Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

Dropping an XO from a helicopter: figuratively speaking.


I didn’t solve all the technical problems I wrote about a few weeks ago, but I got a G1G1 X0 ready for the Rwandan family recently resettled in Fargo.  I got Mancala, Implode, Memorize, and a few other old standards to work. The kids, ranging from 6 to 19, were excited to see and play with the computer, but it was truly a foreign product to them. The 100,000 laptops deployed in Rwanda apparently have not made their way to the rural areas or refugee camps.  So, although I knew it would be a long shot, the computer was not a little slice of home for them.

They had already purchased a laptop in Fargo, and were using it primarily for English Language Learning, but they seemed to have quickly learned about touch pads, because the XO’s mouse click was a foreign concept. They kept tapping the pad itself.  They also expected all three of the pads to be active, but of course only the center pad is.  These informal usability studies are fascinating.

I also expected Mancala to be a familiar game, and maybe it is, but the computer version seemed all new to the kids. Implode seemed to be interesting, but they moved into “difficult” too quickly.  I hope they will go back to medium.  I showed the 19 year old how use Memorize to teach the younger kids English.  His English is the strongest in the family, so we set up a set of body part flash cards so the kids can match the English and the Kinyarwandan words, although I don’t know how literate the younger ones are in Kinyarwandan.

I came pretty close to “dropping the laptop from a helicopter” so it will be interesting to see what kind of attention and persistence they give the XO.  I’ll go over once a week and try to provide some guidance, but won’t force the issue if they aren’t interested.  The 19 year old kept asking “Does it play music”? and that is the same question teenagers from Congo kept giving me 3 years ago when they resettled.  The 19 year old in that family saved enough money to buy a netbook, but when she figured out she couldn’t load CDs to it, she took it back.

Short of reverse engineering Rosetta Stone, I liked the learning possibilities of Memorize.  I liked the constructivist element, that the most advanced English speakers could construct word sets in English and home language. This approach will be limited to the best speaker’s ability.  Could be supplemented by tutors or English-X dictionaries.  Memorize has the ability to pull in images, but that seems like it would be painfully time consuming.

2 comments on “Dropping an XO from a helicopter: figuratively speaking.

  1. kevix
    December 31, 2011

    A problem is many XO deployments is the contamination of the kids by the knowlege of technology that is available in the developed countries. Kids know about cable tv, regular computers, labtops, cellphone, cameras, music players, ipods, etc. They love music and video.But they dont seem to connect the idea that this is about education, what will propel them into the future.
    When I was growing up in the 1980s, there was no distraction by these idea, and we hacked on computers to learn all its secrets and played some edutainment program. That time is past.

    • Bob Braxton
      January 1, 2012

      not only the kids and I do agree.
      Netbook reactions familiar
      It seems what people want is DVD player, listen to music, videos (Khan academy might take advantage of that). Our partnership in Kenya is in rural area where we have partnered beginning 1988 and continuing.

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This entry was posted on December 30, 2011 by in fieldnote, Memorize, usability, XO.

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