Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Following up the OLPC test.

Following up the OLPC test.

I have written on the blog about the XO laptop and using students in my school as test subjects in a RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) research project. The group of students came in yesterday and gave an overview of their findings to the superintendent and I.

Their data analysis is not finished yet, but hopefully it will be posted to the OLPC wiki soon, so everyone who is interested can see. From what I understand this was/is the first user testing of some of the features, hopefully this will give a base for other researchers to work from.

They found in part of their research that students do not always tell the truth! One of the screening questioned if the students have ever used the computer for word processing, some said no, one of the kids I had taken out of the computer lab where they were writing papers, all of the students have used the mobile lab and done word processing. Doesn’t Dr. House say everyone lies? Some of the students, in the interview, claimed they only go to “Age appropriate web sites, approved by my parents or teacher” uh huh.

Now to the actual testing.

When given “free play” time on the computer, some students would find applications they would be familiar with, based on the icons. Drawing, calculator and writing were commonly used. Once they found something they knew they tended to stay there. One student started to use the Turtle math program, looked at some help files and left. Two students figured out how to set up the mesh network, and set up the chat, but they could not find where to type for chatting. This was an issue the first time I used the XO. These two students, according to the superintendent, are not strong in regular academics, but this shows they are explorers and willing to work on things.

The real test was with the writing program. The students were to copy text onto the computer, each doing a specific section. This did not work as well as anticipated. One thing that distracted them was having more than one curser on the screen, and not being able to tell who is who. Perhaps if the cursers were of different colors or shapes, the confusion would be less.

The way writing is taught in grades 4-5 here may have been a factor. They are very structured with the idea that their writing is personal, and they use several prescribed steps in the writing process, perhaps a younger grade may have worked better on this, before this idea is imbued in their brains.

Writing may not have been the best activity for this, drawing may have worked better, but getting the mesh network to work with other activities has proven problematic, so the researchers went with what would work. A less linear activity would be more interesting to the students and perhaps lend itself to collaboration.

There are many other findings, and when they do the analysis they may find other things. We had an interesting discussion following their presentation regarding education and age appropriate things. It is thought provoking to have a couple of educators and a batch of techies sit around and have discussions. A bunch to learn from each group. Thoughts that the other group would not think of.

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