[OLPC-SF] OLPC and kindergarten teachers...

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Fri Aug 15 03:34:09 EDT 2008

I had the pleasure of talking to a couple of kindergarten teachers and
their director about OLPC and the XO. This school follows the Montessori
method. This was by far one of the most interesting (and challenging)
conversations I've had on this topic. I also had the chance to
demonstrate with two XOs in their school. Here are a few salient points:

1) The viewpoint of a teacher is very refreshing, especially ones who
work with preschoolers.They are planning to introduce their "older" kids
(5+) to computers, but not as an end in itself. They want the computer
to be an educational tool. No surprises there. They did say that <5
years of age, they prefer that children play with physical objects in 3D
so as to grasp the physicality of the models they are building.

2) It is difficult to get the collaborative feature set of the XO across
to people who have simply never collaborated on a computer. The teachers
are all familiar with Word etc., but not a collaborative apps. They had
no trouble understanding the nature of "activity vs application" logic

3) Activities/features that impressed the teachers the most:

Measure (I will ask the children to keep the line straight during quiet
time. We will ask the music teacher to play her guitar and see what it
looks like)
Record (children love to see themselves. They also liked the ability to
share photos across the XOs)
Memorize (they especially liked the feature of being able to create
their own matching pairs)
TurtleArt (Why is it misspelled? The Lego-like blocks are great!)
Switching languages (one of the teachers is fluent in Spanish)

4) Explaining Free and Open Source to someone who barely knows about
computers is challenging. They cannot relate to code, visibility,
collaboration, etc. in the computing domain. I had to use cookie recipe
analogies...if your grandmother had a cookie recipe and she shared it
with the neighborhood, etc. I also had a hard time explaining the mesh
business. I had to draw a few line diagrams :-)

5) They were thinking of buying two Macs later this year, but after
seeing the XO, they'll happily wait for G1G1 this year to get at least
two machines for their school! We may also explore getting them a couple
of desktops with Sugar for use/exploration by teachers.

What fun! Much better than chatting with Linux geeks :-)


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

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