Wednesday, 7 July 2010

20 Graduates from PyXO

Couple of weeks ago, Mohammad Nawahda started a dynamic team to make sure PaleXOers get the proper training about Python to ensure they have what it takes to start developing some great local activities and customizing others. We called it PyXO.

Hanna Kreitem managed to book a room in BZU CCE at Al Masa Building in Ramallah. There, we had 5 three-hours sessions, in which we explored, played with, practiced and hacked around python, GTK and Sugar.

Attendees were around 20 on average. Mostly are PaleXO members, some open source lovers, others joined PaleXO when they learned about what we do. I was amazed of how excited the guys were about Python and enthusiastic about starting building their very first activity and games.

The Python-effect was shown on the guys that came back everyday to learn more and more about it. They simply loved it. Sundous Hussien even started to brainstorm about games and activities that they want to start developing. Simply the idea was to capture and develop kids creativity by creating their future using a game, Sundous calls, Future Time Machine.

Started by introducing Python and it's inline interpreter. Playing around with Numbers, Strings then moving to more advanced structures, Lists, Dictionaries and Tuples. The following picture shows one of my favirote examples, which is calculating big numbers on the fly!

We also moved with learning how to build a Graphical User Interface (GUI) using GTK+ and PyGTK. We also moved on with a real life example by rebuilding Translate Activity that we built sometime ago. Starting with a standalone (non-sugar) program and then move on with how to make it run on Sugar, packaging it and installing it on Sugar.

Now that we are done with the basic training, we hope that software development will be moving much faster in the community and we hope we would come up with some great activities that would help kids learn better.

We will be having some small meetups to play around more with Python and Sugar and to start actually working and implementing some Activities. Meanwhile, we'll start to brainstorm about ideas that can be implemented.

At the end, we really would like to thank BZU CCE, Marwan, Nehad and Hanna Kreitem for helping us getting a place where we can gather and give the sessions.

Want to help? Have Ideas for Activities? Leave us a comment.

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.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

PaleXO's Visit To Slafeet Elementary School For Boys

    We try to learn from our past experiences and deal with the difficulties we face. Our previous visits to Bodros, Abu Falah, Khalid Bin Al-Waleed, and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed schools taught us many lessons. First of all, kids are already hard to control, and when they get the green XO devices it gets worse, and if that is not dealt with properly the sessions planned to introduce the XOs to these kids will become slow, inefficient and of low benefit. Second, the members and volunteers get really swamped dealing with the kids and they find it difficult to write down their instant observations while the interactive session is running. Moreover, we thought that five members per 35-40 students is a good number at first, this turned out to be totally wrong. In today's visit to Slafeet Elementary School For Boys we tried to address these problems and come up with appropriate solutions, and I can say we managed to solve these problems.

    At 7:30 in the morning a bus with half the volunteers headed from Ramallah to Salfeet picking up the rest of the group from Birzeit. We arrived to the school around 8:30 am and started working on updating the laptops directly. We found the laptops in their original boxes they were delivered in. They were never touched before! While updating the laptops we discovered many corrupted batteries, but luckily, each laptop was delivered with an additional battery, so that was not an obstacle. Updating the laptops took around 2 hours since we had 7 flash disks only to update more than 70 XOs, and that delayed our sessions.

    Right after the XOs were updated, we divided ourselves into two groups of 11 members each. We decided to divide the kids trying to make the interactive session faster and benefit all the students to benefit from, so we divided students into groups of 4, and assigned a volunteer per group to supervise the students, calm them down, and help them follow the presenter's instructions. Even though this way didn't reduce the noise kids made during the session (which is a natural result of their interaction), it was a success; the session went faster and the kids were made sure to follow all the parts of the sessions. We also made changes to the evaluation forms used by the kids, changing all the questions to make them easier to answer. In addition, we assigned a dedicated member to write down classroom observations noticing the kid's behavior and interaction.

    Israa Badha and Tamer Alkhouli presented the sessions to the two 3rd grade sections. It was really thrilling seeing the kids, who were using the XOs for the first time, discovering functionalities on their own. Many of the kids were smart and fast, they could just follow the instructions directly and smoothly, and even discover the shortcut keys to taking pictures and switching between the different views of Sugar!!

    One problem we faced was that the English teacher left just after the session was started, he mentioned he would come back but he didn't show up again. That was a serious problem since one of our goals was to train the teachers to become facilitators in the classroom to encourage the students to use the XOs.

 In the end we would like to thank each of the following volunteers for participating in today's visit: Morad Z Taleeb, Suhaib Siam, Iman Al-mali, Tamer Alkhouli, Hanaa Al-ali, Rawan Abu Leil, Samar Abu Eid, Aya Hassouneh, Samah Qiwi, Duaa Qiwi, Raseel Qadadha, Reham Issam, Anisa Yousef, Rasha Hussein, Mohammad Khatib, Mohammed Nawahda, Hiba Duriadi, Abdel Hafeth Salah, Lamees Shalash, Eman Hannoun, Yasmeen Shtayieh, Isra' Luna, and Ruba Rasem Hussien. We also appreciate the efforts of Ala' Abu Nada, Noura Salhi, Safaa Halahlah, Ahmad Ramahi spent preparing for 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.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Budros Elementary School Visit - Budros, Ramallah

On the 21st of March, we have visited two schools in the west bank which were Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School and Budros School.

Khalid Ibn Al Waleed summary is posted in the previous post.

The teachers at Budros school used the XO laptop with third grade students 5 times before this visit using the old version. The school principle showed us some pictures taken while using the XO laptop and we saw the students happiness and interaction. At the beginning of the visit, we updated around 37 XO laptop and then prepared the classroom with the XOs and cables. The third grade students were very happy to see us and told us that they love the XO laptop and were waiting for us to learn more. Actually, not only the third grade wanted the XO, other students gathered at the door wanting to use it and learn also.

The students told us that they used record activity to take photos of themselves, and the teacher. Also, they used Tamtam activity to hear sounds of animals which was related to a lesson in science curricula. So we tried to show them other activities in the session, and leave others for them to explore.

The teachers likes the XO a lot and believe in its role in improving the students achievements. The math, science, Arabic and English teachers joined the students in the session and used the XO laptop with the students.

We used gifts to make a challenging environment. We used stickers (stars) and candies to award the fastest students in multiple activities. We divided the classroom to two groups and shared two chat activities (Blue and Green). After chatting a little, math and science teachers used these group chat to ask related questions and receive the answers. They students were very excited and started thinking, calculating and writing to answer the first and gain a star and candy.

They shared other activities like write and paint, and learned how to invite a friend to an activity. We asked them to find some facilities in these activities like changing the color, and they were very happy and proud to find it by their own and helping their friends with it.

The students loved Tuxmath activity. They started counting on their hands and typing the answer. The activity is exciting and challenging. Once one student got it, they go and help each other.

We provided 24 new activities on the XO laptops, some of them are math related. The teachers are very anxious to use the XO laptops in their classes. We were very happy to hear the children's feelings towards using the XO and getting it home with them.

We would like to thank Budros team for the great job: Salam Abu Makho, Ala' Allan, Lamees Shalsh and Suhail Taha, Ayman Qarrout, Fayeq Rimawi and Noura Salhi. We enjoyed our trip from Ramallah, passing by Ein Areek and Billin to reach Budros.
Also many thanks and great job for Khalid Ibn Al Waleed team: Mohammad Khatib, Samer Ayesh, Reham, Ahlam, Anas Abdelrazeq, Anissa Yousef, Hanna Kreitem, Mohammed Nawahda, Abdul - Hafeth Salah, Morad Taleeb, Samah Qiwi, Yasmeen Hashem, Abeer Hammad, Raya.

We also would like to recognize some special efforts from: Ayman Qarout and his friend for bringing a projector, Hanna Krietem, with his help in getting the projectors and booking the room for the training session and for taking amazingly inspiring pictures, Tamer Alkhouli and Ala' Abu Nada, who helped with the coordination of the visit, and Noura Salhi for holding the training session for the volunteers.

We would also like to thank Exalt Technologies for buying the candy for the kids, they really loved it, as well as we did. And the ITC at Birzeit University for lending us two projectors.

Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School Visit - Aqraba, Nablus

Today, March 21st 2010, marks our second visits to Palestinian schools in the Westbank. Last Thursday we visited Abu Falah School in Abu Falah village near Ramallah. Today we've been to two schools, a group went to Bodros school near Ramallah, and another to Khalid Ibn Al Waleed School.

I'll leave it to Bodros group to update you with a summary and Pictures.

We were trying a new approach to get the attention of kids by presenting the Sugar interface using a projector. This wasn't as easy as we thought, kids were really distracted by the laptop once they had it and it was hard to convince them to pay attention to the speaker. That was because that was the first time the kids ever saw the XOs!

13 volunteers left Birzeit around 7:30am to Aqraba directly in two seven-passenger caps. I had to go to Ramallah to hand Candy-bags and PaleXO TShirts to the other group. The guys updated the laptops, talked to the kids, played football with them and they even lined up with them in there morning lines and practiced morning exercises with them!

I've joined a bit late due to the fact that I had to go to Nablus first and from I headed to Aqraba. At the time of arrival, they were just about to start eating some meat-stuffed-bread that the teachers and principal of the school got for us along with the drinks. This was extremely nice from them and they were really nice to hang out with.

That was when we started the presentation. We setup the projector while Samar started showing the kids how to open the laptop and how to turn it on (Which they already figured it out by themselves). Then she moved to showing them the 4 views of Sugar and how to navigate between them, explaining what each one is for. This took some time as we expected, as it was the kids' first time to play with the laptop. All PaleXO members were helping the kids in the class follow up with Samar and apply what she was explaining if they couldn't get it.

One of the teacher suggested that we could go outside of the class in a near place called "Sibaryeh", a nice place with some olive trees and a nice view of mountains and Aqraba. We decided to go on an easier and a more fun experience for the kids by dividing ourselves into smaller groups and getting to know the kids more, what they like, and how fast they learn. That was amazingly fun and easier to manage for us and the kids. I even asked the kids who were accompanying me to shoot some pictures of the nature and for their friends while walking to that place, and soon they really got into it and started asking to take pictures of their teachers.

The kids had the chance to experience and play with multiple activities, including Speak, Write, Tuxmath, Arithmatic, Chat, Maze, Memorize, Record and Paint. Though some laptops were missing Tuxmath for some reason (It must be an error during the update process) but it was okay.

This time we've got candy-bags for the kids, they were holding their XO and candy with the same hand and they ate them while playing around with the XO. After finishing, we took the kids back to the school and gave them the chargers, asked them to fill evaluation forms with the help of the volunteers and gave them another evaluation form for their parents to fill.

This has been an amazing visit! Everything was really nice and I couldn't have imagined it any better, although not losing our TShirts bag at the end of the trip would've been nice! (~20 shirts in that bag). We also didn't have much time to go through Aqraba, but it was amazing visiting it, it's a beautiful place and has amazing views of mountains.

This hasn't ended here, the two groups have gathered and had a 14 people lunch at Angelo's Restaurant. This was full of fun, that some people said that it was "the best day in their life!". And I am sure the kids had the same experience as we watched them playing with their friends with the XO.

We would really like to applaud for all the guys who worked hard in this day. Noura Salhi, Salam Abu Makho, Ala' Allan, Lamees Shalash, Suhail Taha, Fayeq Al Remawi, Ayman Qarrout, Mohammad Khatib, Samer Ayesh, Reham, Ahlam, Anas Abdelrazeq, Anissa Yousef, Hanna Kreitem, Mohammed Nawahda, Abdul - Hafeth Salah, Morad Taleeb, Samah Qiwi, Yasmeen Hashem, Abeer Hammad, Raya. And the Teachers and principle of the school who were extremely nice.

We also would like to recognize some special efforts from: Ayman Qarout and his friend for bringing a projector, Hanna Krietem, with his help in getting the projectors and booking the room for the training session and for taking amazingly inspiring pictures, Tamer Alkhouli and Ala' Abu Nada, who helped with the coordination of the visit, and Noura Salhi for holding the training session for the volunteers.

We would also like to thank Exalt Technologies for buying the candy for the kids, they really loved it, as well as we did. And the ITC at Birzeit University for lending us two projectors.

Stay tuned for the Pictures and videos.