Two new xo laptop arrives in Eshibinga.
8th Sept. 2011
About a month ago, Jane called me telling me the good news. She had secured two more xo laptops for the Eshibinga Primary school. Today, 8th September 2011 a courier service in Kisumu called me informing that the two laptops had arrived. Interestingly the laptops jetted in when teachers in Kenya are on strike. I am a teacher. We have not reported to work for the last three days. Our reasons for boycotting going to class are very genuine. Kenya is faced with serious overcrowded classrooms and acute shortage of teachers. We want the Kenya government to employ more teachers.
The arrival of the two extra laptops is obviously a blessing to the kids at Eshibinga Primary school who are members of the IT club. They have no teachers, but at least they have the xo laptops. And that is where the world is headed. IT will soon replace teachers in the classroom.
Whenever we receive these laptops, I get to discover that xo laptops are unlike any other laptop I’ve ever used, both in appearance and functionality. It’s smaller, for one thing. The XO is 9 inches wide, and approximately an inch thick when closed. But there’s a lot more difference between the XO and a normal laptop computer than size. It has strangely marked keys, unusual buttons, external wi-fi antennas, a unique UI, and an original reason for being. Most people, myself included, will compare the XO to normal laptops, but that’s not a good comparison. The XO is not designed to do the things that most notebooks are called upon to do, and no other notebook in the world can do the things the XO can do. An XO can store an entire library of written stories, videos, and pictures. It can make and play music. It contains Activities that you can use to learn math, play games, create pictures, and communicate with others. You interact with your XO using the touchpad, keyboard, microphone, or camera.
When the first batch arrived in March this year, there was no manual or USERS GUIDE enclosed. This second batch also has no manual. I wonder why we never get a manual! I plan to ask Jane or Sandra about that. But the boy in me made me to fumble and touch and pull until I got the xo laptop working. However, sometime in April this year Sandra and Juma organized a seminar where I got more clarifications on how the xo works. It was then that I learnt that the xo works on a linux system. It is not a windows. It does not pick up viruses, it is hardy, it can take a beating…I mean it is tough. It is meant for the African terrain and child. But most important I learnt about the sugar.
Sugar — the XO’s UI — is novel and unique, and it brings its own grammar to the table top. You’ll probably need to add a few new words to your vocabulary no matter how long you’ve been using computers. Don’t think multiple desktops: think views. There are four views: neighborhood, group, home, and activity. The neighborhood view shows all the wireless activity the XO can see. The group view shows any direct connections you have with other XO users. The home view is akin to a normal desktop view, from here you can change views, see the status of your battery and wi-fi connection, select new activities or go to previously opened activities. Various activities are as follows. The Chat activity allows you to chat one-on-one with other XO users or groups of users. The Browse activity does exactly what you expect it to do: Browse the Internet. My students at Eshibinga have been unable to enjoy this activity because we are not connected to the internet, There is no wi-fi connection near us. We are deep in the rural.
The Record activity attracts the most attention when you’re out in public with your XO. Several people who have seen the XO on 60 Minutes or elsewhere came up to get a closer look after seeing the Record activity on the laptop. As soon as you start the Record activity, most of the UI becomes a live video display of whatever the camera sees, but it’s not recording anything. To record something, you first need to select the mode — Photo, Video, or Audio — then click on the bulls eye icon near the bottom of the image to record or start recording. There are other activities like the write activity and the tumtum. The xo is a whole library.
Tomorrow morning I will have to go to Eshibinga to meet the kids in class. I have an obligation to take these two xo laptops to them. My love for IT and technology will take me back to class. I have to teach these kids IT. The government will not pay me for this, but my conscience tells me that this is the right thing to do. To invest IT, in these young minds.
Thanks Jane and Sandra and all the people you work with for making this a reality.
Two new xo laptop arrives in Eshibinga.