Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Open Workshop In Computers

Our second teaching session was open to people we had met and invited, who were interested in the computer program. In attendance, we had two teachers from a different school who were very excited, only one had any computer experience (very little). We had two university students, both with plenty of exposure to computers, one who is studying them. We had a secondary school student, who also was familiar with computers, and we had another teacher their with her 9 year old son.

We also had with us, Kikonde, a local we met who we have worked with over the past few days to get him comforatable on the XO’s. He is a university student studying computers, and speaks Kiswahili, Kidawida, and English, just like all the attendees.

The workshop was very successful, for some of these reasons we established:

1.    Instead of teachers instructed by the head teacher to meet with us, we had only people who were already very interested.
2.    Instead of a presentation from a bunch of Strangers, we had Kikombe on our team. Having him on our team helped connect us to the people we were helping learn about the computers.
3.    Instead receiving everyone at once, at this workshop, participants trickled in giving us one on one time with each of them, before helping someone else.
4.    The day was billed as a “workshop” rather than a presentation. People came ready to get their hands dirty with the computer, rather then just coming to listen to us.
5.    We did not connect the computers to the internet, and held the workshop entirely within the realm of Sugar. This limited complications (connecting, explaining concept of internet, navigating confusing web pages, etc)

With each attendee, we gave them a short demo of the home screen, and of certain activities before inviting them to try everything out on their own. This proved to be an effective method, because the learners gravitated towards the activities they became interested in.

Some things we noticed:
·      Taking the computer outside powerfully demonstrated the mobility of the computers.
·      Though the learners are seemed somewhat confident clicking around exploring, very few read instructions on the screen. GeoQuiz for example has explicit instructions, but we repeatedly had to show learners what to do.
·      It would be very helpful to bring along external mice. The trackpad on the XO can be finicky, and is really designed for very small fingers. Some of the activities become greatly enhanced with good control (paint, etc), and all of them become hindered without.
§  Perhaps paint is not a good one to demo with, because it is hard to draw with the mouse.

The session shed some light on a debate we had the night before about educational theory as it relates to the XOs.

School of thought 1: That as intructors, we should focus on activities that are built as standalone lessons. Wikipedia and GeoQuiz, for example are immediately useful to teach specific lessons. For this reason, their use is immediately clear to the classroom teacher.

School of thought 2: We should demonstrate and teach the basic tools of the XO, as building blocks, and inspire the teachers thinking about all the creative lessons and projects they can build from these tools. Record and Write, for example could be used together to create field reports in the sciences, and vocab lists for languages etc.

From the popularity of the Wikipedia activity, and of GeoQuiz, it appeared that at first, the built in lessons can be very useful, and are a great way to get new users comfortable with the usability of the machine. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, we can get comfort levels up, to where teachers really can get creative about lessons.

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