This being the first week of our SoaS project, I started each session with a mini-lesson. The mini-lesson focused on the “job” of the students as a Q. A. engineer. I listed responsibilities, one per day:
1) Blog to tell others what you did and what you are thinking;
>> On day one, I reminded them that blogging is a way to communicate and be connected with the Sugar Labs community. The community is interested in what they did, what they discovered, and what they are thinking. The three children who were on the netbooks that day dove right in and explored. Maze was a big hit, while Colors! was a source of (low to medium) frustration to one student who likes to paint and draw. The two other students were more patient and simply chose a different activity when one activity did not work. Two of the children actively exchanged information about what they are discovering about the different activities and how to navigate the environment.
2) Explore and notice;
>> Day two: I likened the Sugar learning environment to their classroom learning environment, particularly when they were in pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, where activity areas called learning centers were clearly defined, e.g., the water table, the discovery table, the dramatic play or house corner, the art easels, the writing and drawing table, the math center, and the block area. In those classrooms, they were encouraged to freely explore materials and make discoveries. I said that the Sugar learning environment, with its array of icons representing various activities, encourage them to do the same. The three children who were on the netbooks this day explored Mazes, Flipsticks, and Implode. No frustration expressed by any of them. They shared information with one another as they explored.
3) Detect bugs and report them.
>> Day three: I showed everyone the 42 seconds video clip of a real life engineer named Max (Mel’s colleague) talking about the work of QA engineers. It was perfect! They immediately gathered around my laptop (mine from home) when Max introduced himself. When he said that a lot of times software engineers make mistakes just like they do on their math homework, eyes widened, ears perked up, and some sat up straighter. I think one child even exclaimed, “What?” They could not believe their ears! The video clip was just awesome and a very effective teaching tool to use. (Thank you, Max and Mel.) I then expanded the list of their responsibilities as QA engineers: I encouraged them to be explorers and detectives at the same time when engaging in Sugar activities. The three children who were on the netbooks on this day explored. At the end of the session, one of them expressed a little disapppointment that an activity she was looking forward to explore did not work. I acknowledged her feelings and then complimented her a second time on what she did the moment she found the bug- She wrote a bug report soon after discovering that Speak did not work, and wrote what she did that led to the discovery of the bug, and what the bug looked like.
Later, during our large group meeting, I complimented everyone for their good work during our morning work time and told everyone about the bug report that this one student wrote up upon detecting a bug. When the children wrote their blog posts, about half of the children told about discovering a bug. One child used the word “detected.”
The children and I also began a list of icons and words that users will be seeing and using a lot, e.g., the stop and shutdown icons, the word “Activity,” the check mark, and the button that leads back to home screen.
Other thoughts and/or observations:
- Only two children expressed some frustration (low level) that the two activities they wanted to engage in did not work. The rest of the children did not linger over non-working activities. They simply got out of it and looked for other activities to explore.
- Children are teaching and learning from each other. Hooray!
- The children like having a blog of their own. Their families left comments and seemed just as excited as they are about this project, including grandparents! For some children, it is clear that their blog is part of “school.” When I suggested to a student that she and her father check out her blog at home so that over the weekend she can read the comments her dad had written, she looked puzzled at first and then said that she would rather do that at school, even if she has to wait until Tuesday to see the comments. It was clear that at this time, she has categorized the SoaS project and blogging as part of her school life and work, not to be mixed into her life at home.
- Time – specifically in managing and maintaining the children’s blog. Ideally, I would like to have them input their blog posts themselves after they edit their writing. At this time, I edit their writing (spelling mostly) and post it for them. I would like to turn over that job to the writers and their peer editors once I teach them about editing. My problem is finding the time for them to do this because of limitations in time and resources. I will keep thinking about this and figure out a way that will work.
Overall, it had been a very good week on the Sugar front.