[IAEP] Report from the field (graz,Austria#1)

David Van Assche dvanassche at gmail.com
Tue Jan 27 18:13:22 EST 2009

On Monday 19th January, the olpc.at group  was scheduled to meet 6
educators in various fields for a combined workshop, and mutual
feedback session.  The meeting was off to a rocky start with neither
collaboration via the local AP working, nor many of the apps on the
Ubuntu sugar stick running well. On previous days I had tested many of
the apps and found them to be non-functional or wrongly sized for the
resolution, or lacking network neighbourhood views.
This turned out to be  an advantage in a way, as it brought up a
discussion on what the educators present would like to see happen in
terms of customised activities and collaborative possibilities. I'll
try and list them in some organised fashion, based on activity.

	Flipsticks activtiy
The first activity that was questioned was flipsticks, which was seen as a
great tool for younger kids, but lacking collaborative abilities. An
idea which was brought up was splitting the flipsticks work into user
groups, and have the groups then combine their animations to create a
bigger final animation. The reasoning behind this was that often there
is not much time in a class, and to have every student to their little
bit, and then combine it all is much more efficient, and a lesson in
collaboration at the same time.

	Geoquiz and other visual quiz activities
Another suggestion that came after showing Geoquiz was the
development of some sort of authoring tool for this kind of activity,
which generally involves showing images and asking questions. This
could then be applied for many localised activities. In the case of
Austria, for example, children of a younger age learn about Austria
itself, in a geographical sense, but not too much about the rest of
the planet until they are older. The Geoquiz activity as it stands was
criticised for not telling a user when an answer is correct or wrong,
for not having good controls, and for having unchangable content. The
other option that would be a requirement for these kind of activities
is a score card or report that the teacher could somehow store and
print, based on children collaborating on quiz type activities.

	Other Quiz type examples that were brought up
Examples of quiz type activities that were brought up were types of
flowers, the environment, nature, animals, the house, etc.

	Main subject matter requested as simple activities with lesson plans

The main subjects that were requested were German (first language) and
Mathematics, which seems to coincide with the requirements of other
deployments like the Nepali deployment. In terms of mathematics, these
activites should be as simple as possible, for example, the
multiplication/division/adding/subtraction tables done in such a way
that the teacher could choose which numbers were to be selected and
practiced on any given day and by any given student. It should also,
then, be possible to pair up students collaboratively to answer these,
and once again, at the end of the session, collect the answers in a
score card or report, that could be saved or printed by the teacher.

	Typing tutor or spelling activities
In a similar vein, some kind of activity for practicing spelling
should be implemented and monitored in the same way as a maths apps...
A general request for all activities was the ability to have an admin
view/session that the teacher could use to follow scores, assignment
of individual objects of a particular activity and their layout, and
the users themselves. This would be something like a monitoring tool.

	Simple UI and Simple app rules
It was emphasised that the simplicity of applications is extremely
important for younger children, and that many ported apps are just too
cluttered to be useful in any way. They were very happy with the
simplicty and usability of sugar itself, but were disappointed with
many of the apps, which either ignored design conventions or were
simply ports of already complex and badly layed out activities.

	Collaborative typing tool with speed recognition
Another example of an application they wanted to see was a simple
typing activity which would involve the teacher typing an example
text, and then the kids trying to type the same phrase as quickly as
possible with the times to completion and error/rate being calculated
for each child, and then reported to a score card or report followed
by saving of this or printing out.

	Gcompris is a hit, but needs the admin tool
While we focused on presenting gcompris as a great tool for younger
children with hundreds of mini apps, it was asked if one could
seperate these mini apps into layouts for particular groups of
students, or individual students, and again have a central admin part
to keep track of what children are working on and even suggest a
progression plan (activities to be worked through and scores for those
activities to be achieved.) G compris already has an admin part and
this should be included within sugar, as it seems to be a vital
component to get it to be anything more than a fun experimental game.

	The simplest app wins (speak)
The app they found most to their liking due to its simplicity and the
fun surrounding it was the speak application. The criticism was that
speak should really be having the letters sound like they do in words.
For example, 'M' should be pronounced mmmm and not emmm. This would
require the fixing of only the sound bytes of single characters.

	Meshed collaboration extremely shaky, especially with more than 6 users.
There was some skepticism as to how well collaboration would work as
we seemed unable to get it to work well due to multiple wireless
signals. A server was suggested by us to overcome this and other
issues (storing of lesson plans for the activities in moodle, backups
to prevent local storage problems, ejabberd for collaboration between
xos and non-xos.)

	Sugar on a stick, sugar on Ubuntu not Ready
Finally, it was concluded by us after presenting sugar on a stick with
the very latest binaries and packages, that, at least on ubuntu, sugar
is not ready for even experimental use, as more than 50% of the apps
do not work, and networking seems to be broken too.

kind Regards,
David Van Assche

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