Teacher from Nicaragua shares her experience with the XO

My name is Reyna Flores. I teach a combination of multigrade grades third through sixth at the little school Miguel Larreynaga in Tipitapa.

I hope that, like me, other teachers could have the opportunity to have the XO valuable pedagogical tool for improving the education of our children.

When working with the XO I tell my students that this computer is our “green little friend.” It includes great applications we call activities. We use them in any subject, and something else… We already have Internet! which allows us to enter the world of information.

Now, I want to share the pedagogical aspect in class:

As I teach four grades, the XO has been very important to increase the ammount of information, documents and materials that reinforce learning. I used to have difficulties when I taught geometrical bodies to third graders because there are children who have no geometric kits, then the activity called Paint Activity allows them to draw them.

When learning language arts, we use information obtained from Wikipedia and the children of the upper grades elaborate didactic schemes with the Maze activity as an alternative to reading techniques.

In physical education a stopwatch is needed to record the time-distance speed according to each student’s age. The XO has one.

In cultural and artistic expression we have no access to a marimba or the sounds that the student must know so here we come to the TamTamMini activity.

In science class, using the Record activity, children make their community tours taking pictures of what they believe is part of the environment and even pollution issues.

I also believe that the XO supports students who have some learning difficulties. For example, a child in third grade had pronunciation problems with the consonants L and R, so I asked him to write a list of words using the Sara activity, this way, the student could improve his diction.

At the end of each period, children take their homework and they relax with activities and Games that help them increase skills and mental agility.

Courage, dear colleagues! Let work for the children in Nicaragua. Lets focus on endeavor, affection, good will and the mystique that has always characterized teachers.

I invite other teachers to participate in the column “Teachers speak” because we must all learn from others’ experiences.

* Teacher at Miguel Larreynaga school, Tipitapa.

OLPC Uruguay Q&As: Miguel Brechner on Plan Ceibal

Christoph D just posted a lovely interview with Miguel Brechner about OLPC in Uruguay and Plan Ceibal.

And a few months ago Karen Cator, Educational Technology Director at the US Department of Education, replied to a question from Miguel at a learning technology conference. She shares a few views from her Department, from Secterary Arne Duncan‘s interest in Uruguay’s leadership in empowering children, to issues of how long it takes to transition to such a program in our world of independent, federated states. Some states are saying that ‘by 2014 they want to be like Uruguay in terms of… laptop access‘.

Miguel Brechner sobre el impacto del Plan Ceibal

La República recently published an article on the history of Plan Ceibal and how it is seen and referenced by programs in other countries:

Nuestro país es consultado constantemente por otros estados interesados en aplicar el programa de “una computadora por niño”…

Uruguay tiene presencia mundial no solo por el fútbol. El Plan Ceibal hace que nuestro país tenga una presencia importante en grandes eventos. “Hace algunas semanas, fui a un congreso con veinte mil personas en Estados Unidos, y el primer día no dejaron de hablar de Uruguay”, explicó Miguel Brechner.

Read the whole piece (in Spanish).

On OLPC and the diversity educational environments

A reply to S. Varghese

One of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations is to offer a sound elementary education to all children of the world by the year 2015 and to increase their access to information and communication technologies. One Laptop Per Child has worked since 2006 on this urgent educational mission in collaboration with public and private organizations in some forty nations, mostly in developing countries.

The great diversity of educational environments – or the lack of them – is the principal challenge here, and needs careful programming based on local conditions and human resources. OLPC is founded on five principles: ownership, early ages, saturation, connectivity and free and open source collaboration. This is the result of decades of research and development in advanced centers of study, and the XO laptop and the Sugar platform are two remarkable products of this international collaborative work. Other products will come soon as OLPC evolves to give answers to the increasing demands of education.

The central question is how to scale up the OLPC program from a town to a province to a country, in order to satisfy the educational requirements of different student populations. The agenda is getting more complex with the expansion of the geographic area involved. The local authorities must establish a detailed agenda in several steps, to provide a sound educational program to different cohorts of students, continuous training of teachers, and distribution of laptops to all children and teachers. Also the implementation of servers and internet connectivity in schools and public places, the logistics of repair or substitution of the laptops, etc. This whole process is part of a dynamic “cultural evolution” that produces a great variety of results, some unpredictable and innovative.

Continue reading

Turtle Art Chat

From the latest Sugar digest:

Before getting on the overnight bus back to Chiclayo, Jorge gave me a file with images of Peruvian Soles, so I was able write a Soles plug in for Turtle Art on the overnight bus ride. (Again, I could not sleep due to the movie playing inches from my face.) Raul, who was sitting a few rows back from me, joined a shared Turtle Art session and we stumbled upon a new use for a well-worn activity: chat. By sharing text with the Show block (and as of TurtleBlocks-144, text-to-speech with the Speak block), you can engage in an interactive chat or forum, which includes sharing of pictures and graphics. What fun. (Walter)

Uruguay celebration update: a new Ceibal video

guest post by Nick Doiron

Update with a lovely quote from the day: “5 yrs ago,Uruguay began Plan Ceibal with OLPC.  Now 100% of our kids have laptops; 99.5% are online. ”

Plan Ceibal posted a cool 6-minute video on their YouTube. No English subtitles yet:

Highlights:

  • Kids in the first class to receive laptops react to their interviews from 2007
  • Update on what laptops are used for in their more advanced classes ( including Magallanes/Classmate laptops )
  • Scratch programming
  • Lego NXT robot programming (!)

Uruguay celebrates 5 years of Plan Ceibal!

Plan Ceibal’s first pilot, in Cardal, began 5 years ago on May 10, 2007. The town has a sign commemorating the event. And tomorrow they will host a celebration of the program’s fifth anniversary with a small festival, starting at 11:30. If you’re nearby, come and celebrate ;-)

Carnegie Mellon team wins Hult Global Case Challenge

The Hult Global Case Challenge concluded over the weekend, recognizing winners in the three categories of education, housing, and energy – with challenges related to the work of OLPC, Habitat for Humanity, and SolarAid.

The education prize went to the team from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College: Reggie Cox, Elizabeth Cullinan, Ketaki Desai, and Tim Kelly.   They took the prize for their “innovative approach to ensure streamlined laptop deployment and to create a global brand for [OLPC]’s open-source software.”  This continues a tradition of CMU support for OLPC – their ETC lab held a game jam in 2007, and other CMU campuses helped organize a 10-day OLPC Rwanda workshop in Kigali in 2010.

The team wrote about their experiences with the case challenge last month, in the Huffington Post.

Team submissions were judged by a panel of judges including: the CEOs of the three organizations whose case challenges were being considered, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, Unilever Chairman Michael Treschow, and social entreperneur Darrell Hammond.  All of the final submissions were excellent.

The challenge has given us many good ideas for how to improve and streamline our mission; just the judging process has been wonderful. The winning teams will share $1M to pursue their ideas; more updates to come as we see how this unfolds.

You can find a press release about the results here.

IDB’s Eugenio Severin on learning from Peru’s OLPC experience

The lead author of the detailed IDB study from Peru, released earlier this year, has published a good summary of their work and its implications. He highlights the tremendous efforts of Peru’s government for supporting the research and data-gathering, which will help not only Peru’s education work but that of other countries following in their footsteps.  And he groups the outcome into four key results:

  1. major change in access to knowledge, and reduction of the digital divide,
  2. improvement of cognitive skills, across many different tests
  3. no change in standardized tests for math and reading
  4. no change in school enrollment and attendance.

You can read the essay on the IDB blog.  An excerpt:

It is very important to commend the efforts of the Peruvian government for doing a serious evaluation of this program, and for sharing their results so transparently. It is a fact that there are few impact evaluations on the use of technology in education. Therefore, any contribution of knowledge helps support the efforts of many countries in the region and the world that are working to improve educational conditions for children that technologies can provide.

These are our results. First, the program has drastically reduced the digital divide, allowing many students and teachers, even in remote areas, to have access to laptops and educational content. Second, positive results were found in cognitive skills tests. The applied tests sought to measure reasoning abilities, verbal fluency, and processing speed in children. The very results are important, as they have been shown to be predictors of academic and work performance. The results indicate that children who received a laptop got ahead by 5 months of what the natural progression would have been in the development of these skills when compared to children who did not receive a laptop. Third, after 15 months of implementation, we found no statistically significant differences between children in beneficiary schools and children in control schools on learning outcomes measured by standardized tests of mathematics and language. No differences were found in relation to school enrollment and attendance.

Response to the Economist on OLPC in Peru

From OLPC Association CEO Rodrigo Arboleda

The recent Economist article on the Inter-American Development Bank’s recent report on the OLPC project in Peru simply takes the IDB report at face value and rushes to judgment that the project “does not accomplish anything in particular.” Other media have also focused on the negative and pronounced OLPC a failure. But has anyone really read the entire IDB report and discussed its positive findings? Has anyone really examined the government of Peru’s priorities in implementing the project?

OLPC has provided XO laptops to nearly 2.5 million children in more than 40 countries around the world. Across these countries, we have seen significant improvements in children’s enthusiasm for learning and a greater sense of optimism about their future, increased parental involvement in children’s education, and higher levels of teacher motivation and engagement. These outcomes are documented in the OLPC project in Uruguay and other countries.

That said, change management on a large scale is challenging. Most of these countries lack ubiquitous electricity and Internet connectivity. School facilities are substandard. Many of the teachers face educational challenges themselves. In Peru the objectives and the operating conditions are particularly challenging and the following factors need to be noted:

• The government of Peru deliberately established social inclusion as a top priority. It focused the OLPC project on serving the poorest and most remote schools that are the most difficult to serve and are usually left for the last stages of most projects.
• In many of these schools a single teacher has to teach first to sixth graders in the same classroom.
• Although the evaluation focused on schools with electricity, most of the schools lack electricity and Internet connectivity or if they have it, it is quite erratic.
• A January 2007 census evaluation of 180,000 Peruvian teachers showed that 62% did not reach reading comprehension levels compatible with elementary school (PISA level 3); 92% of the teachers evaluated did not reach acceptable performance in math.
• Given these challenges, miracles are not going to happen overnight and progress will occur gradually over a number of years.

The IDB report notes significant change in the development of cognitive skills (a 5-6 months advancement over the 15 months of the study). This goes to the core of OLPC’s mission to develop critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. These skills provide the foundation for academic achievement in other subjects. This positive result, measured in four different ways, is of significance and your article totally overlooked it.

In addition, the IDB report notes that children really know how to use the laptops and are using them to explore and create things, i.e., learning by doing. Digital fluency is a de facto requirement in the 21st century and a child in the mountains of Peru should have the same access to digital learning tools as a child in San Jose, Berlin or Tokyo.
The Peruvian government understands that overhauling its educational system will take time. It continues to invest in interventions to improve teacher and infrastructure quality because it believes that educational progress is the key to a better future for all its citizens.

The government of Peru should be lauded for its efforts to reach out to the most marginalized segment of its population. The OLPC project in Peru has touched the lives of almost one million children who would not otherwise have had an opportunity to expand their horizons. Perhaps we should watch the continuing efforts of the government of Peru to expand and improve the project outcomes, recognize the particular challenges they face and refrain from premature judgments of one of the largest education projects in the world.

Latin Business Chronicle champions businesses supporting ed reform, citing OLPC Nicaragua

Gabriel Sanchez Zinny writes about how businesses in Latin America are seeing education reform as essential to local growth, and starting to invest in it.  They make some thoughtful comments about our work with Zamora Teran in Nicaragua and the current work in Ometepe:

In Latin America, education reform – when it has even broken onto the political agenda – has long been seen as a stereotypical battle between the free-market right wing and the powerful, entrenched teachers unions. Now, however, a consensus seems to be growing, with leaders from across the ideological spectrum throwing their weight behind reform. In country after country, Latin American businesses are teaming up with NGOs and governments to deliver better educational outcomes.

In Nicaragua, the influential Zamora clan (one of the “twelve families” that have played an outsized role in the nation’s history) has teamed up with the non-profit group One Laptop Per Child to provide thousands of Nicaraguan schoolchildren with access to the internet for the first time. The Fundacion Zamora Teran is largely funded by the Roberto Zamora-owned Lafise Bancentro – a regional investment group worth over $600 million – and has handed out a total of 35,000 laptops in Nicaragua, with a donation most recently of 5,000 units to the island of Ometepe, making it the “first fully digitized island in Latin America”.

1 in 20 Latin American children use an OLPC laptop

There are roughly 58 million primary school students in Latin America, according to UNESCO’s latest data from their Education For All initiative.   5% of children in that age range are not in school.  And 5% of them use XOs: 1.5 million children have their own, and Peru’s urban initiative is giving another 1.5 million students in urban schools access to XOs through a program where groups of 3-5 students share a laptop.

 

Today 4/5 of these students are in Uruguay, Peru, Argentina, and Mexico.   But new programs are growing rapidly, in NicaraguaCosta RicaColombia, and elsewhere.

That’s a lot of budding Pythonistas, Scratcheros, and Linux users!
Now if only my own home country would start providing computers and connectivity to its students as a matter of course…

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.

Rodrigo discusses OLPC with Colombian paper El Tiempo

Natalia Bonnett of El Tiempo interviewed Rodrigo last week about OLPC and its work in Colombia. From the interview:

¿Cómo va el proceso aquí [en Colombia]?

En los próximos días, Itagüí será el primer municipio en toda Colombia que va a tener un computador para cada alumno de primaria. Es la primera vez que logramos romper el hielo. Ha sido muy difícil, probablemente no hay profeta en su tierra… También llegamos a La Macarena. Pero también hay casos de filántropos del sector privado o asociaciones como Asocaña, con quien próximamente llegaremos al Valle del Cauca. El Gobierno Nacional hizo un esfuerzo a través del Ministerio de Educación de proveer conectividad a las escuelas. Con una sola señal que llegue a la escuela, nosotros trabajamos por medio de wi-fi y lo único que hay que instalar son repetidoras internas dentro del plantel.”

In English:

How is the process going here [in Colombia]?

In the coming days, Itagüí will be the first region in all of Colombia to have a laptop for every primary student. This is the first time that we broke the ice. It was very difficult, probably noone is a prophet in his own country… We are also heading to La Macarena. But there are also cases of private-sector philanthropists or associations such as Asocaña, with whom we will soon come to Valle del Cauca. The national government made an effort through the Ministry of Education to provide connectivity to the schools. With a single signal to the school, we can work via wi-fi and the only thing that needs to be installed are internal repeaters within the school.”

How to buy XOs in quantity

We recently posted a wiki page summarizing XO prices (roughly $185-$205 by quantity), and how to get XOs for your own deployment: Buying XOs. The minimum order is 1,000, with occasional exceptions made for orders as small as 100.

In addition to our national partnerships, OLPC regularly sells XOs to groups all over the world who are running pilot programs in their district or community. While we do not often sell in quantities of less than a thousand laptops, exceptions are made for programs that have planned for a successful deployment. (And we feature some of the best-planned grassroots programs here on our blog!)

For groups working in war-torn or post-conflict regions, we may also be in discussions with aid groups who could help support a program. Feel free to get in touch with us if you are planning a sizeable project in these regions. For more information or to place an order, email us at countries@laptop.org.

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.

Warehouse fire in Peru destroys $100M of Quechua & Ashaninka books, XOs, and solar panels

Update: OLPC and Quanta have offered support to Peru to help them get new materials shipped to schools quickly. UNICEF Peru has asked national organizations to offer what help they can to allow schools to start on schedule.  National newspaper El Comercio has offered to reprint the books on newsprint, quickly and at no cost, as a temporary measure — and is asking for donations of local-language educational materials to print.



A tremendous fire Thursday night in the Breña district of Lima destroyed a major warehouse of Peru’s Education Ministry, which contained $100M in materials being prepared for deployment to eastern Peru. This included a half-million books, 40,000 XOs, 21,000 other laptops for teachers, and 6,000 solar panels. The books lost included one of the country’s largest caches of early-literacy texts in indigenous languages such as Quechua and Asháninka, aimed at children from 3 to 5 years old.

The XOs were the latest part of the roughly 1 million laptops Peru has purchased for their national XO program, the world’s largest. They have been focusing on their rural and indigenous schools, such as the communities that were scheduled to receive these materials.


Salas speaking, and the fire from a distance Thursday night


The disaster mainly affects the schools in east Peru, many with limited electricity, which are starting their fall semester. Peru’s Minister of Education Patricia Salas (above) talked to reporters about the loss, and President Humala said his government will make sure they deliver materials to those schools despite the fire.

“Quiero señalar que esto no va a interferir la política del Estado de cumplir un cronograma de metas, de proveer de material didáctico para los escolares … Tenemos un lote de contingencia para ir cumpliendo el cronograma.”

The fire raged for over 10 hours before being put out Friday morning, and led to two days of air-pollution alerts in the surrounding area.

This is terrible news, and our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues in Peru. Thankfully, it seems that noone was hurt.


The former warehouse, unrecognizable the morning after