[Marketing] 33 kids tried Sugar on Saturday! My own usability focus group :-)

Sean DALY sdaly.be at gmail.com
Mon Jun 22 17:13:24 EDT 2009


Saturday was the end-of-year festival at my kids' school and I hosted
a Sugar booth!

I had asked if I could set up my XOs and netbooks on a table for kids
to interact with Sugar; one of the parents' association moms talked me
into donating one for the raffle (a pink Asus EeePC which Philippe my
photgrapher friend took a photo of yesterday with a USB stick :-)

Kids at this school are fairly well-to-do; all the parents I know have
at least one computer in the house, many have two, some kids have
their own computers already. However, the computer lab at the school
has suffered from old equipment and disappearance/breakage of new
equipment. Last year I had to write to my daughter's technology
teacher (computers + electronics) when he sent her home with a Word
file and instructions for editing Word. She brought him a USB stick
with OOo and an offer on my part to assist in setting up the lab with
free software; I didn't hear back, but I didn't hear about Word any
more, either.

33 kids paid a ticket to try Sugar on 7 XOs, a Classmate, and three
netbooks including the new Dell education netbook. Many children were
with their parents, many with a friend or brother or sister. A handful
of older kids turned down paying a ticket (most of the older ones
didn't ask permission to try them, either, they just pulled up and
started exploring). The XOs were all together in mesh (including the
two old build 65x machines), the netbooks in standalone (I had brought
an AP but had my hands full with 10 kids at a time).

All of the kids needed help exiting Activities, except for the
GCompris Activities; I guess because of the persistent exit icon in
GCompris screens. We'll need to look at that.

Several kids wondered how to get back to the Home View. On XOs, they
understood the dedicated keys right away; those who forgot just
punched the four dedicated navkeys until Home View came up. On the
netbooks, especially the Dell Mini 10 which has no dedicated function
keys (they are blue Fn alternates), kids needed help for each return
to Home View. I later managed to set the default on those keys to
Function instead of multimedia controls in the BIOS. The absence of a
bound Frame key on the netbooks is unfortunate.

The smallest kids, without exception, got Maze going and progressed to
higher levels. One kid saw others playing it and brandished his ticket
specifically to play Maze. Oddly, kids seemed to understand the game
faster on the Classmate despite its small screen size (it's an Olidata
JumPc Gen-1 7" screen). I attribute this to the color coding of the
arrow keys on the Classmate's keyboard (the Classmate's keyboard is
generous to begin with).

The small (grades K-2) and middle (grades 3-5) section principals each
came by with some teachers and expressed great interest and took
photos. They preferred the XOs to the netbooks with the exception of
the Dell Latitude 2100 education netbook, they really liked the
tattletale LED bar, the spine for putting a student's name in, the
anti-spill "legs", the large screen. They seemed reassured they could
be in Windows by just rebooting without SoaS on the SD Card, although
I mentioned to them that Dell had made a mistake and delivered the
wrong OS (Ubuntu is standard on that netbook). The principals were
interested in jabber collaboration which they had never heard of.

One mom expressed frustration that dropdown menu choices found by
mouse rollover could not be validated with the Enter key. Do we have a
ticket for that?

Several parents and a teacher asked about translation tools.

Some parents who had already heard of OLPC asked where the crank was.
That such an attribute could still be top-of-mind years after the
crank prototype was superseded indicates to me that OLPC may be
missing a major marketing opportunity by not bundling the Freeplay
crank with G1G1.

One parent asked about audio books, could the computer play back a
recording of a native speaker of another language. A teacher expressed
interest in the possibility of kids studying another language with
Sugar on a Stick, bringing the stick home to continue lessons.

Smaller kids enjoyed the webcam.

8-10 year olds loved the Chat Activity although they were sitting
round the same big table; amusingly, as all my sticks and XOs are
named variants of my name e.g. "SeanSoaSDellLatitude2100", they
started calling each other by those handles and squealing with delight
when they figured out who was who.

One kid wanted to change his XO color so we did that but in so doing
he couldn't collaborate any more, fixed with a reboot.

One parent asked about DVD playback on the netbooks.

Here's something interesting: I told each parent and teacher who spoke
to me that Sugar is free siftware ("logiciel libre"). Not one of them
asked me what logiciel libre meant.

Finally, some lads started in with water guns after their turn at the
screens and managed to spray a couple of the XOs which showed the
monochrome hires screen right away. I dried the screens and keyboards
while powering down, dried them out 24 hours and both booted up fine.

Some parents and teachers were wondering if I was there selling
laptops and when I explained that Sugar Labs is a nonprofit composed
of volunteers like myself, that Sugar is free software and can be
downloaded, that Sugar on a Stick can boot most PCs and run under
virtualization, etc., they were friendlier and asked more questions.

Of course, a festival booth like this is completely unrelated to
classroom study, especially over a semester. However, every parent and
teacher who came by did leave the stand aware that netbooks are
candidates for kids' learning in schools and/or at home...



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