Teaching and Learning - as a Team
experience from Latin America
Good Things happen to those that work together, and not just to kids. The XO opens opportunities for sharing knowledge, collaboration through local networks, the mesh and maybe even the Internet. These opportunities are available for empowering adults too, and are fundamental for individual, local and international project success.
One of the guiding themes for the success of using XOs is collaboration. Children collaborating for Activities are expected to learn teamwork by doing teamwork, and even gain some transferable work skills in this age where remote work opens income opportunities that walls and visa restrictions close down.
What cannot be stressed enough is that many important elements of building a successful project need to connect with the community of users worldwide, to also build a virtual community to strengthen itself, and then give back to the community at large, as teachers share and encourage each other, as they feel empowered to go beyond their traditional role of data transmiters.
Success with the XO comes at a price of much work in adapting solutions to local needs, yet many problems that you might be facing have been already challenged those who went that way before you. Hopefully they blazed the trail, documenting their path in informal or formal ways, and you can benefit from that.
The main tool for XO / Sugar user needs and questions is the wikis: wiki.laptop.org and wiki.sugarlabs.org. Likewise, when you find a way to solve some problem, the "right" thing is to tell your friends about it! In the wikis themselves. Many of the wiki contributions began when people tried to do something, didn't find how, tried anyway, and, success or not, reported back what they did, so it could later be revised or improved on by others. Please be aware that wiki content is not "official", and most would benefit from further improvement. However, as a "living" document, resulting from often the best knowledge in the world about a given situation, it can help enormously. Also, wiki work is a most excellent exercise in many skills with deep educational value: you may want your students and teachers to participate, if for this reason only, but even if they don't, they are always welcome to come and find answers to their questions.
Some people working with XOs and Sugar do blog and publish about their experience. It is interesting to read about their experiences, but blogs seldom provide effective two-way communication, though the discussions they raise can be very interesting. Two major blogs are olpcnews.com, whose many community authors often have sharp voices, and the official OLPC blog, blog.laptop.org.
The next level of involvement for a simple user is usually to sign up to be part of a discussion email list. As a "member" of one of these online communities you get much, much more involved in many things, though it is often recommended to just "lurk" for a while before participating, but not too much, for your participation is very valuable (couple weeks seems to be OK). There are mailing lists based on geography areas, specific interests, language of the users...See OLPC lists (lists.laptop.org) and Sugar Labs lists (lists.sugarlabs.org) for examples. The way it works is that any email sent to the list is distributed to all its members, so you will receive many emails, as many as the level of "activity" of the list.
There can be fewer tasks as important for an administrator or the organizer of a deployment than to get the teachers and educators signed up as soon as possible to these tools. Unless connectivity is a major issue, joining an international email list will be the fastest way to get your teachers to have direct contact with those who can help them along - even if that is difficult because of language or any other reason, do get your teachers to connect to each other through a local server.
There is some possibility this might not be your best option, though. That would be when you want to keep very close control and domination over the teachers and students, in which case obviously collaboration and empowerment will not work for you.