The OLPC XO, Intel Classmate PC and Asus Eee PC user study By Constance Sibanda
Background  • ICTs have become one of the crucial building blocks for a better education • ICT in education is the application of technology within the context of education • ICTs are often out of the reach of the poor and those in rural areas for a number of reasons: • Lack of appropriate products; • Insufficient funds; • Insufficient knowledge; • Language barriers
Background  • The recent creation of small, low cost and low powered laptops called netbooks, are seen as possible solutions to allow integration of ICTs in education in these disadvantaged communities • The recently created netbooks include: • the OLPC XO laptop • the Intel Classmate • the Asus Eee PC • the Lenovo mini-netbook
Aim of the project • The aim of the project was to evaluate the suitability and intuitiveness of OLPC XO, Intel Classmate PC and Asus Eee PC within an educational context for previously disadvantaged learners at a secondary school level. • It is hoped that this project will help contribute to the decision making processes in providing ICTs in schools
Methodology  • A user study was undertaken as a means of conducting assessment • Three teachers and three learners from previously disadvantaged schools in Grahamstown were chosen to participate in the project. • The teachers were chosen by their school principals based on their commitment and interests in the research • The teachers in turn chose the learners they wanted to work with, concentrating on responsible learners from the school
Methodology  • Pre intervention questionnaires were first distributed to both the learners and teachers. • This provided information about their computer literacy and their views concerning the use of ICTs in education • However, limited questionnaire responses were obtained from participants
Methodology  • 15 minutes interviews were conducted with the participants after they had spent 2 weeks with each laptop • This allowed them to draw out their experience with the netbook • The interviews were recorded using HP Compaq nx9010 laptop, Compact 4 Mixing Desk and two 1300_ Shure Microphones • Microsoft Word was used to transcribe the recorded interview • When I was analysing the information obtained from the interviews, I took note of the comments that were made concerning the learnability, memorability, effectiveness and efficiency and of each netbook • The advantages and disadvantages of each netbook that were mentioned by participants were also taken into consideration
Results [Intel Classmate] • The learners in this user study felt that the Intel Classmate was the most intuitive of the netbooks • Learnability and Memorability: The participants found it easy to learn how to use the Edubuntu interface installed on this netbook. They also did not struggle to remember what they had learnt about the computer • Efficiency: Participants completed their task at a much faster rate using this netbook. This was as a result of; • An easy to use interface • The faster speed of the netbook when compared to the other netbooks(this was expected because the processor speed is triple that of the OLPC XO and almost double that of the Asus Eee. • The larger screen display made it easier to use and caused less strain on the eyes
Results [Intel Classmate] • Effectiveness: • The carry handle makes it easy to carry around without a bag • The learners loved the webcam • Teachers felt that the Intel Classmate was very useful during teaching • However the absence of a VGA port limited its use in teaching because it could not be used together with a projector for classroom presentations or demonstrations
Results [Asus Eee] • Participants also found the Asus Eee suitable for secondary school education • Learnability and Memorability: Asus Eee and the Intel Classmate were installed with identical Edubuntu netbook remix images and the participants again did not struggle using the interface • Efficiency: • Though the speed of this netbook is slower than that of the Intel Classmate, it is much faster than that of the OLPC XO hence the speed at which participants completed their task was not hampered. • The participants again felt that the interface was easy to use • However, it was criticised for its small screen which caused eye strain for some participants
Results [Asus Eee] • Effectiveness: • It was usable for class presentations because of the presence of a VGA port • Its portable nature was highlighted as advantageous, making it easy to carry around. • However, it was criticised for the absence of a webcam
Results [OLPC XO] • The OLPC had a poor reception from the participants due to a feeling that it is intended for younger learners (this was expected because it was primarily targeted to small children) • Learnability and Memorability: Because the OLPC XO comes with a custom operation system and software, it was difficult for the participants to familiarise themselves with the unconventional operating system interface. • Efficiency: Participants had a bad interaction with the netbook due to; • The low speed of the OLPC XO (this again was expected as the processor speed of the OLPC XO is less than that of both the Asus Eee and the Intel Classmate) • unconventional operating system interface • the cursor that got “stuck”
Results [OLPC XO] • Effectiveness: • The mesh network played a role in collaborative learning • The carry handle makes it easy to carry • It was felt by the participants that this netbook is rugged and can endure being dropped.
Conclusion • At the end of the user study, participants were asked to highlight their overall preference • The participants in this study found the Intel Classmate to be the most intuitive netbook for learners. • One leaner said “The laptop is just great. It was love at first sight. It is just beautiful and attractive. The features it has are just what you want to work with.” • One of the teachers commented saying “Umm, this Intel classmate, if you ask me to recommend it for students, it becomes number one.” • It would be a good idea for the SA DOE to invest in such devices for secondary school learners
Conclusion • Both the Asus Eee and the Intel Classmate were found suitable for teaching purposes. • Teachers should be given an opportunity to choose the most appropriate for the task at hand. i.e. Asus Eee for class presentations • It would not be a good idea to place the OLPC XO in secondary schools as it seems to be inappropriate at that level • One learner said “It is not really good enough for me honestly, it is a little too like a kindergarten toy for a small child but I like it a lot.” • The unconventional interface could also be challenging to primary school children hence further investigation is needed
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