Sunday, July 12, 2009

Developing a Sweet Tooth

After a week of working with Sugar with 13 young learners in our Scratch programming class, I'm beginning to develop a sweet tooth. I'm well aware that I should have done this much earlier, but is hard for me to focus on things that are not immediately relevant to the rest of what is going on in my life, and Sugar would have been just a curiosity until now.

The first week of the two week class went very well, dispite (or perhaps because of) our need to react each day to what happened and figure out from there what to do the next day. Here is some of what we learned / accomplished last week:
  • The kids love to share Activities and seem to be very happy whenever they are let loose to share freely with the other kids in the class.
  • Within a few days of meeting each other for the 1st time, our baker's dozen young folks have begun to develop a feeling of community in the classroom. Both my colleague, Dr. Ann Kennedy, and I strongly suspect that the peer to peer collaboration among the students made possible by Sugar is largely responsible for this.
  • The mouse pads on our XOs are flaky, and having a mouse pad that didn't work was a show stopper. The level of frustration built quickly to the point where the kids started saying they didn't want to use the XOs.
  • Once the UI works, they loved using their XOs. We attached USB mice, which solved the touchpad problem. There was an immediate and dramatic change in attitude of the users toward their learning devices.
  • The favorite activity so far is Chat, which students get on whenever they can. We have built plenty of free exploration time into the class, so we can see what they do when left to their own devices. I am curious to see whether the enthusiasm for Chat wanes next week as the novelty wears off.
  • Our own School Server (XS) made collaborating work smoothly. Network connection issues seem to have diminished precipitously once we had the XS on our local network.
I'll try to get back to blogging on a more regular basis. There has been so much going on that I haven't had the time to write about it, though I realize that is an important part of the process.

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