Update from OLPC Jamaica in August Town

Reposting a recent update by Jamaica’s Craig Perue

I have very good news. Just in time for the one year celebration of the launch of our XO deployments at August Town Primary and Providence Methodist Basic School, six members of the global OLPC community will be visiting us. They will be taking lots of pictures, doing interviews, workshop sessions, meeting the parents, teachers and students – all during the week of January 29 to February 5. One of the goals while they are here is to collect lots of content – National Geographic quality pictures and amazing stories that will be published later in the year along with those of five other small OLPC deployments worldwide.

This is an initiative to publicize to a worldwide audience the great OLPC work being done in Jamaica, Madagascar (Nosy Komba), Philippines, Kenya, Haiti, and Vietnam.

The team visiting Jamaica includes:

– documentary film maker, Bill Stelzer, who works with the OLPC deployments in the US Virgin Islands
– OLPC’s community support manager since 2007, Adam Holt, who splits his time between Boston and Haiti
– executive director of Ntugi Group, Mark Battley, who support OLPC implementations in Northern Kenya
– Quentin Peries Joly and Laura de Reynal, University students from OLPC France who have done extensive work with the OLPC project in Nosy Komba, Madagascar
– Nancie Severs, who envisioned and started the first OLPC deployment in a floating village, Vietnam.

San Francisco State University signs an MOU with OLPC

For four years, OLPC has had fruitful collaboration with the indefatigable Sameer Verma and others at SFSU, on hardware, Sugar activity design, and community building. Now at last we have a formal MOU between the University and OLPC[A]. This may be just the first of many MOUs with universities in the US, as we develop a network of supporting organizations working with OLPC on international projects.

Sameer and his students and colleagues have already worked with grassroots OLPC projects in Tuva, India, Armenia, Jamaica, and North Africa. Thanks to you all for your support and great ideas so far; we look forward to working more actively together, and perhaps drawing in new departments as well 😉

There’s a lovely and unflinching personal recollection by Sameer of the development of his XO addiction, on SFSU’s opensource blog. A few highlights:

OLPC came into my professional [and personal] life in July 2007 when I signed up for the Developers Program and got an OLPC XO-1 B2 machine. How excited was I? I slept with it under my pillow. Seriously.

The hype and novelty factor diminished in six months and the question arose: “Why bother spending a Saturday for this?” Then came the answer in the form of actual projects… work, not just advocacy. We started with four projects and now have a list of fourteen.

You can read the text of the MOU as well.

Happy New Year! Reflections on OLPC in 2011

As we prepare for 2012, here is a quick look back at the past year of OLPC. We distributed our two millionth laptop (now 2.5M), and our largest programs in Latin America (Peru) and Africa (Rwanda) grew steadily. Austria’s Julieta Rudich and Journeyman Pictures produced a fine documentary about Plan Ceibal in Uruguay (the world’s first complete olpc program), and Peru provided XOs and compatible robotics kits to all of their urban schools.

In East Africa, we expanded our work with African nations and donors to improve education for children across the continent. We were invited by both the African Union and the UN to open an OLPC office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis is a major hub for African diplomacy, and the support there for our mission has been stunning. We have become a full partner of the East African Community in Tanzania, and our recent country report on Rwanda has driven further interest in the region.

A Rwandan student workshop in Kigali

In the Middle East, we continued working with the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the UN to provide thousands of Palestinian children with XO laptops, integrating them into schools. It took ten months to work the laptops through customs in Gaza. But at a forum in Ramallah in June, teachers from Bethlehem and Gaza showed how OLPC was helping to end isolation and to excite learning for their children. Third grade girls in refugee camps are teaching others and writing computer programs. The testimony of these women to the power of persistence was extraordinary.

In Afghanistan, we founded a regional OLPC Afghanistan office, and briefed General Petraeus on the project. We believe that one laptop per child and connectivity, across the country, will transform this generation and their communities. Today we are working with the Education Ministry to support four thousand children in 10 schools, and are looking into expanding in Herat Province.

On the technical side, we focused on driving down laptop power needs by switching over to ARM chips in the XO-1.75 and upcoming XO-3 tablet. The tablet should be chargable by a solar panel that could serve as its carrying-case. We are studying new ways to help children learn to read, including where there are no schools at all.

In society, the idea that every child should have access to their own computer and to the Web – as a basic part of learning, whatever their family income – continued to spread. In addition to ongoing national programs in Argentina, Portugal, and Venezuela (for secondary students), two full-saturation laptop programs for older students are developing in India – an inexpensive tablet is being distributed to university students, and in Tamil Nadu dual-boot laptops from six different manufacturers are being provided to secondary students.

Reaching the least-developed countries in the world remains our goal and our most difficult challenge. While our largest deployments are funded directly by implementing governments, rural successes may be driven by foundations, NGOs, and individual donations. OLPC Rwanda, today one of the largest educational technology projects in Africa and part of a ten-year government plan, was seeded with ten thousand laptops given by Give One, Get One donors.

So to our supporters: thank you for your development, contributions, and collaboration, your feedback from the field, and your encouragement! This is all possible thanks to you.

Happy New Year to all — may 2012 bring you inspiration and discovery. We have some excellent surprises planned for the new year. And we would love to hear your reflections as well — please share stories from your own school projects in 2011.

A successful Contributors Program project: Rehnuma School in Karachi

If you haven’t seen this blog and this YouTube video from the OLPC Contributors Program project run by Talat Kahn and Carol Ruth Silver in Pakistan, you need to check it out! Watch the video and explore some of the creative ways the teachers and students are using XOs in their school.

This began as a 10 XO Contributors Program project and I was privileged to be their mentor. (Since then they found funding for over 100 XOs and are looking to grow.) And their class experiences and blog have been an inspiration to other teachers around the world. I did give them some help getting started and a couple of “lessons” via Skype, but after that, they ran with it! Notice the enthusiastic local community involvement that has helped make this project the success that it is.

P.S. Carol and Talat are members of the OLPC San Francisco Community. They are also the ones that introduced many of us (myself included) to the Khan Academy videos. We all learn from each other!

Pakistan’s Open Source Resource Centers celebrate their students

Pakistan has a government initiative to support and promote the use of open source tools — an “Open Source Resource Center” program, supported by the Pakistan Software Expert Board.   13 of their students recently became Red Hat-certified technicians and engineers, and they have helped work on Sugar and related localizations.

They are running a small PR campaign to celebrate their work — representing Pakistan’s open source community at international events, and training over 8000 people who have come to a center for help or study.    Kudos to the OSRC teams – I expect we will hear more from them soon!

Dance Dance Revolution: Madagascar edition

If you haven’t seen it already, take 5 minutes to watch this ridiculously joyful clip from the pilot project in Nosy Komba, Madagascar, supported by OLPC France.

If you have, it’s worth watching again and sharing 🙂 The lyrics are a popular Malagasy dancing song, carried out with XOs and other props.