Australian brilliance: AU government provides $11.7M for OLPC pilot

via Rangan Srikhanta

It gives me tremendous pleasure to inform you that the Australian Federal Government has committed to fund One Laptop per Child in Australia for $11.7M this year, to launch a pilot project to reach 50,000 children in indigenous communities.   Additional funds will come from the schools participating in the program and from corporate/public donors.

From the Schooling section of the annual budget:

The Australian Government is providing over $11 million to support the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Program which will deliver over 50,000 custom built laptops to primary students in regional and remote Australia as part of a 12 month pilot program. The OLPC Australia Organisation (OLPC Australia) aims to support the learning opportunities of indigenous children, particularly those in remote Australia, by providing primary school aged children with a connected XO laptop as part of a sustainable training and support program. Participating schools will also receive information and communications technology (ICT) coordinator professional development, local repair kits, and access to helpdesk and online support.


Current and future school deployments

From the
full budget breakdown, It seems that some of the funds for this was redirected from a project pool for the “Digital Education Revolution”.   The government is also extending OLPC Australia’s tax-deductibility for another three years, as part of this continuing commitment.

This is fantastic news.  Kudos to Rangan, Sridhar, Tracy, Rita, Sasha, Ning, and the whole team. A formal press release will be out in the coming days.  There is much more to come from Australia — stay tuned!

Free Universal Construction – LEGOs and more

The Free Art and Technology Lab today announced a Free Univeral Construction Kit consisting of blueprints for 3D printing of 80 blocks and connectors that allow you to connect a varity of existing building kits.

Currently the kit interfaces with Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles / Bristle Blocks, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob pieces.  Individual adapters can be found on Thingiverse.com or downloaded as a package of STL files.

Three cheers for easier and better building experiences.  We are big fans of building things as a component of learning and as motivation, and have done extensive work with LEGO over the years including making the XO easy to connect with LEGO WeDo kits and other robotic tools.

Sonora State: Making connectivity a universal right since 2011

In October 2011, Sonora State added the “right to connectivity” to the first article of the state Constitution, along with the right to liberty, education, and housing. They were the first Mexican state to adopt such a right, and one of only three states in the world.  People are still writing about it today as an example of how to provide effective access to knowledge – as debates unfold over how to keep the Internet open.

From the announcement last year:

La iniciativa que adiciona un párrafo segundo al Artículo 1° de la Constitución Política del Estado de Sonora fue promovida por los diputados Enrique Reina Lizárraga y Gorgonia Rosas López, a fin de transformar el acceso a Internet en un derecho o garantía de la ley fundamental local.

“Es decir, que el Estado deberá garantizar el acceso a la conectividad de redes digitales de información y de comunicación dentro del territorio sonorense a todos sus ciudadanos, pues este tipo de servicios cada día han logrado convertirse en un factor indispensable de cualquier ciudadano.”

In English:

The initiative, which adds a second paragraph to Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Sonora, was promoted by representatives Enrique Reina Lizarraga and Gorgonia Rosas López, to transform Internet access into a fundamental right or guarantee of the local law.

This means that the State must guarantee access to digital information and communication networks within the Sonoran territory, to all its citizens, because daily access to such a service has become indispensable for any citizen.

 

Kudos again to Sonora for their farsighted planning.  They not only support free software as a foundation for learning, but  have recognized connectivity as infrastructure for modern life, and not a luxury.

Michele Borba interviews children, parents and teachers in Nicaragua

Dr. Michele Borba, the inspiring parenting and educational consultant who has been working recently with OLPC, travelled to Nicaragua with Rodrigo and the deployment last week for the Ometepe project launch.  She writes, “[We] looked like a mini-United Nations representing Germany, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, Denmark, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Bosnia, South Korea, Belgium, India and the U.S. We were teachers, bankers, doctors, writers, embassy representatives, lawyers, and businessmen, but we all shared a commonality knowing that something immensely significant was about to happen on that Island, and could feel it the moment we walked onto a huge field.

She also visited a school that has been part of an existing OLPC project near Managua for over a year, and wrote about the history of the program there.

The first delivery of XO laptops to Nicaragua was in 2009, and the impact is already evident. Statistics show a 40% reduction in drop-outs, a decrease in retention and in violence. Best yet, parents are starting to come to the schools to be involved in their children’s learning, and the teachers recognize those laptops are affecting their teaching!

I visited a small rural primary school (San Francisco de Asís) outside of Managua using XO laptops since November 2010. There is now full OLPC school saturation. Positive changes are clearly apparent: the parents are more involved in their children’s education; there has been a high increase in school registration; and student learning is increasing, and here’s why.

The teachers were all trained by OLPC and continue with monthly staff development training.

Each computer is equipped with grade-level texts including natural science, geography, geometry, Nicaraguan history and culture, a dictionary, and Wikipedia, books (“Mine has Harry Potter!” one boy exclaimed), as well as programs that encourage children’s creativity, music and art. Teachers report that students are now far more engaged in learning. Parents say their kids are using the computers to continue learning at home.

Over the next hours I observed various teaching lessons using the XOs. Sixth graders working in base teams to learn how to mind-map different types of calendars (Mayan, Greco, Julian). Third graders paired with partners to identify bird species. First graders were learning how to use the XO drawing program and discovering beginning programming skills. Fourth graders were mentoring younger students…

Dr. Borba also spent some time talking to students and teachers outside of class:

[A ten-year old] told me that her computer has “greatly advanced my learning… Yesterday I learned about industrial agriculture. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a presentation in my classroom about farming techniques.” She added that her favorite laptop activity at home is doing research on Wikipedia. Her goal, she said, is to become an engineer. I have no doubt that she will.

The whole story is posted on her children and parenting blog.

XO and Sugar in MOMA : now on permanent exhibit!

Since yesterday, our XO laptop, and the Sugar interface itself, are part of the PERMANENT collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Congratulations to the creative teams. Now we just need to clarify the last line of the label for the XO itself…

Part of the exhibit label describing the XO:


lighter than a lunchbox…
Wi-Fi antennas double as covers for the USB ports, for instance, while the handle
servers also as an attachment point for a strap and the protective bumper also
seals to protect from dust. The screen has both a full-color mode and a reflective
high-resolution mode that makes it readable in bright sunlight, and a wide track
pad doubles as a drawing and writing tablet. If electricity is not available, the
computer can be recharged by a pull cord that works like a yo-yo.

Recognizing the Sugar designers:

Lisa Strausfeld (America, b. 1964), Christian Marc Schmidt (German, b. 1977), and Takaaki Okada (Japanese, b. 1978) of Pentagram (UK and USA, est. 1972)

Walter Bender (American, b. 1956)

Eben Eliason (American, b. 1982) of One Laptop per Child (USA, est. 2005)

Marco Pesenti Gritti (Italian, b. 1978) and Christopher Blizzard (American, b. 1973) of Red Hat, Inc. (USA, est. 1993)*

Sugar Interface for the XO Laptop
2006-07
Design: Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, Inkscape, and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) software; implementation: Python, GTK+ (GIMPToolkit), and Cairo software

Gift of the designers, 2008

Teams from Pentagram and Red Hat created this icon-driven interface in which collaboration is the core of the user experience. The laptop encourages social interaction, and most activities center on the creation of an object — a drawing, a song, a story a game — and on “real-world metaphors” such as chatting, sharing, and gathering. All the laptops are connected in a wireless network, both to the web and to one another. The more laptops are connected, the more powerful the network becomes. “By exploiting this connectivity within the community, among people and their activities,” the designers say, “One Laptop per Child makes use of what people already know in order to make connections to new knowledge.”