[IAEP] GPA Class Notes August 5

Greg Smith gregsmithpm at gmail.com
Wed Aug 5 14:12:10 EDT 2009

Hi All,

Here are my notes from the last class at Gardner public school on August 5.

Caroline, Bill, Anurag and I had a class with 9 x 3rd graders.
Caroline led the class.

Caroline introduced the class and saying we could not finish making
the games but we would try to make the computer talk and the kids
would take the USB sticks home today.

She asked who has computers at home and everyone raised their hand.
Then she asked what was the "coolest" thing they had done and what was
the most challenging. Three kids answered:
1 -
coolest: making your own memorize game
most challenging: playing Conozco Uruguay in Spanish as some kids
didn't know Spanish

2 -
Coolest: painting your own pictures.
Most challenging: getting pictures from the internet

3 -
coolest and most challenging were the same: playing maze game.

Caroline then showed the kdis how to put a CD in and the USB stick
then reboot to bring up sugar. Kids went to the computers and that
went well. 4/5 kids got the USB in OK. 1/5 had trouble connecting it
and asked for help.

Back on the carpet Caroline explained the Home list view and how you
can flag activities there to show in the Home circle view. Then she
asked the kids to try that and to try playing some of the games. She
showed the physics game and the kids "oohed" at that.

Many kids had trouble finding the list view, understanding how to
click the star to pick activities and most difficult was to get back
to circle home view. See UI comments at the end for more, in short
they usually missed the need to click on the dot within circle icon in
the upper right from the Home|List view.

Several kids really wanted to play Maze but the scale was wrong and
they couldn't. Same problem for Physics. In both cases, a part of the
app was off screen. We definitely need a "screen resolution" option.

They tried Speak. In most cases they didn't hear it (possibly more
debugging data later from the team). It worked for one or two kids and
for one it was crashing the OS and needing reboot after working a

We showed them Mama media stick builder, cartoon builder, solitaire
bounce a bunch of other games. They seemed to like them but often ran
out of patience or wanted to be shown what to do. Some kids decided to
try to chat. They needed instructions on how to connect with each
other (more below) but liked that once it was up.

Back on the carpet, Caroline explained how to go to Sugar activities
page and download new activities with the Implode game as an example.

Kids really wanted to play Scary Maze
but we said that wasn't available. I tried it via Flash later and it
worked fine but I wasn't sure its really kid appropriate. I realized
that they probably like it because of the adrenalin rush at being
scared when you make a small mistake. I think Nintendo 64, Game Boy
and other popular younger kid games also benefit from provoking the
adrenalin response. I think Sugar could use more adrenalin provoking

Many kids needed help launching Browse and finding the sugar home
page. BTW often they ask for help because someone is there to help. If
no one was there they would probably soldier on themselves.

On activities page they tried to find Pacman to no avail. We also
found Gcompris maze games which they liked. Implode,Gcompris chess,
and bounce were also popular.

Caroline then exhorted them to wait until the computer shuts down
before taking out USB. Then they each took a boot helper CD and USB
stick and the class was over.

We debriefed mostly on UI suggestions and areas which were hard for
the kids. Not order comments:

- Drop down menus don't show fast enough. In general kids need some
kind of feedback on each click on when waiting (e.g. hour glass
cursor). This was most apparent when trying to shut down activities
because too many are running. I watched a kid do this by opening the
frame, clicking on the activity, waiting for the drop down, choosing
stop from that, then clicking the check mark in the Name This Journal
entry popup. He had about 6 activities open and it took him about 10
minutes to close them, mostly because he kept looking at what the next
kid over was doing while he waited for the menu to show. Also, the
check box to close Journal naming dialog was not obvious and in
general not needed. Possible improvement would be to make that an "X"
and to not even show it when someone closes from the frame or home
view and the activity has not changed since the last save/keep.

- When downloading new activities the count down was not always enough
feedback that the computer is "working". Also, if you don't click "OK"
and just download another file next, the original OK dialog/bar stays
there waiting until its gets its OK click.

- Bill mentioned that the names of "things" often includes the file
name or other data when it would be better to see a more human useful
name. One example is when they opened Turtle Art examples they read
the name nnnn.sa by pronouncing the extension. Seems related also to
my comment about how hard it is to find journal entries because the
full URL is listed first.

- Maze and physics were to big to fit on the screen. Not sure if that
is a problem of the actitvity itself, but a screen resolution changing
tool would be useful. This is important on SoaS when it wasn't so hot
on XO.

- Gcompris chess didn't save/keep when clicking the stop button.

- When trying to chat kids instinct was to have both kids open chat.
The way you must do it is to have one open chat then choose share with
my neighborhood. Kids needed to be shown where share with my
neighborhood drop down is. Most kids I saw clicked on the text "share
with". Its not clear enough that the oblong oval (rounded rectangle?)
next to that is a drop down list. They needed to be reminded to go to
the Neighborhood view. Once there they often clicked on the XO icon
above the chat icon. You need to click on the chat icon itself and
that's a consistent misconception. One kid asked for "emoticons" and
other images to put in the chat. Caroline thought that it would be
wise to allow kids to open chat then see what other chats are shared
or available from within the activity.

- Activities search tool on Sugar home page was a little troublesome
in two main ways: 1) hard to go back to start a new search after
digging a few clicks in. Back button works but would be nice to have a
"new search" link. 2) Hard to see a a list of all activities. Search
with blank text does it but not sure any kids would try that. Also, we
believe that there are some activities on OLPC wiki which are not on
the Sugar list (e.g. pacman and some eToys examples).

- Switching from list view to circle view was not clear. Here's the
click order as it stands now:
1 -- Start at home|circle
2 -- Click list view
3 -- star/select activities
4 -- Click circle view icon

Its step 4 that's problematic. Instinct when on list view and wanting
to see the circle is to click the dot within circle icon (F3). That
just leaves you at List|Home view. Most everyone ran in to this.
Another challenge is that the icons for switching from list <-> circle
are in the upper right corner. So you often hit the frame which has a
nice circle icon on it (=F3). In general, way too many UI elements are
right near the corner which pops up the frame.

- Kids consistently couldn't find the stop button. Either because it
was on a different tab or because the icon doesn't ring true.

That's it! Thanks a lot to Caroline et al for the chance to see the SW
in action.

I hope developers don't get too take it badly that there are lots of
"suggestions" or complaints. In general the SW is great, things go
well and its an awesome project. I just focus on continuous
improvement but ts nit meant as criticism.


Greg S

BTW I am 1 - 2 weeks behind on reading the lists. CC me directly as
needed and I hope to catch up a little before the end of August.

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