More Fun with XO Laptops
by Caroline Bixiones, May 2008 Golden Week Trip Leader
PEPY’s Northern Cambodia Experiential Trip, which took place last month, was an incredible experience. Twenty-five people from five countries gathered in Cambodia to learn more about the people, its culture, and how local organizations and communities were working together to help build a better future for Cambodia’s children. One of our main goals of the trip was to learn about the One Laptop Per Child program’s XO Computer. These green machines have been floating around the office for months and the only one here who knows how to use it has been Vichetra, our housekeeper’s 8-year-old son. His ability to explore the technology and discover how to use this learning tool has incredible to watch. I haven’t seen a single adult who is capable of gathering enough patience to last more than 10 minutes trying to figure out how the little green monster works!
I brought one of our XOs with us on our way to the Reaksmey School to learn more about these tools. I gave each van of participants a bit of time to familiarize themselves with the laptop. Each time I walked up to a van I heard a resounding “oohhh,” but as soon as I handed it over their excited faces dropped when they realized they didn’t know how to open it! That is just the first challenge to figuring these computers out, but the thrill of opening it the first time is like being a kid again and discovering a new secret!
Once we reached the Reaksmey School we were finally able to see them in action, and what an amazing show it was! Every student had their own laptop with their name on it. They took care of them lovingly and even handled their classmates’ computers with gentle hands. They watched the other students when it wasn’t their turn in class, and they were thrilled to show all of us just what they can do. They spent an entire morning showing us their recent projects. We saw some of their creations, including a baseball animation video and a Khmer language teaching tool program. Afterwards, they took pictures of us to use in their projects. We heard music they had created on their XOs, read their daily diaries, and watched them work with lightning speed and diligence.
And the most impressive part is that they are learning to do all of these things in English! The entire computer class is taught in English, as currently the XO’s are not available in Khmer (though they will likely be in the coming months). The level of English at the Reaksmey school is so high due to an energetic and committed teaching staff, eager learners, and the kind of discipline and structure that create an environment where students can’t wait to learn English and learn with the XO. There are some differences in the goals of our programs, as PEPY is currently concerned with creating a Khmer literacy campaign, but we at PEPY will be taking back many of the great ideas from Reaksmey school, and sending our new teaching staff up for training opportunities as well. Hopefully by next year’s Golden Week Trip, we will all be marveling at student projects at The PEPY Ride School and the incredible things they too have created using the XO computer.
For more about the XO laptops discussed in this post, visit the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.