Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

Sugar on a Stick: Student responses / observations

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Brooks and I (Chris Lindgren) went over to Madison Elementary School for a Sugar on a Stick session. Kevin drafted the following plan:

      1. Everybody gets a computer and stick.
      2. Watch / time / note challenges of loading Sugar.
      3. Ask everyone to open “Write.”
      4. Give them a prompt: “Do you prefer to write on a computer, or with pen and paper? Why?”
      5. Give them time to write, then see if they can find each other in the neighborhood. See how many they can find and read. Watch and learn to see how easy / hard this is. Goal: try to read others, and either respond to others if that is possible, or return to their own paragraph and add to it by considering others’ opinions.
      6. Make sure they save (Keep) their work.
      7. Close down Sugar.

    I had a lot of fun working with the students. I even took part in the activities on one of the netbooks with Sugar on a Stick. I got to chat and share a writing activity with a student. Honestly, I did feel connected to the students, as it seemed to really connect what we were doing on each of our own computers.

    Kevin brought a flip camera and took some videos of the session. After reviewing the footage, I realized how we all seemed to be “nerding out”. Everybody initially wanted to sync up a group chat, and so their was a lot of bustle on how to connect these activities and people, despite Mr. Gast’s desire to initially start a group.

    But here we all were, staring at our screens sometimes, waiting for connections, and then the next moment I would see some of the students run over to another to problem solve an issue, bringing their computers in closer proximity.

    Identity was also a central issue, because we had to literally use “test” names, so all of the students kept shouting out who they were, and occasionally another would ask the room, “Who is test2 again?”. It took probably 30 minutes for everyone to just figure out the who’s who, but that is an issue of avatar confusion, nothing to do with SoaS.

    Here are some of the main areas of SoaS that I can group together to discuss:

    • Group feature(s): Gast tried to create a group and have everyone join. This seemed to work just fine. Yet, there are no prompts to indicate that a group has been formed or that one has been joined. From what I gather, this is what would be considered “telepathy” in the CS world. I found an interesting development forum on the Sugar Labs website that discusses this issue with regards to filesharing as well: Sugar “File Sharing Utility
    • Chat activity:Wow! They really wanted to chat! No issues with regards to motivation, but moreso with calming them down. 😉 A few of the students seemed to figure out how to gain access to group chat versus the one-on-one chat who then has to invite others to join via the Neighborhood.
    • Intuitive filesharing?: We made it a goal to practice some of the collaboration features in Sugar, so Kevin came up with the aforementioned plan to have them use the Write activity and then share their writing with each other in the group.

      Sugar OS - "Share with" feature *in* activities

      It took us a few minutes to pull the students away from the chat activities. When everyone had Write open, we provided a prompt and most of them wrote down something within 5-10 minutes. I remember partaking in this activity and I found the Private/My Neighborhood sharing feature, so I sent my writing to the neighborhood. We then soon found out that anyone could “join” in my writing activity; much like a Google doc. Yet, we couldn’t figure out how to add groups to a writing activity. After our session, I looked it up on the Sugar Labs website and I think you need to go to your Journal to share it with a group.
    • Extra Neighbors in the Neighborhood: We have reason to believe that the Sugar lab folks are omnipresent. 🙂 We’ve been seeing other people in the Neighborhood area, but we don’t know who they are. Are these developers at Sugar? How does a school like Madison secure their servers/neighborhood?

    Overall, I had fun “connecting” with the students and I think this team of students, is at the very least, learning the nuances of SoaS to become those classroom experts, if this should be utilized in a classroom setting.

    I should note that after we finished the tech team meeting, we walked down the hallways to find the tech team telling other students about their own experiences, using words such as “fun” and “cool”.

    We shall see what they can do from here!


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This entry was posted on January 27, 2011 by in Sugar and tagged , .


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