Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I have not had an hour like this - ever.

Yesterday in my third grade classroom I was at a teacher computer. I invited the whole class, in seven student computer groups, to join me in an activity, a series of questions about our recent field trip to Seattle's Pike Place Market.

The medium was a series of "slides", as you might see in PowerPoint. The questions were written on the slides, which were a series of pictures we took at the Market. The kids were to draw directly on their computer screens or enter text to answer the questions. Then they were to "submit" them to me.

XO Classroom Presenter demo 2I saw their submissions immediately. I could share any group's answers instantly on all the computers, with a couple of clicks. I moved them all to a different slide when it was time, and they worked on a new task - then they sent in answers, changed their answers even, resubmitted, etc, etc. Amazing and mind boggling, truly.

I circulated, laptop cradled in my arm, chatting with groups at their computers, clicking on this or that to focus the learning, asking for more, congratulating, and so on. Finally, I turned them loose, unlocking their computers, so they could navigate from slide to slide, to finish the rest of the slides - and to go back and change their submissions on previous ones.

We were all on XO laptops. Eight of them.

Sometimes when you follow your instincts, you get lucky.

XO Classroom Presenter demo 1What these four University of Washington students developed is amazing. They worked on it for four months, I think. They had vision, saw a need, and came up with a possible solution. I think what they developed is remarkable. The program was stable and robust, working almost perfectly in a classroom of third graders who certainly did give it a good run...

In the midst of the excitement and chaos I took a few pictures - and I kicked myself for not taking any video.

XO Classroom Presenter demo 3Instincts - it's important to trust and follow them. I bought an XO laptop because it felt right, and I thought it would be great with the kids I teach. I ended up with FOUR in my classroom. I replied to a group of university students in a forum setting because they were working on a program for the XO, were looking for a classroom, and were in our neighborhood. It felt right - and look where we ended up.

To think that this program could run in a remote village anywhere in the world, even one without electricity - well, that really excites me. I think a few of my kids got that as well.



Anonymous said...

Mark, thanks for sharing your experience. It's amazing what a skilled, thoughtful, and committed teacher can do with a group of eager and engaged students. Moreover, your blog is an outstanding example of professional reflection - a model for other teachers to follow. Thanks for your inspiration. It makes me want to do something more than Starfall and Sesamestreet Workshop in Kindergarten. Any suggestions????

Vernon Larsen

rgesthuizen said...

What a great experience and thank you for sharing this. We did something similar in Victoria, Australia pooling several laptops from all over the state for a conference workshop. Sugar is an amazing bit of collaborative technology when you get away from the firewalled thinking that is behind current technologies.