don't have much of.