First impressions

Our two loaner OLPCs arrived toward the end of October. We are familiarizing ourselves with them as time permits.

I got off to a fine start when I had to Google how to even open the thing up. The on-board help files were a huge assist for getting me familiar with the machine, once I managed to open the case.

My original hope was to use one myself for a couple weeks, to get a feel for what it’s like and how it works. I’m not certain if I’ll be able to use it as a primary laptop, though; the keyboard is made for smaller hands and so far I can’t touch-type on it using all my fingers. I haven’t given it an all-out effort, though, so stay tuned.

The touchpad takes a much firmer touch than I’m used to, but that’s merely an adjustment in user behavior (mine). The Sugar UI is most certainly a change in paradigm from anything I’ve worked with before. I think both the hardware and software are brilliant, although I need to subject it to real-world use before I can really judge.

I was disappointed that the hand-crank generator didn’t make it into the final model, although it’s understandable that it had to be left out due to strain on the frame.

Testing them within the education environment has an interesting challenge. Middle school here has an ironclad “no electronics” policy. Although I understand the issues that led the school administration to this rule, it strikes me as being out of touch with the times and the tools. I’d rather they teach responsible use than just outlawing it. Then again, trying to achieve responsible anything, when dealing with 1400 hormonal middle-school students, is almost as crazy as a school that prepares one for life by outlawing some of the most pervasive implements found in the world outside their classrooms.

Current and immediate next goals:

  • Give all team members opportunity for real-world testing of the laptop, so we can all get a feel for what it can and can’t do.
  • Approach the school district regarding a possible exemption from their no-electronics fiat.
  • Develop a contingency plan that assumes the school district will not change, and scope out how to use technology outside the school to help get more positive outcomes inside the school.

I am taking a very intensive programming class over the next several months, so if my blog entries seem sporadic, that’s probably why.

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Hooray; the proposal was approved!

Wow, the XO Contributor’s program approved my request, at least for a starter kit with two refurbished XO-1 laptops. I feel really guilty now for sending them such a long proposal; I think it was considerably more detail than they needed but forgot a few key items like target age group and whether it’s a public or private school. (Middle School, ages 11-14 roughly, and my test will be in a public school.)

You can read their deliberations and decisions at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_program/October_15,_2010.

I’m excited beyond words, and amazed by the speed at which things moved. I think I’m too used to working through a hundred levels of bureaucracy just to sharpen a pencil.

Laptops should be shipping in a week. I think I need to take a crash course in XO Community so I can be sure I return as much value as possible from my endeavors. Also, they asked several more questions in the discussion that I need to answer.

Now all I have to do is go forward. No worries, right?

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One laptop per twice-exceptional child?

This blog will catalog our efforts to test whether laptops can assist academically gifted students who have learning disabilities with the traditional challenges that accompany that combination of diagnoses.

The first step is to see if we can obtain some laptops. We have submitted a request to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) nonprofit (http://www.laptop.org) asking them to consider our project worthy of the loan of enough laptops to try our hypotheses, develop and test solutions, and report the results. You can read the contents of the entire request on our “About” page.

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