On May 2nd and 3rd in Argos - Greece, we taught four different subjects to a small number of pupils using the OLPC computers inside their classroom. It was the first time that such an event occurred in Greece. Out of 7 laptops that were at our disposal, one had only 128Mbyte memory and we did not manage to use it because of its slow performance. Two other laptops were B2s and the remaining 4 XO-1 with OS image 656 (The difference between them is very significant when it comes down to the number of concurrently running applications as well as the time needed for loading the squeak exercises).
Build 218? Old screenshot!
The lessons involved 5th and 6th grade pupils from the private elementary Β«MaltezosΒ» school located in Argos, Peloponnese. The boys and girls were already familiar with computers (in MS Windows environment) since they had been taught the basics in the 4th grade and they use computers for 1-2 years for several assignments (mostly using word editor, creating slides and surfing the internet). Each group consisted of 6-8 persons and the topics that were taught were selected from their official textbooks.
Their school teacher is quite competent in computer science (M.SC. in Informatics and Telecommunications). Each group was given four hours of instruction. In the first hour the pupils made contact with the laptops and their graphical environment, discovering how to start / stop the various activities, how to get connected with the 802.11AP of the school (but also in ad hoc mode), how to find the files with the journal how to copy/paste from the browser to the word processor and how to share the files and the exercises prepared in Squeak. Our first conclusion is that the majority of pupils learned how to handle the computers in this hour quite satisfactorily. My assessment is that a pupil can learn to use the computer efficiently over a span of two or three days.
The 6th grade pupils attended
- 1. a lesson of Greek language: a text from unit 13 of their book with the corresponding grammar item (paratactic, subordinate arrangement of clauses, and clauses without connective particles)
- 2. a lesson of mathematics: the least common multiple
- 3. a lesson of geography: European monuments
The 5th grade pupils were taught
- 1. physics: pressure
- 2. Mathematics: criteria of divisibility of 2,5,10
- 3. Greek language: a literary text from unit 4 and the relevant grammar item (Participles of passive present perfect).
For these lessons we used, the browser, the word processor and exercises in Squeak which were mostly designed by our lab. To overcome the problem of no support for Greek in Squeak we had to place the Greek text as pictures. This naturally caused the exercises to load more slowly but within reasonable time limits on the 4 XO-1s. Granted that we did not have enough time, we did not train our pupils to work with Squeak. Thus, they did their exercises (e.g., filling the blanks, press buttons etc) but did not do any programming in Squeak.
Our objectives were
- a. to observe in action how easy it is for the pupils to use the XOs
- b. how easy it is for someone to write out exercises and organize a lesson that is heavily based on computers
- c. to what extent a new teaching model where there is one laptop per child can work
Obviously, the conclusions we have reached are preliminaries, but in our opinion also helpful... To be continued.
Alexandros Kaloxylos is a lecturer in the Department of Telecommunications Science and Technology at the University of Peloponnese in Greece. He has also been a member of the OLPC Greece Initiative Committee since the very beginning.