Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning the XO Way

The first user - on OLPC (Lincoln)Never, never would I have thought I'd ever have a 1:1 laptop classroom. I bought an XO laptop at the end of 2007. So cool. It was a part of the first "G1G1" - Give One, Get One. I paid for 2, and got one of them. The other was shipped to a child in Mongolia, I think.

OLPC Stamp from UruguayI was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Americans did the same. It was the great vision that Nicholas Negroponte had. Besides being a unique humanitarian gesture aimed at improving the education of the world's underprivileged,  the XO laptop was a unique piece of hardware that kick-started the competitive innovations leading to the netbook, the Kindle, and yes, even the iPad.

Seattle XO UsersHere in Seattle, I went to local usergroup meetings in a warehouse kind of space and met with some very cool geeky folks who were so into the XO. I was over my head lost trying to understand how they worked. I mentioned to one of the organizers that I was a third grade teacher. Within 2 weeks I had 2 XO laptops donated to my classroom.  I was astounded and overwhelmingly grateful. XO's continued to trickle in from all over the place for the next two years.

When the 2010-11 school year started, I had 11 XO laptops. Three months into that school year I now have 28 XO laptops in my classroom. They have all been donated.

2:1 XO laptops again at HTTP:// today in Seattle #olpcIn December of 2010 OLPC News ran a piece about us. A couple of individuals sent us XO's as a result. Then Mid-Michigan XO Repair Center heard about us and began reconditioning and sending us cast-off XO's. The final step was going directly to OLPC with a proposal, asking them to donate XO's that had been unused, returned, or damaged. They said yes (unbelievable!), and the unimagined dream headed toward reality. OLPC sent 10 of them to the Mid-Michigan XO Repair Center, which fixed them up and sent them on to me. The last two arrived yesterday.

What makes this whole thing especially hard to imagine is that we are an affluent school. My classroom was loaded with technology already, tons of it. The XO was not designed for us, no way.

12 XO's of Christmas. The holiday season begins.But so what, here we are. My kids love the XO's. We have experimented and explored some. Today I rolled them out, one on each desk. I told the kids that I hadn't even tried out 10 of them. Wasn't sure if they were all charged up enough. I reviewed the basics of operation. We talked about where they came from, who they were designed for, and why they were with us.

When I said, "Go", there were 25 "happy songs" and kids staring, waiting expectantly, for theirs to boot. The XO is definitely not fast, but nobody complained. I said they could explore, play. They knew a few of the "activities".

An OLPC NeighborhoodThen I mentioned Chat. Well, the next 15 minutes was incredible excitement and chaos. Experimentation, sharing, and learning. Even mistakes, and a couple of errors in judgement. We talked about that. We talked about how you could use these to communicate even if you lived in a village without electricity. They got it. We talked about sharing information on the XO, understanding protocols, procedures, and options. Mesh networks, battery life, etc, etc.

We were talking about and grasping a new system. With 8 and 9 year olds. Their curiosity was exciting. Their ability to quickly grasp and explain parts of this to their classmates blew me away. They want to know more. I can't wait to learn with them.

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