Happy new year to the OLPC community around the world! Thank you for your part in everything we have accomplished in 2010 – from our new initiatives in Gaza, Argentina, and Nicaragua to expansion of work in Peru, Uruguay, Rwanda, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Haiti.
Special thanks to everyone who has worked on the newest iterations of Sugar, and those who put on the grassroots events over the past year in the Virgin Islands, San Francisco, and Uruguay — all of which has helped connect some of our smaller projects and realize some of their educational dreams in new activities. We’ve launched our new website for the year, highlighting the stories from these and other deployments; this blog may merge into that site as well (and you can see blog posts appearing in its News section).
How should each appear on our community’s global map of 21st century EduTech innovators? How can you help them visually catalyze OLPC’s informal but global deployment community, from Kigali to Kathmandu?
Over a month ago UN teachers and the entire staff of United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees went on strike leaving over 56,000 children without an opportunity to continue schooling in the West Bank. Just a week before schools were closed in October, children in grades 1-3 in the Amari Refugee Camp were given their very own XO laptops in an exciting multi-school launch festival. Now lacking the opportunity for formal education and armed with their new XOs, these Palestinian children were placed in a unique circumstance to learn at home and in their neighborhoods through technology, while eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return back to their classrooms.
Faced with an unprecedented research opportunity to understand how children learn in this difficult context, I traveled to the West Bank with the hopes of interviewing children about the use of laptops for informal learning and organizing a small workshop to keep kids engaged and help them explore new learning opportunities with their XOs.
With the help of PaleXO, a group of amazing and dedicated university volunteers, and the Amari Refugee Camp Children’s Center, we were able to host an open kids’ workshop where kids could come with their XOs to hang out with friends and play together as a group while learning something new. Around 40-50 children showed up (right before the Eid holiday!) and we spent the first half-hour having small group discussions about what the kids do when they are out of school and trying to pass the time. All of the kids present exclaimed that they use their XOs many times a week and several parents were present to affirm how happy the kids were using their XOs at home. Parents explained that kids even arranged group play-dates around their XOs where they come together in their homes or the streets of the refugee camp in order to teach each other new things they’ve discovered on their XOs. It was remarkable to see how much both the boys and girls had taught themselves since their first experience with laptops during my visit over the summer! A quick peak into their journals revealed they all loved using a diverse array of their activities.
Following our learning discussion, the members of the PaleXO team led a mini Scratch workshop to introduce the kids to some of the most basic elements of computer programming. The kids loved it! Scratch was one of the few programs they found difficult to master on their own and they had now discovered enough about the laptops to grasp the concept of the program explore together during the workshop.
The workshop ran for over four hours and by the end the kids were pleading for us to hold even more workshops; we all had tons of fun! The administrators of the children’s center were also thrilled that we were able to put on some fun learning programming for the children and pledged to help in any way possible for workshops to continue weekly with PaleXO until kids return to school again, and perhaps even after. We’re looking to set up wireless internet in the center so kids are free to stop by whenever they would like in order to explore using the internet. It was so exciting to see how having laptops could bring these kids together to learn informally even when they aren’t able to get to school!
Last weekend ran on into Monday for many attendees, due to late flights and the enormous hospitality of the Kleiders – June, Alex, Tanya, Isabella and Mike Gehl. Tremendous thanks are due to them and to everyone who made this such a joyous event!
Thanks also to the tireless design work and organization of Mike Lee and Elizabeth Barndollar, program coordination of Sameer Verma, Adam Holt and Hilary Naylor, social media and web support/registration fronts by Elizabeth Krumbach and Grant Bowman, and the local networking and support of Carol Ruth Silver and the SFSU student volunteer team of Alexander Mock, Abhi Pendyal, Brittany Dea, Charles Fang, Christian Pascual, Dan Sanchez, Gerard Enriquez, Hue La, Jay Cai, Lana Seto, Navi Thach , Neeraj Chand, Nina Makalinaw, Paul Mak, Russell Lee, and Simon Pan.
Live documentation of the event was possible thanks to tireless video work, moderation and transcription of Ben Sheldon, Nina Stawski, and others; and gifts and travel were supported by dozens of individuals, attendees (through their registration fees — thank you!) and by OLPC.
And finally, behind the scenes thank you to Yuliana Diestel and Richard Ho at the SFSU Downtown Center for managing logistics and Dean Nancy Hayes of the College of Business at SFSU for hosting us, and to Peter Brantley at the Internet Archive for allowing ten of us to join the excellent Books in Browsers event.
OLPC’s global community of contributors and volunteers is gathering for its largest ever meeting to date, on the weekend of October 22-24, in San Francisco! Thanks to the OLPC San Francisco Community led by Professor Sameer Verma, and our gracious host San Francisco State University. If you want to take a stand for global education rights For All in this 21st century, now is your time — OLPC’s Global Community is a friendly and supportive network inviting you too to Stand & Deliver:
The OLPC SF Community Summit 2010 will be a community-run event bringing together educators, technologists, anthropologists, enthusiasts, champions and volunteers. We share stories, exchange ideas, solve problems, foster community and build collaboration around the One Laptop per Child project and its mission worldwide.
As a way to learn from our recent deployments in the Middle East, a new Arabic forum is being launched to foster discussion and share experiences in the field with our many partners and supporters! Like our many resources in English, Spanish, and other languages, the forum hopes to link interested players with regards to XOs and childhood education in the Arab-speaking world. On the forum please find XO manuals and guides in Arabic, links to regional XO groups, and opportunities to post questions and comments, as well as a chat forum!
We hope to expand our forums to include Hebrew resources as our project in the region continues to grow.