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Notes from July 22 visit to computer lab GPA with 3rd graders.
By Greg Smith
See all the class notes here: Gardner_Pilot_Academy#Class_notes

Came early and talked with Caroline for 1/2 hour about project management strategy. Will send e-mails to sugar-devel lists with follow up on that. Main points:

  • There are still some technical issues to be ironed out for the fall (e.g. USB sticks failing, faster boot, booting on Mac and possibly doing without CD). These need to be tracked agressively.
  • Lesson plans idea is good but may not have a lot of lead time from lesson plan creation to class start. Will begin by documenting classes we have already held.
  • Most likely classes in the fall are 5th (confirm) grade Science teacher doing science notebooks and 4th grade teacher wanting to keep portfolios of work. That said we aren't sure and may not know until Labor day.

Looking at their windows computers (Win2K) I saw that they have KidPix3 deluxe, Kidspiration (by Inspriation SW) and Investigations. The last corresponds to the Investigations curriculum and uses Turtle/Logo. All apps more than 5 years old but very complete and well designed SW. May not be easy to use but they are pretty. May want to follow up with the makers of Investigations SW: Terc -

I asked the teacher if they have used the Investigations SW and he said no he had heard it was on the computers but never had a chance to try it.

Walter ran the class. He asked them to plug in the USB stick, start the computers and come back the rug. One new kid needed a new USB stick. Not having the same stuff as the rest of the class was very stressful to him. It looked like he felt left out but looked beter once he got booted with his name and color.

Back on the rug Walter asked if people remembered the Memory game. He asked what did we do with it. Kids answered "played" and on prompting added that they created their own games. More prompting and they mentioned creating pictures and getting pictures. W: "where did we get the pictures?" Kids: "Wikipedia" and "Internet".

Back on the computers, Walter started the kids off by asking them to download Conozco Uruguay. Caroline opened Browse on the right page, bookmarked it and shared browse. All the kids opened browse and found the shared link. It takes a little longer than we would like for the share to be available.

Some kids needed to be reminded to look at the bottom of the screen to find the shared bookmark. Other asked where the Browse was. Many asked to be told to click OK after download completed. Some clicked on the "continue" button while it was counting down (I actually never understood the purpose of the count down). After clicking OK, some needed to be shown how to go back to the Home and click on Uruguay. Finding the frame, task switching, understanding "where" you are and how to get to another app is still a challenge.

After opening Conozco Uruguay the kids started clicking on it. Most didn't read Spanish, but they tried it anyway. They liked the rocket getting built. They learned a lot about the the Departmentos of Uruguay! Many looked at it in investigate mode then remember what they saw in quiz mode. Smart kids!

Two bugs seen in Conozco Uruguay:

  1. Investigate in Topographic mode didn't seem to work.
  2. Salir button did not exit. Stop button worked.

After playing with it for a while some kids went back to playing with Memory. They opened old memory instances from the Journal although they couldn't easily find their own customized games from there. The Journal entries may have remembered who was playing with who as they seemed to join each others games rapidly and without much conscious effort (except maybe choosing "share with neighborhood"). I have no idea how the "shared" but they didn't worry about it and played away.

Back on the carpet, Walter said that we would be making our own game and asked kids what makes up a game. Kid asked if they can make a fun game like he sees on Qubo. They wanted it to be fun. Walter opened Write on the projector and wrote down the following (~) from the kids:

What is needed for a game?

  • Alien
  • Pieces of the rocket
  • States
  • countries
  • English words
  • Communities
  • Computer
  • Airplane
  • Jet
  • Instructions
  • Animation (description by kids, word offered by Walter) and Reward
  • Map with labels for borders, states, communites etc. (prompted)

Kid: "is that how you make a game?"

How does a game work?

  1. Study period to test it out
  2. First alien asks a question
  3. Try to answer it
  4. Alien gives hints
  5. Get the answer
  6. Ask another question.

Walter asked them to come up with an idea for their own game. The only constraint is that it should be about something they are learning in Geography

Back on computers kids asked lots of questions went to wikipedia to find pictures, and opened write to start writing down list like above. They started collecting pictures and asked for help searching.

Back on carpet Walter asked each kid to describe their game. Several kids were doing the same thing. They came up with the following:

  1. Guatemala. Departments numbered and corresponding to images on the map.
  2. Sports team logos in the US. Then find the state or city for each team.
  3. Presidents. Match pictures of presidents with names.
  4. Presidents mashup (word used by kid!). Take a jumbled up a list of pictures of presidents and put them in order.
  5. Countries and states in North America.
  6. "Find me". Start with an animation of a spinning globe. Find north america and show that. Find US, find MA, Find Boston, Find Allston, Find Gardner Pilot Academy. One kid yelled out then find the desk in the office.

Post class debrief:

  • Kids liked keyboard short cuts (he had shown them F3). Maybe we should introduce a new short cut each week (next up, alt tab?).
  • Kids were comfortable with the neighborhood.
  • Kids found and opened Write without any prompting.
  • Impressed with how well they learned the goegraphy of Uruguay.
  • Task switching is still hard. So is moving data from one app to another.

Discussion of how to make the games they came up with. Modifying Conozco Uruguay may not be easy as it uses an image map startegy (ala HTML Image maps that make hot zones by coordinates). Walter thinks a Geosafari type ionterface is what is needed. (couldn't find an image but its become this: That is, a map and click on it to find items you are prompted for.

Discussion of need to minimize the "learn a new app" overhead and possibility of using Turtle Art. Walter takes away task of deciding and coding right tool (if only we could have a world class programmer/scientist in every class! ;-)

Next class we can focus on writing the list of things needed in a game and gathering source images. That gives us two weeks to come up with an authoring tool.