My name is Krystof Haber. I work for NTDET Australia, supporting the OLPC project for Indigenous children. I have Master in Education and IT and I have worked with Indigenous children for 15 years. I like what you are doing for disadvantaged children and I would like to support your work. Please find my observations about taking the laptops home.
TAKING THE LAPTOPS HOME
From the NTDET Alice Springs trial experience, the OLPC philosophy and your forum postings, this appears to be a crucial decision that teachers need to make. The quality of solutions will affect your classroom management and the level of XO utilisation. We would like to learn your solutions to the following:
- If you send the laptops home, what do you do when the laptops are not brought back to school, the chargers are lost, the family has moved to another community and took the laptops with them, the batteries did not get charged, and the computers got broken?
- If you do not send the laptops home, what strategies do you apply to maximise the educational benefits coming from the XOs? How do you ensure that your students have enough time to become confident and fluent XO operators? What strategies do you put into place to meet the conditions of use specified by your sponsors?
THE BENEFITS OF TAKING THE LAPTOPS HOME:
- The students will make the most of the numerous educational activities designed by global leaders in educational computing. There is a plethora of software that can be used by students without teacher's support. For instance, 5 minutes on Arithmetic or Tuxmath every day will improve valuable mental math skills.
- Weekly students' presentations on the new software discovered at home can provide a forum for covering numerous outcomes from Listening and Speaking strands of curriculum framework.
- The students who gained the XO expertise can provide support to other students and the teacher rather than require constant help.
- The technology gets superseded very quickly. If you don't use it, you lose it. The difference between XO1 and XO1.5 is substantial, and new development is inevitable with a result that the hardware will have to be disposed after certain period of time even if it was not used. Every day when the laptop is not used is a wasted opportunity so carpe diem, seize every day.
- For many students the ownership will mean an increased responsibility taken by the students for their learning.
- The students who take the laptops home can make it much easier for teachers to introduce the laptops. While at home, the students will gain valuable IT expertise and can support their peers and teachers rather than disrupt the lesson by constant: "How do you do that?", "It doesn't work", "My mouse does not move", "The screen is frozen." XO is a more erratic, unstable and disruptive technology, than the standard computers that students use at school.
- If you don't have your classroom management under control you will have enough reasons to avoid the laptops in your classroom. By allowing the students to take the XOs home you will remove all this disruption from your classroom.
- Having all the extra time at home, the students will resolve the issues, learn to use the laptops like pencils and they will be able to provide IT support for you and your students free of charge. All you will need to do, as a teacher, is to focus on the learning task that will cover selected Curriculum Framework outcomes and the students will have the IT skills to complete it.
- The teachers who allowed their students to take the laptops home reported that the laptops improved their students' social skills, problem solving, and peer tutoring.
- Taking home has been used as a reward for a good behaviour during the week.
- The students who could not take the laptops home have been given extra time to use the laptops on the school premises during the breaks or after school.
- We do not need to explain how to use pencils when we ask our students to write narratives or reports. All they need is extra time to use the XO and gain the expertise that can make your life as a teacher much easier.