The second half of our week two training involved teaching Paint, Distance and Chat; this was the most frustrating and embarrassing training yet.
Paint, led by Chika, went rather smooth and students now understand how to draw with a traditional brush and how to paint predesigned shapes in various sizes. The worst part of training students in Paint was that the program has a complex color choice system. The system allows you to graphically choose a color or to put in the color numbers. To graphically choose a color you need to select which color you want in a wheel and then the hues of the color appear in a triangle within the circle. After selecting the circle color, you need to click again to choose the hue of the color you want; finally you click OK and can start painting in a different color. If it sounds confusing, it is; far more complex than necessary given the applications limited functions. Unfortunately, this was just the start of our frustrations with the design choices on the XO for the day.
After painting pictures and having the kids become comfortable with the program, students switched to test out Distance. Distance is an activity which requires two laptops. The two connect to each other and play a “CHHHH” sound and measure the time it takes for the other laptop to hear it. By knowing the speed of sound the laptops determine the distance between the two computers. Problems arise when there is lots of noise pollution and when the XOs choose to not connect to our network and server.
As we started introducing the idea to kids, we started noticing that some computers decided not to auto-reconnect to our network. When we manually told the laptop to connect to the network it would try and then eventually stop. Because of the simplicity of the XOs interface, there was no knowing why the computer could not connect. The teachers that were helping us in the classroom were looking at us asking for answers but we really didn’t have one. There was nothing wrong with the access points or server because other computers connected fine but there was no explanation why the computer wouldn’t connect. When we moved onto Chat, we had the same problem where computers were on different networks and some kids were unable to join the same chatroom as their friends.
The days were difficult to get through and it really shows the delicate balance between open-source and product oriented development. Using open-source programmers to collectively build and patch problems leads to unfinished, unpolished projects which have yet to be fully thought through. We are waiting to hear back from other Corps teams to see if they know of a way to work around the problems.