The rollout of these sturdy, laptop devices took off when the 5th grade students became the teachers. In putting the technology directly in their hands first, the hesitation teachers sometimes experience with technology vanished. It was a brilliant move to get teachers on board. The 5th grade students became problem solvers, both boys and girls, and were willingly invested in the process, when they realized they were in charge.
Gerald Ardito (Croton Harmon) met with technology team 3-4 times, helping them unbox, take the machines apart and put them back together. Students sitting around a conference table upgraded and made road-ready about 140 machines in a 2 hour period.
The teachers involved in this project learned a lot by watching kids adopt them, from the initial rollout, where the first order of business was to have each student pick the one they wanted. The XO devices seem to facilitate ad hoc networks which mirror how middle schoolers learn in the spirit of cooperative learning. The devices are friendly to free and open source software. According to Gerald, the kids treat them like their own personal cell phones and iPods - the device becomes truly “theirs.”
When first exploring the device, all the boys seem to find the games, web browser, Scratch and other applications; while the girls found how to connect machines together (form a network, in a technical and human sense), and chat. An interesting observation was the revealing of distinct modes of approaching technology, if you devote enough time for it to play out. According to the participating staff, this project helped to redefine intelligence – some students with significant learning problems have come into their own through their access to the device.
Lesson learned – don’t fight the ripple effect of students taking off with something. It’s much better and ultimately less stressful to “lighten up” and embrace an initial level of chaos and disruption. Plan for some chaos of having to keep up with different paces, but reap the benefits of authentic student ownership of the process.