I haven’t written much about my XO Computer these days because I haven’t used it much and I am kicking myself for not getting my local XO Group up and running (I have an email list of about six folks from my area and all of them would like to meet, but I haven’t scheduled the meet-up due to busyness).
I still follow the news from the One Laptop Per Child organization, which, to be frank, appears from the outside to be on a rollercoaster ride as the leaders grapple with the mission of the organization. Such topics as adding Windows XP to the operating system (along with Sugar) and the development of the next generation of XO computers is thankfully coupled with stories of how the XO is being used in countries around the world.
And not just around the world.
In New York City, a group from Columbia University sought to use XOs with sixth graders this year through a project called Teaching Matters. They have just released a qualitative report on the project, which they deem a success in terms of integration into the classroom. What I find interesting is the results of a survey they conducted with the two dozen students who used the XO in the project.
According to the report (which you can view here), students liked the XO because:
- They liked it for writing because typing was faster and more legible than handwriting, and they felt that this allowed them to write more;
- They liked it for going on the Internet;
- They liked it because they could take work from school to home easily, especially to do homework:
- They liked its physical characteristics, including that it was made for kids (“extremely cute”), that the keyboard was quiet, and that it was not as heavy as a regular laptop;
- They liked the hardware and software that allowed them to share, including the camera (which, as they pointed out, came with the XO so you did not have to buy it) and the chat software;
- They liked that it was theirs, which meant that they could always find their work;
- And finally, they liked the novelty of it.
If you go the report, you can also read some of the supporting comments from the students.
And of course, there were things the students did not like about the XO:
- They disliked that it seemed slow, even compared to their school laptops;
- They disliked the frequent freezes, which sometimes meant they lost their work;
- They disliked the consequent need to reboot frequently;
- They disliked the “jumpy” cursor;
- They disliked it when the journal disappeared;
- And they really disliked the firewalls that prevented access to sites like YouTube and MySpace–a school issue, not specific to the XO, but annoying to the students nonetheless.
It seems to me that much of their complaints is a hardware issue and one that should be resolved by OLPC if the project is to succeed. My kids and I also run into these same issues with our XO but we just roll with the punches. In a classroom full of XOs, that might be more difficult, particularly if you are in the midst of a lesson or project.
The report also lays out three insights into the use of XOs in the classroom:
- Students used the XOs more than they used the laptops (owned by the school), which means they spent more time doing research, wrote more, revised more, and published more.
- Students took much more responsibility for the XOs than they did for the laptops, which means that they that they did not begin work only to find there were missing parts or that the battery was dead.
- Students were less likely to lose their work, not only because they always used the same machine but also because the XO has an automatic save feature that takes the user back to where he/she left off.
Also mentioned is that students used their XOs in other classrooms beyond the English Language Arts classroom where the XO project was situated; students enjoyed the “share” function of the XO; and they were intrigued to be part of a pilot project. The report also contains some solid recommendations for improving the XO as an educational tool, with advice from students, parents and the teachers.
Peace (with XOs),