Taking the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop to the preschool classroom

What can you teach with the XO laptop? I’m still pondering that question for US-based classrooms. I’m reading the news from Birmingham Alabama and the blog entries from Dallas-Fort Worth Texas school systems with interest. Apparently you can buy a certain minimum of XO laptops if your school district or other group wants to incorporate them into their learning activities. Sign up at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Laptop_requests. With some grassroots fundraising efforts, a large-scale purchase of XO laptops seems attainable, perhaps even for Austin ISD.

Last week’s post with a picture of my four-year-old using the XO at our dining room table generated a response that a picture shows it all. I’d say that these pictures capture even more of the spirit of the OLPC project, showing a preschool teacher and two students have a blast with them, taking pictures of themselves, each other, and even taking pictures of the others’ XO.

I’ll also attest to the durability and sturdiness of these laptops. My son was walking quite quickly in the classroom with it (okay, maybe even running, but it’s not like he runs with scissors!) and tripped and fell with it. He was unhurt, these kids bounce back unbelievably from falls, and I was equally impressed with the complete durability that the XO displayed even when it probably took a bounce on the carpeted classroom floor.

So, what am I teaching with the XO?

My first session with the kids focused mostly on TamTamMini and Turtle Art, both auditory and visually appealing. These are four-year-olds, so they’re a little young for the target age for these laptops. The target age is about 6-12 years old. But, they figured out the touchpad quickly (and some, like my son, want the touchpad to allow for a mouseclick event when tapped like my Dell laptop responds, but not so with the XO touchpad.)

The kids also crowd around the screen and want to touch everything, which is fine, until I want to do the Turtle Art demonstration which involves clicking Project, and then clicking the icon for Samples and then waiting and then opening a sample file. But they were rewarded for their hands-off stand-off with bubbles and rainbow colors.

Turtle Art bubbles

In Turtle Art, I thought I’d always have to open the Blocks menu and drag the “clean “puzzle piece out, then click it to get the full starting effect. However, I just discovered that many of the samples have the clean block out already, it’s just hidden behind the menu. I finally figured out to click the hide, erase, or stop buttons to have the turtle stop mid-way through his task. The kids liked the Turtle Art demonstration as well and asked for more. I must admit, I didn’t feel like I was teaching them anything, but these are four-year-olds. With repetition and some more ideas we could build several learning opportunities around that Activity, I believe. I just got a great PDF file showing how to make the turtle draw letters, and I intend to use this demonstration for my next visit.

The next session I attempted to get the Acoustic Tape Measure Activity to work, but it failed miserably. I think it’s because I didn’t go to the Group view and Invite the other XO to the Activity. We’ll try again another day, after I’ve done some more testing.

Acoustic Tape Measure Activity for the XO computer

I also introduced the Record Activity and this was a huge hit for photos. I didn’t show them how to record audio or video, thinking I’d save that for another day. The pictures it takes are 640 x 480, and quite nice with natural lighting. See examples at the XO Photos group on flickr. In a future update of the XO, EXIF data will be available on the photos taken with the XO, and Flickr can then identify the source of the photo as an XO. I’ll have to upload some of the photos the kids took.

One kid even took a picture of his behind with it, reaching way back to push the O button on the game keypad (a nice shortcut way to take pictures with the Record Activity so that you don’t have to use the touchpad and X button click!) His teacher and I laughed so hard at his ingenuity and problem-solving – just to get a picture of his bottom.

Who else has taken their XO into a classroom setting, and what are you learning and teaching with the XO? I’d love to hear more, and I’ll be at SXSW Interactive and BarCamp Austin as well so please do say hi if you see me there.


  • March 3, 2008 - 12:40 am | Permalink

    These are good suggestions, Anne. Thanks for sharing.

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  • March 3, 2008 - 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on DFWXO. I enjoyed reading about your experiences as well. We’ll sure visit your site this Friday and incorporate some of your at our own schools.
    Best wishes,


    Sam Farsaii
    Director, Instructional Technology
    Irving Independent School District
    Tel. 972-215-5255

  • March 3, 2008 - 6:36 pm | Permalink


    Some great pointers. My wife and I have been tring to integrate the XO laptop into our daughter’s home schooling program and some of what you’ve described we’re definitely going to try.

  • March 5, 2008 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t put my hands on an XO yet but I’d like to hear from you, during BarCamp or at another time. Actually, do you plan on bring an XO to BarCamp, Saturday?

  • March 5, 2008 - 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Sure, I’ll bring my pair of XOs on Friday and Saturday. I’m working on a meetup one lunchtime as well, and may present at BarCamp too.

  • March 8, 2008 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    Didn’t notice the hug the XO session. Should be fun!

  • March 8, 2008 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    Yep, I added that session after commenting, but I’m still trying to find my way over to BarCamp! I’m such a tourist in my hometown. Hopefully I’ll get over there this morning sometime.

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  • July 22, 2008 - 6:39 am | Permalink


    Thanks for sharing this. I have one XO which I keep open and ready for use at the place in the computer lab where the kids line up to leave after using the computers (I am a Campus Technology Coordinator in an elementary school). So far all we have done is a little exploring. Sometimes I will find drawings on the screen, other times I will set it up with the Record on and overhear their amazement at the picture on the screen.

    The librarian at our school also has one, but it came much later than mine (March?, April?). We would like to do some activities connecting from the Computer Lab or Classrooms to the library, but we need to figure out how.

    I am glad to hear about what you are doing and will be subscribing to and reading your blog!


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