Saturday, 10 April 2010

PaleXO's Visit to Amir Qais for Girls School

Last Sunday, 4 April 2010, we left from Birzeit at 5:30am picking up the guys from Ramallah at 6:00am and heading to Hebron, Tarqoomya, where Amir Qais school is located. Arriving around 8:30am. Teachers there welcomed us warmly and took us to the lab where we started updating about 90 XO laptops.

Updating the large number of XOs wasn't a problem as we were 27 volunteers; we enjoyed the 2-hour update time as we got to know each other better, drank tea, and had some biscuits. Later on they also fed us some Falafel and after the school was off they bought us lunch. This was extremely generous from them.

One hiccup was that around 8 kids didn't bring in their XOs and most of the kids forgot to bring the Chargers. This wasn't a big problem as we had a bus with us and the principal sent a teacher with us to go and bring the laptops and chargers form each kid's home, the kids had tons of fun during the ride and more laptops to update.

On kids' break time, a group of volunteers went out and played with the cute girls in the play yard, laughed out loud creating a beautiful atmosphere there.

At about 10:30 am, we divided ourselves into the 2 classes (each of about 45 kids). Each class had one presenter, Rasha Hussien and Ayman Qarout who started the sessions by playing some games with kids till the volunteers finished updating. Then we brought the XOs and distributed them. The kids were already used to the laptops and the basic activities. Miss Muntaha and Miss Na'eemeh updated us with what the kids are already familiar with and what they would love to learn about. They were really excited about us coming that they sent us an email we found in the spam inbox later on (we apologize). 

So we had to make the class more advanced and let the girls play with the newly installed activities. They loved them, and were asking how to get more activities on their laptops. We also gave the updates and the activities to Miss Muntaha on a CD and walked her through how to update the laptop.

The girls were very happy and active, smiles were on their faces all the time which made it even harder to get their attention and make them listen to us! They were up to discovering and learning on their own and even jumping on the presenter's timeline and answering questions. We all liked it!

When the workshop was done, the little girls came and shook hands with Palexo members and volunteers. They loved them and they started to take pictures even before we finished. They wanted to remember this day and they kept asking us (as well as the teacher) to come back and to come more often. We gave them our numbers and promised to be in touch.

Girls were amazingly excited about the XOs, they wanted more stuff to learn about and new activities to play with. We showed them how to change their name and color, shared write and chat activities, taught how to type in Arabic in Write activity, played with Speak, GCompris Memory Mult Div, Tuxmath, Arithmatic and GCompris Railroad.

Once we were done from the school. We left to Hebron were we went to the Old City of Hebron and then to Al Haram Al Ibrahimi. After that we headed to Arroub Camp and dined at my parents house, where we had tons of fun and food, Thanks Mom and Dad, the food was amazing! Later we headed to Bethlehem. Most of Bethlehem shops were closed as we arrived late there and it was Easter Holidays. We just took some pictures in front of the Church of Nativity and then left Bethlehem.

Few recommendations for future deployment of XOs would be taking care of the chargers. Chargers are easy to break, and lots of the kids now share a charger with their friends because they broke theirs. We have seen some weird chargers fixed by the parents but even that shouldn't be the case. A Better and more robust chargers should be developed.

Touchpad's were the buggiest. We had more than 45 XOs with mouse problems. Kids were unable to move the mouse because of its crazy behavior which drove some of us crazy. None of the methods we tried worked out, so we had just to move on with this and try our best to point the mouse to the right place.

Thanks everyone who participated in this amazing day, you all made it special in your own way. Thanks Mom and Dad for the amazing dinner and dessert. Thanks to the Excellence center for lending us some electric cables and distributors. And Thanks for funding part of our transportations costs. Thanks to the PEI for making this possible and putting us in contact with schools. Thank you all.

Wrote by Mohammad Khatib, Ayman Qarout and Morad Taleeb.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Visiting Ola Al Qeblatein Girls School at Nahaleen, Beitlahem 04/04/10

Ola Al Qeblatein School was an amazing school. We would like to thank the headmistress of the school and all of their staff for their welcoming and great generosity. Mrs. Labiba Odwan, the math teacher, was waiting for us enthusiastically at the school door and was very happy with our visit.

Mrs. Labiba worked hard with her students. They only had 40 XO laptops working out of 84. The XO batteries weren't working, and the school didn't receive a full number of the additional batteries. However, Mrs. Labiba tried to manage that by working on the XOs on separate days for the two third grade sections.

When we were updating the XO laptops, we faced problems with the XOs having the old batteries. The XOs kept showing messages telling us that the batteries weren't present. We tried switching the batteries with new ones, however there wasn't an enough number of them. Time was running quickly and we had to decide what to do. We decided to distribute the 40 working XOs on 67 student, and two of PaleXOs technical team stayed trying to solve the batteries problem. Isra' Badaha and Ayman Natsheh managed to get them working after 2 - 3 updates for each XO laptop. This means the time for each XO to get ready was more than 30 minutes. They got the XOs working by the end of the day. Great job guys.

The students had experience with XO laptop. We let the students name the parts of the XO and what was the function of each one. They also told us that they used Memorize activity to solve Math equations and English letters, Calculate activity to make sure their math answers were right, and Write activity to write in English and Arabic. In addition, Mrs. Labiba got the students to use her XO to play on Math activities. The teacher's XO was updated on the second teacher workshop and we installed on it some new activities. So, the students had the chance to play Tuxmath for a little time. Mrs. Labiba is really a hard worker and she applied everything we showed her in the second teachers workshop.

The students were very active and happy to use the XOs. We were not comfortable letting each two students use one XO, however, they understood that we are working on getting all their XOs working and they actually took turns to use the XO and played together.

We connected each section to a different mesh. Section A was on mesh 6, and section B on mesh 1 in order to be able to identify each section's students. The students got that easily, learnt how to connect to different meshes and noticed when they were disconnected.

We had time to use Speak, Chat, Write, TuxMath, GComrpis Guess Count, Pacman, and Physics activities. The girls easily learnt new stuff, and explored the activities by themselves. They also tried to solve the mouse problem by cleaning the pad whenever it behaved weird.

One of the students was used to writing diaries. The pictures below show her writing about the day.
How innocent she is! Here's the English translation for what she wrote originally in Arabic: "Today we played on the computer, we used the lion activity + writing the name and spelling it + addition game. We also won in all games, it was the most lovely day in my life. Thank you for all your efforts. GoodBye".

Another girl was drawing the icons of the activities they were playing:

We would like to thank all PaleXO members and volunteers for the hard work: Asma Aqqad, Aya Hassouneh, Ayman Natsheh, Isra' Badaha, Maysa Nouh, Ala' Abu Nada, Tamer AlKhouli, Noura Salhi, Aseel Ashhab, Samar Ayesh, Ahmad Ramahi, Salam Abu Macho, Manar Malki, Ayah Hayah, Nagham Morrar, Randa Shannak, Somaia Salah, Maram Manasrah, Dunia Hamed, and Rawan Abu Leil. Special thanks to Isra' and Ayman for their great work to get the XOs working, and many Thanks to the Palestinian Education Initiative for their support.

This school's situation was modest and they had low facilities. However, they worked very hard with us and offered a lot of help. Mrs. Labiba Odwan is the most active and responsible teacher we have seen interested in working on the XOs.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

PaleXO Visiting Farkha School

A group of 5 PaleXOers visited Farkha school near Salfeet on Thursday 01/04/2010 which has 28 student.
One day before, the math teacher prepared all the XOs in a room and kept them charged. She joined us in the update phase and we showed her how to update an XO and gave her the update and the files of the new activities . We also trained her to use the XO since she couldn't attend the second teachers workshop. She did a great job with her students by giving them time to use the XOs in math class and physical science classes.

Students were very happy to see us at the school. While preparing the classroom, some of them came smiling to welcome us and say hi and then went back quickly to their classrooms.

These students used the XO for about 20 times before our visit. We listened to their experiences with the XO. They were very happy with Record activity, they just love it. They also told us that they played puzzle activity, and used calculate to help them in math.

Usually we begin by asking about the XO laptop parts. When we asked about the purpose of the XO ears, we got some of the familiar answers which were helping them open and close the XO, and to protect the XO while closed. However, an interesting and lovely answer was: "The XO ears are a symbol of motivation, they encourage us while using the XO."

We made three chat activities within the class and shared them. So there were 3 groups, each had its own color to be identified. The teacher asked math equations using the chat activity, as well as some students who wrote some equations to be solved by their friends. It was really great to see how they interacted with the activity.  The first number of students answering the questions got stars and  gifts. This made them very determined to solve the questions.

We learned together how to share activities and invite friends. They wrote together, changed colors, inserted tables, etc... They all got excited to find a facility in the activity in order to get the new gift.

We noticed that the students tried to explore the new activities. They opened some activities by their own and played with them. They were also helping each other a lot.

There are some differences between students in using the XO. Some of them were slow and lazy at the beginning and then got excited and showed a difference. We hope that the less interacting students will get more excited by having this additional tool to learn.

We would like to thank all the participating members: Ayman Qarout, Ayman Natsheh, Ahmad Masri, Safaa Halahla, and Noura Salhi. In addition,  we'd like to thank Tamer AlKhouli, Ala' Abu Nada Mohammad Khatib and Ahmad Al Masri for the preparations of the event . We'd also like to thank the Excellence Center in Birzeit University for providing electric cables and distributors, and the Palestinian Education Initiative for making this event possible.