Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND
Constance Sibanda, from Rhodes University, conducted a field study usability test on the intuitiveness of three different netbooks geared towards educational environments: the XO, Intel’s Classmate, and the Asus EEE PC. The test was conducted at three different schools in the Grahamstown district in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, which is in close proximity to Rhodes University. There were six participants total with one teacher and one “learner” from each of the three schools. The teachers were inscrtucted to choose learners from there classes, which were between the grade levels of eleven and 12. According to the study, the teachers choose students who were deemed the most responsible. (22)
Because of the grade levels of the participants, the XO, not surprisingly, was not well received. Most of the participants referred to it as a “toy” and one of the participants ended up giving it to his youngest sister. The learners seemed to like the Intel Classmate, while the teachers like the Asus EEE the best for various personal preferences.
The one feature that one of the learners appreciated was the mesh network which enabled him to chat with others easily without the internet, as connectivity is scarce. Others didn’t get very far and thought the interface was too hard to navigate. (29)
What I think is worth noting is how the learners who all seemed to like the Intel Classmate the best discussed it in the framework of their own separate writing activities and assignments, such as the following:
“Yes I wrote my essays on it and I put it on a flash stick and printed it.” (31)
“Yes I did my science project using the laptop. I typed in my assignments as well.”
“Umm I used it to do my work. Like I did my tests, I typed the assignments. Everything that should go to my file and some of the assignments that should be given, like the last assignment that should be given like the research project, I did type it there.” (my use of bold; 32)
These students used these laptops for individual projects that were already assigned prior to the study. None of the participants noted the programming feature of Sugar, probably because they couldn’t get past the interface and its visual design geared towards primary age students; nor was it relevant to their current projects. Since this usability test was based on intuitiveness, its metrics and methods didn’t account for actual learning activities.
The XO combined with Sugar is supposed to help collaborative efforts, as well as enable students to work on their own work. The visualization of the writing activity that I posted a week or so ago, shows how sugar can spark interactivity.
Allinall, I think this test is important to consider just how different Sugar is compared to what we know. This ain’t your parents’ OS. I guess you can tell I may still be biased towards my preference for Sugar than typical operating systems. I do believe Walter Bender when he says that its a consolidation of all the tools out there for collaboration. Yet, let’s see what happens when we let the students at Madison construct a project in Sugar/Etoys. Who knows really?!
I can personally attest to how Sugar was *not* intuitive for me initially. I had a similar tech background like the participants who predominantly had experience with Windows (and I have Mac OS X experience too), and I am still having some minor issues with navigation and the handles. This is not Windows; it’s not Leopard. Yet, while difficult sometimes, I appreciate the scripting and constructive activities, and I wish I could use it on an actual XO.
Here’s the link to Sibanda’s study: http://www.cs.ru.ac.za/research/g09s2432/Thesis.html