Thursday, July 14, 2011

Site Visit: Kibwezi

Yesterday we made a site visit to Kibwezi, (,, an OLPC deployment from 2009. The sponsors from Burke Church in Virgina are back checking on the progress of their deployment and updating the XOs, so we stopped in.

Already, the effects of the collaboration have begun:

  • We have connected Eric, their computer studies teacher, with Mutungi, our local partner and have begun building the OLPC Kenyan network.
  • We have learned what Kibwezi finds useful in the XOs, and have reconsidered these features for our own deployment.
    • In Kibwezi, they are very interested in using Gnome as a way to teach "normal" computer operations.
We are very excited to see this partnership blossom.

Teacher Training Session 6: Sugar

This would be the last training session of our time here. Over the term break, the teachers will continue their training with our Kenyan partners. Instead of focusing on the use of different activities as we have done, for this training session, we focused on general aspects of the Sugar OS and computing.

How it went:
(From the trainer):

·      I was at the black board, everyone had a computer in front of them, and Kikonde drifted among the teachers for when they needed help.
·      I started by inviting everyone to open an activity of their choice, so as to demonstrate using the home button, and the activity button.
·      I then demonstrated the fact that no matter what activity you were in, you could see a black bar across the top, a grey bar beneath it, and then the rest of the activity on the whole screen.
o   I told everyone to open different activities to drive the point home that it didn’t matter which activity you were it would look similar.
o   This may have been a mistake, as people focused on the activities rather than the topic.
·      Next, I had everyone save the activity through the “activity” tab, and write a custom name. At this point, I explained the confusing idea, that the cursor will look different depending on the function.
o   Arrow
o   Line
o   Arrow with spiral thing
o   Arrow with plus sign
o   Hand
o   Etc
·      This launched into a discussion of how to control the text cursor.
o   Click and drag to highlight
o   Use mouse to move text cursor
o   Use arrow keys to move text cursor
o   “The flashing line in the middle of the text is the focus, and anything you type will be inserted at that line”
·      We all then successfully used the journal to resume our activities.
·      This turned into a conversation about Disk Space, and using the star buttons to prevent important activities from being deleted.

Note: at this point, I realized a flaw in my teaching. I was telling everyone what to do, so I changed my style so I would be asking them much more questions.

·      I reviewed what we learned so far by asking questions. Everyone was on the same page so I moved to group view.
·      I asked “what do you see”
o   Some grey XOs
o   Some color XOs
·      Because not all computers were friends with each other, some were able to see all the XOs, and some only could see a few. I explained that in group view, you could see all your friends whether they were around or not. They wanted to know how to make friends, so I brought them to Neighborhood view.
·      Neighborhood view: “What do you see?”
o   XOs
o   Circles
·      I got the teachers to realize together that everyone saw the same amount of XOs, and we worked out:
·      Neighborhood view: Everyone who is here.
·      Group view: all of your friends, whether they are here or not
·      We then explored what would happen if one person connected to a different network.
o   Important lesson in troubleshooting- there are 3 networks and to collaborate you have to be on the same mesh.
·      After everyone became friends with everyone, we moved to SD cards.
·      We used the SD cards to learn about searching the journal, deleting from the journal, and sending files from one computer to another.
·      Here, we learned much about the frame as well
o   Different activities you have open.
o   Different status
§  Network
§  SD card in or out
§  Battery

This was the end of the lesson. This was a very gratifying lesson because:
·      When the time was up, I invited offered “I am willing to teach as long as you are willing to stay,” and many teachers stayed.
·      The teachers were able to walk knowing how to navigate the activities, rather than just how to use the activities.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Teacher Session 5: A Project

Today, we had our second to last training session with the teachers. After just a few days of working with them, we had them do a similar project to what we had the community members do on Saturday. We sent the teachers out with Record, and had them come back to the lab and work with write to make a project.

We are so proud, that after just a few session, the teachers have made so much progress. While just a few sessions ago, they were having difficulty with the mouse, now they are creating productive and exciting documents. Check these out: (All created on the XO in about 1 hour)

Information about the new computer lab.

Information about the school

An important message to children.


Today, we ceremoniously began the next step of our partnership with Bura Primary School. We officially opened the new computer lab, and the jointly owned computers said hello to their new home. We were honorably joined by Willingtone Ong'ande the new Acting District Education Officer of the Mwatate District, along with Assistant Education Officer and Head of the Mwambirwa Division, Stanley Mwang'ombe, Assistant Education Officer and Head of the Mwatate Division, Raymond Mwalugha, and Dixon Bongoli, the Educational Quality Assurance Officer of the Bura Division.

In addition to these dignitaries and our team, we were joined by the Bura Primary's visionary headmaster Mr. Mwangoo, his deputy headmaster, and excellent team of 10 teachers. Students also joined us, on this historic day.

Community Workshop number 2

This weekend, we held another workshop open to the community.

In attendance, we were happy to have Waiganjo, Mutungi, and Samuel, the newest members of our team. Mutungi and Waiganjo come from Kenyatta Secondary School, where Mutungi teaches science and runs the e-learning program, and where Waiganjo teaches English and has involved himself in the e-learning program. Samuel comes from Bura Girls Secondary School, where he runs the e-learning program. These gentleman have agreed to work with the teachers at Bura Primary School, when we are in America. We are very happy to have them on our team.

Knowing that we would have more numbers than our last community workshop, we came up with a plan. As people trickle in, get them started on the record activity. Then, when more came, send them out as a team to document their surroundings. When they were ready, help them turn what they made into some sort of project using Write.xo or Memorize.xo or Paint.xo.

As people did trickle in, this proved to be very successful. Our new team members would help the community members get started on record.xo . One group made this brochure about our location using record.xo and write.xo:

Other teams took photos and made memorize.xo activities:
Some teams were distracted by some of the many other activities on the XO.

Wikipedia.xo was hugely popular, as users were very interested in reading and learning.

Read.xo was hugely popular for the same reasons as Wikipedia. Additionally, we have loaded a book in Kidawida, the local language, and everyone spent a good deal of time reading this.

TuxMath.xo People were excited to get lost in the space world, and found themselves very happy to work through the math problems in order to shoot down the meteors.

We are able to see that the library benefits of the XOs will be utilized. We will want to find even more books to add to the computers.

We are also reminded, that with creativity implementation, computers make learning fun and addictive. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Teacher Session 4: Basics

Aaron explains the internet connection

For this lesson, the teachers were surprised that we were not using the computers, rather going over the basics of the responsibilities of owning a computer, that will make the project successful.

Ground Rules:

Food and drink should not be allowed near the computers – preferably no food and drink in computer room.

Computers should be completely shut down if user leaves for more than 10 minutes.
Computers and equipment should be stored in plastic boxes.  All should be completely shut down before being stored.
Computers should not be left in the sun.
Computers should be unplugged if there is a power outage. 
Computers should not be charged overnight due to possibility of power outage.
Charging of computers should be monitored by a responsible person.
User Guide will be stored in computer lab.  It is a reference book and should never leave the computer lab.
Users are encouraged to especially read the section of the User Guide called “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs)
All computer equipment should be inventoried and tracked.

After the ground rules, we went over the basics of troubleshooting. We presented our guide to troubleshooting:

If you have a problem:

If something does not work, try it again.
If it doesn’t work a second time, don’t be afraid to try clicking different buttons.
Read the Laptop Users Guide
If the computer will not respond, be patient, it could be acting slow.
If the computer refuses to cooperate, try shutting it down and starting it up again.
If you are unable to shut it down, hold down the power button for 7 seconds to force it to shut down. Then start it up again.
If the problem persists, try getting help by:
See the User Guide Again
Contact the local support team
Visit online using the browse activity
Go to and research your problem
If nothing works, consider Reflashing the computer

Finally, we went over how the computer is able to get online, and what it means to be connected to the internet. We had a very hard time explaining what bytes are, and how expensive they can be, and how to judge when your are using too many of them. Kikonde, our Kenyan partner stepped in here, and in Kiswahili, he explained that data was like the airtime on their cell phones, and was drained with use.

Because of the advancements in mobile technology, cell phones are nearly ubiquitous here in Kenya. We have repeatedly gone back to them for analogies with the computer, and to help the teachers understand that they are more familiar with computers than they perhaps thought they were.

Teacher Session 3

We were surprised today when we came in to work with the teachers, that they brought students along to learn on the computers. In the room, we had about 5 teachers, and about 15 students.

How it went:
In the very beginning, we set the children up with TuxMath.xo . In one group, of a 5 year old, a 6 year old, and a 12 year old, the 12 year old took control and began playing. The younger children continued to be enthralled indefinitely, however after some time, the older one asked me to access a new activity.

This interaction helped us identify an important difference in how to approach various new users:

Age 5-8: Are interested in how the computer reacts to what they do in the real world. Maze, Implode, Speak, Record, Paint (though they usually aren’t able to type and get it to talk, the way the eyes follow the cursor is exciting), are activities that allow young children to explore this interaction.

Ages 8+: Are interested in exploiting the interaction between their real life actions and the digital consequences, as a way to manipulate and create. Again, once they have the basic computer interactions, Record, Paint, TuxMath, Memorize, are great activities for them to use their newfound control to make something and learn.

The most important lesson of the day was perhaps for the teachers to witness the reaction of the children to the computers, who came at them with much enthusiasm. Unfortunately, because of the students reactions, we weren’t able to spend much time working with the teachers on the ins and outs of sugar.