South Bronx Teacher Feedback
Posted to Developers list April 4
My name is Robin Lerche, and I am a kindergarten teacher at a charter school in the South Bronx (I'm using my mom's e-mail to be able to write to this list). This is my first year as a head teacher, so I am still getting a feel for things, but as of right now, things are going very well. My mom, Carol, bought four XOs to have in my class as a center, and for the past week she has been in my class teaching my kids how to use them. I thought I would write about how it went. Let me just give a little rundown of the kids in my class: There are 20 5- and 6-year olds, but I think their experience could easily be applied to a 1st grade class as well, since all of them except two are reading on at least a first grade level, and most of them have very good handwriting, so good fine motor skills.
First of all, let me say that they certainly are durable! Of course, Karissa, while trying to take a picture of my reading group, dropped it on the floor, and it was quite fine afterwards. She's not very tall, but still
- -) They were all very intrigued by the rabbit ears and the little people on the back, and several of them incorporated the logo into their pictures during writing time, which was cute.
They really liked the computers. They were so excited when they went to use them, they couldn't wait until they started up to start pressing all the buttons. Each group had four kids at a time, and my mom was constantly supervising them so if they had any problems, she could troubleshoot. Which happened quite a lot, as they are very impatient. Their main problem was that they didn't want to wait for the programs to come up; when it didn't pop up immediately, they would click on something else to try it, which of course made it start even slower, and so they got very frustrated and my mom had to close out everything before they would be able to try again. They loved taking pictures of everything, but some of them had trouble getting the mouse to sit well enough on the little button to take the picture, especially when they were trying to do it semi-upside down so that the subject of the picture was looking at the screen and the taker was not (it would be great if the picture was taken no matter where on the screen you clicked). However, they all got very into the chat feature, though there was really only one group that was patient enough to learn the orientation of the keyboard in order to write messages. The other ones just got excited when they made something come up on the other screen, and pretending to "type" really fast (one of my kids kept saying, "Oh look, I got e-mail!"). A few of them figured out how to do the puzzle, and they liked messing around with Paint for a few minutes, but their fine motor skills weren't good enough to get anything recognizable out of it, and they were especially frustrated with the difficulty of switching colors. They really liked Tux because of the sounds and the stamps; unfortunately, my mom said it didn't work on the new release. But ultimately, even that didn't hold their interest for that long, because they couldn't really draw pictures. They loved the memory game and the cartoon builder, but there weren't enough pre-built images for them to explore for long.
Some of them understood pretty well how to open the computers and get them started, but less of them understood that they needed to close out their applications and shut them down before they closed them. I could see that this could be a big classroom management issue unless they were either completely independent on the computers, or like me, the teacher had a full-time person in the room whose job it was to troubleshoot. Sadly, since I don't have the luxury of having such a full-time person in the classroom (my mom does have to go home), I will not be continuing to use these in my classroom, at least not this year. I don't think that at this age, it would be a useful tool to have the whole class on at the same time, since they need really concrete, hands-on methods to figure things out, rather than more abstract things on the computer. I do think this could be a great way to reteach concepts to a small group, especially with math concepts like patterning if there was a program for this sort of thing. My mom also says that a lot of the issues I experienced in class are probably going to get better with new releases, so maybe next year we can try again! I wish I had a full time person in the room to handle them because they really did have fun and they will be sad to see them go.
Additional feedback added by Robin's mom (User:Cafl):
My observation in Robin's classroom was that the trackpad - select key combination was somewhat difficult for the 5-6 year olds (probably due to their less well developed fine motor skills compared to older users). I had to reteach this each time the children came to the XOs. They soon learned the operations when used separately, but had difficulty when they needed to coordinate mousepad/select button usage, as in Paint. The left hand action was often forgotten when they were concentrating on their right hand. (Presumably the reverse might be true for lefties, with the added problem that the "handedness" of the select button would add cross-over awkwardness.)
The frame appearance-disappearance problem was also an issue, as well as the choice of what field got the focus when an activity was opened/returned to. They often ended up typing into the tag for naming the work in the journal. Some kids who had especially busy fingers seemed to engender a need for mouse recalibration much more often than others.
The color widget for Paint and Colors (and as well, the brush size selector for Paint) was a lost cause for these kids. They never mastered either mechanism during the 6 days I was there.