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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About alboss

I'm a Web developer by day, with my roots in urban community health development. My wife can say "I believe my liver is diseased" in 21 different languages, even though her liver is not diseased. My son first Rickrolled me when he was ten; he has definitely uncoupled the Heisenberg compensators on my life. My house is run by two cats.
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2 Responses to First impressions

  1. Mark Ahlness says:

    Congrats on your proposal getting accepted! I’m about to enter into the same process – my proposal is for my third graders – in Seattle! Might be good to chat sometime. I’m at Arbor Heights Elementary. Best of luck – Mark

    • alboss says:

      Wow, Mark, that’s fantastic! I’d love to meet up sometime to compare notes, collaborate, etc. I live on SW Thistle, not too far from your school.

      Let me know when the grant committee’s group chat is and I’ll try to drop in.

      I’d love to read your proposal once you’ve posted it; send me the URL.

      One thing I learned was that I wrote entirely too much for my proposal. The volunteers aren’t like the government types I normally write for; the OLPC folks seem to prefer the major points rather than every nuance and option.

      Best,

      Al

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