Saturday, May 30, 2009

Find A Kid To Fix It

I finally handed over netbooks to each of the year 5 and 6 students this week and it was a momentous occasion for me. I have dreamed of what it would be like if all the kids in my class had their own computer on their desk since the day I started teaching 25 years ago. All those years ago I had one Microbee computer with a cassette tape drive in my classroom that took 30 minutes to load a simple program. This week I was in front of a class of students who were all connected to the wireless network, accessing the Internet, shooting and editing video and emailing their work to their teacher to mark. I had spent a lot of time preparing an image for the netbooks, making sure all the software was working and ironing out security issues but I knew that there would be problems bound to surface. I also wasn't sure how the kids would go navigating the Ubuntu interface that is slightly different to Windows. I decided the best approach was not to spend too much time talking to the kids about the computers but to let them explore the new machines, stand back and watch what happened. I handed them out, fully charged with a 5 hour battery life and told them to try everything out. Within about 5 minutes some of them had worked out how to use the built-in video camera, change the wallpaper, customise the desktop and discover nearly all the bugs that I hadn't anticipated. I realised I should have given them the machines sooner rather than trying to work out what the bugs where myself. It was really amazing when you consider that they had never seen Ubuntu or any of the software programs that came installed. If I had done the same thing to a group of adults I am guessing there would have been frustration and people giving up because the software wasn't exactly what they were familiar with. So if you can't work out how to use something on a computer, hand it over to a 10 year old for five minutes and then beg them to teach you.
Am I worried that I will have to make changes to 66 new machines to fix the problems that the kids found? Not at all. One of the many great things I am finding about Ubuntu (yes it is free as well) is that I can make changes to the one master copy of the software on their netbooks and as soon as they restart their machines, the changes are automatically installed and enabled.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of when I was in high school...

    All the advanced math students figured out a way to hack together Tetris and Pac-man clones in their graphing calculators.

    It's funny how kids can ignore interface and just do what they want.