USN Lower School Technology!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's XO Laptop Week in the Lab!

NEW NOTE: Three XO laptops will start going home for two nights each with students whose parents choose to "opt in" to the loaner program. Parents click the "Opt In" button in the sidebar to the right and take a minute to fill out the information in the resulting form. From a list of students opted in, completely random selection will be made each time an XO is returned. The loaners start going out on March 10th, take a break over Spring Break, and will resume after the break. Will we make it through the list of interested students and families? That depends on how many "opt in!"

The XO Laptop, Nicholas Negroponte's world-changing "One Laptop Per Child" vision now being implemented more or less successfully throughout the developing countries of our world, aims to put a hardy, inexpensively manufactured, yet functional laptop computer into the hands of every schoolchild in the world.

Sound far-fetched? Consider this:

A table at the OLPC wiki lists purchases to date totalling 697,000 units. These hail from the USA, Peru, Mexico, and that other developing country, Birmingham, Alabama (whose online citizen outrage over the hidden costs involved heralds trouble for the School Board, who purchased 15,000 XOs for public school students). 167,000 of these orders came from the much-heralded "Buy Two Get One" program, which is how we at USN came to be in possession of the three laptops I'm sharing with the Lower School students this week. We bought 8, we received 4, one for each tech coordinator and one for our tech director.

Some others in our community, I'm discovering, also took part in that program. One child each in 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grades the very first day shared that they have one at home. Another family has ordered one but has been informed that it may be a month or more before it can be delivered. Reportedly, the subcontractors OLPC relied upon for distribution have dropped the ball, seriously, and there were other problems.

Delayed delivery is not the only controversy surrounding OLPC, but it's clear that this project is underway and I want our children to at least get a glimpse of how big it is. While the littlest ones in my lab have pretty much seen all that I feel is necessary for them, the 4th graders will be doing a bit of Google searching next week, looking for OLPC resources to share with the world.

Finally, I hope to work out a way to send these devices home beginning next week, for one or two nights, so that I can provide the children with a real chance to experience this technological innovation. We've talked about how the remarkable screen and the open source operating system may provide some motivation for other hardware manufacturers to emulate the low price and ruggedness of the XO laptop.

While the XO Laptop is not currently available for purchase in the U.S., Asus and Intel have teamed to release the Asus eeePC, a low-cost alternative to the traditional laptop that utilizes many of the XO's innovative strategies for hardware and software. Intel's offering, which I can't see is available yet for purchase, is called the Classmate PC, and promises yet more competition in the arena.

Here's a map of current OLPC distributions:

View Larger Map

and here's a link to a video of the first report out!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Internet Safety Presentation by Mark Ahlness

From technology savvy educator Mark Ahlness, a 3rd grade classroom teacher from Seattle, Washington, I offer a brief video from TeacherTube. It's repurposed from a presentation he gave for 3rd grade families in late 2006. Enjoy, and please feel free to comment here (once you've viewed the video just click "Comment" below the video -- if you don't want to use an "identity" just post anonymously and add your name to the text!) :

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fun Geometry Interactivity from BBC!

Also see this 20 minute video and interactive symmetry site from Learning Links! Both are also in the Math topic of the Webliographer!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sharing Out Powerpoints and Drawing for Children

This week our 4th graders are sharing their "All About Me" powerpoints, gathering at the carpet beneath the projector screen and taking turns using the wireless mouse to move through their presentations. This gives us time to discuss how different effects were achieved and why certain design elements were incorporated, providing the reflection piece that caps off a good discovery learning experience. These are WONDERFUL, and I may select one or two to share here, though I will not be creating an online celebration of these due to their very personal nature. They will, instead, reside in the 4th graders' personal portfolios, which will follow them up into 5th grade and beyond, moving from the 4th grade portfolio network folder to their new home in that grade level's folder.

3rd graders finish their "copy and paste" extravaganza, searching with the Webliographer's Google safe-search feature for images by and of their artist that they can later cut with their skissors (sic) and use in their hand-written Master Artist Unit reports. We're working with two windows open at a time, Word and Firefox or Internet Explorer, and maximizing and minimizing them as we need to search, copy, paste, resize, name and save, and finally print their two or three page word documents containing at least four images.

2nd graders are beginning a geometry unit so we are diving into Stacker Blocks, a freeware Tetris-like game that exercises flipping, rotating, predicting, and manipulating positive and negative space to keep playing as long as we can. The play becomes good-naturedly competive the moment the hi-score feature is noticed, and we'll see names bumped off the top-ten scores for the rest of the year, as well as students challenging themselves to appear there. Stacker Blocks is available for free download in the "Downloads" section of the Webliographer. Be warned: it's a fun game that you'll need to apply your "balancing your life and your time" skills to!

K and 1st graders are working with Drawing for Children (also available for download at the same site) to create and print fun Valentine hearts pictures. I'll share some of those here when we have finished, and I'm seeing that the activity will take many of our students more than one class period, which is good, since the holiday is at the end of next week. I've had one student already tell me that she's creating all of her valentines cards (we have a class policy that if you exchange one at school you need to have one for every student in the class) with Drawing for Children, using the freeware she and her parents installed on their home computer. Yay! One word of caution for those of you who do so--"D4K" creates HUGE .bmp files as its default format, so you might want to limit the number of saved images, or better yet, open them all occasionally with a graphics program and export them as .jpg files, then delete the bitmaps. Geek talk, but if you apply that strategy you'll save quite a bit of storage space on your home computer--which is of course in a family room if it has access to the internet, right?

Pics to come :)

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