XO cameo in Oliver Stone’s Savages

The green machine makes an appearance in a future-looking scene, towards the end of Oliver Stone’s new film Savages. The production team asked for a set of laptops back when they were wrapping filming, as a vision of what the world will look like when every child has a laptop to study with. It’s good to see the scene ended up in the final picture.

Those three XOs will be a nice collector’s item one day…

OLPC job opening: support techs in Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina are seeking 4 support technicians to support the 3000+ students taking part in the OLPC program as part of Project L.I.F.T. This job will involve day-to-day IT support, maintenance and installations at the school site: including XOs, servers, and networking equipment.

A longer job description follows:
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OLPC in Goa

Monsoon Grey posts an update on the school pilot in Goa, about a lesson in Turtle Art, with a photoset by intern Bindi Dharia. Harriet Vidyasagar, who helped get the first school projects in India underway, continues to support the project.

The team writes about the new activities they have installed for all of the students this year, including “I Know India”, and the workshop they organized for new teachers for the coming year.

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.

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Mobile libraries: a Victorian idea helping OLPC users share books

David Bainbridge and Ian Witten of the University of Waikato in New Zealand published a paper last year about using the Greenstone digital library toolkit to help offline XO users share libraries of books. From their abstract:

The idea draws upon mobile libraries (bookmobiles) for its inspiration, which first appeared in Victorian times. The implemented technique works by building on the mesh network that is instrumental to the XO-laptop approach. To use the technique, on each portable XO-laptop a version of Greenstone is installed, allowing the owner to develop and manage their own set of books. The version of Greenstone has been adapted to support a form of interoperability we have called Digital Library Talkback. On the mesh, when two XO-laptops “see” each other, the two users can search and browse the other user’s digital library; when they see a book they like, they can have it transferred to their library with a single click using the Digital Library Talkback mechanism.

Alas, you need to be an ACM member or pay $15 to read the full paper.

The challenge of curation

From the olpcsf blog

Last year, right after the OLPC SF Community Summit 2011, I had the pleasure of attending Books in Broswers (BiB-II) at the Internet Archive. It was a plan made with SJ on-the-fly to take the Pathagar OPDS Book Server and put it on a 4-watt SheevaPlug. The very cool and awesome duo of Mary Lou Jepsen and John Ryan helped us present the unit. We live-tested it: 150 people hit the box and it held up. Load tests revealed it could serve 500 simultaneous users!

So we had a self-contained book server, that could run off a solar panel, and arguably serve thousands of books in the middle of nowhere – a Wi-Fi bubble, that serves up books to all within its reach.  Heck, we even have a virtual machine, complete with Pathagar on it!   Where do we get the books? The Internet Archive of course! With its 3 million plus books, its a vast ocean to fish from. The bigger challenge is fishing well.

How do you curate content for your little Wi-Fi bubble?   And once you do so, how do you pull it all together?

Raj Kumar (@rajbot) at the Internet Archive has the answer… Continue reading

A short history of the Aakash tablet

Seema Singh recaps some of the history of the Aakash and related efforts for Forbes India. The Aakash got its start with a tender for 10K units from IIT Jodhpur, which was expanded to an order for 100K from the Indian government. DataWind, the company that secured the initial tender, ran a pilot which received much fanfare, but distributed only 572 tablets to 19 colleges.

There was some debate as to whether these met the initial spec; and work was refocused on an updated design, the Aakash 2.  It’s unclear whether the rest of the inital 10K tablets were distributed to the government; 30K of that model were sold online marketed as the UbiSlate. The Aakash 2 is currently being tested by DataWind and two institutions in India, with hopes for a [new] school pilot of 100K students this fall.  The first of those machines are being deployed this month.

DataWind has had trouble meeting deadlines and demand.  They were beset by many external pressures: heavy pressure to keep the price down, the scrutiny of a very public launch, and requirements that much of their supply chain and manufacturing be based in India (which limited the number of possible partners and added a few single points of failure).

They have accumulated many non-binding statements of interest in v.2 of the tablet; but it’s not clear how many will convert now to sales.  And after a half-year of heady press they have suffered a half-year of negative backlash.  They now aim to offer the commercial version of the Aakash 2 for just under $65; and the Indian government still plans to subsidize half the cost of a model for students – at least for the 100K in this year’s pilot.  While this is still an impressive undertaking, as it was when announced last year, the delay has hurt the national story.  Now people like Singh are calling the project a disaster rather than a landmark success, and worrying that China will launch a similar program first.

Singh highlights a few related projects from around the country:

  • The “$10 laptop” effort started in 2009 by Technical Education secretary NK Sinha (which did not produce a laptop nor contribute IP to the current project)
  • The Ministry of Rural Development’s socioeconomic census, which commissioned 640K tablets in 2011 and 2012 for its door-to-door surveys (at $72, from Bharat Electronics, with no drama but their admitted inability to meet the ministry’s request of a $35 price point)
  • The Tamil Nadu government’s “one laptop per student” program to deliver 1.4M laptops to college students each year for the next 5 years. (They have 6 different vendors sharing the task)

She notes that some of the Tamil Nadu vendors are finding it difficult to complete their deliveries under budget.  But neglects to note that the program was successful enough for Uttar Pradesh to copy it, recently putting out a tender for roughly 250K tablets (for students passing their 10th grade exams) and 200K laptops (for those passing their 12th grade exams), as year 1 of a multi-year program.

We will see whether DataWind manages to make good on their goal of millions of sales this year.  Kapil Sibal continues to push for all 220M students in India to have their own laptop or tablet.  And he continues to say compelling things of his vision, such as “It will be a device that creates content.” One way or another, I hope that vision is realized.

OLPC comes to North Carolina! Knight Foundation sponsors XOs for 3,200 students in Charlotte

The Knight Foundation yesterday announced it would join community leaders from Charlotte, North Carolina in contributing to Project L.I.F.T., a 5-year $55M+ project to improve education in West Charlotte schools.  (It began last January with a $40M round of fundraising; and this year raised another $15M.)

Knight’s contribution will fund a community engagement coordinator to keep parents and local communities in touch with the project as it develops, and for an OLPC program (including XOs and training) for all students and teachers in grades K-5 in the L.I.F.T. schools: roughly 3,200 in all.

This builds on our work together earlier this year, to develop a digital literacy program at Holmes Elementary School in Miami.  Our experience so far suggests that giving elementary students access to computers – and letting them take them home and use them with their families – helps promote better informed and engaged communities.

We are delighted to see this new project take off within the framework of the existing L.I.F.T project. And looking forward to working more closely with the Knight Foundation, whose input has already informed some of our practices. Their background is in community engagement rather than education, which complements the viewpoints of our other partners. And the added focus on community engagement is one of those necessary elements that can make all the difference in longevity and impact.


Children receiving XOs in Miami’s Holmes Elementary School

Christoph interviews OLPC Australia’s Rangan Srikhanta

Christoph Derndorfer recently interviewed Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia, about their plans for the coming year. An excerpt:

You recently launched a new initiative called “One Education” and received $11.7 Million in government funding… Can you tell us more about these developments?

We pitched to the Australian government to kick-off a pilot for 50,000 XOs… a $20m project that would including funding from schools, corporations as well as from government. The program will also provide at least 15 hours of teacher professional development (via moodle) to over 2,500 teachers [to] kick-start a movement to make OLPC the program of choice for primary school children.

What are the biggest challenges that you need to address before you can turn OLPC Australia’s vision into a reality?

Scaling our operations to meet the demand (2 months ago we were a 2,500 XO an year organisation, now we are proposing to do 50,000 in one year) that will be coming through our very small offices in the next 12-18 months. In Australia there are high expectations for service delivery/support.

Read the whole interview.

Reading and growing up with Nell

Scott posts a quick update on the status of the Nell designs for narrative interfaces and its application to OLPC’s recent literacy project in Ethiopia:

The Literacy Project is a collaboration between four different groups: the One Laptop per Child Foundation (“Nell”), the MIT Media Lab (“Tinkrbook”), the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, and the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University (“Omo”). The goal is to reach children even further from educational infrastructure than OLPC has ventured to date. In particular, the Ethiopia pilots are complete child-led bootstraps, attempting to teach kids to read English (an official language of Ethiopia) who neither speak English nor read in any language yet. There are no teachers in the village, and no literate adults either.

Adapting Nell to this environment has some challenges: how do we guide students through pedagogic material with stories if they don’t yet understand the language of the stories we want to tell? But the essential challenge is the same: we have hundreds of apps and videos on the tablets and need to provide scaffolding and guidance to the bits most appropriate for each child at any given time, just as Nell seeks to guide children through the many activities included in Sugar. In the literacy project there is also a need for automated assessment tools: how can we tell that the project is working? How can we determine what parts of our content are effective in their role?

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 (!)

Colombus School for Girls returns to St. John

The Columbus School for Girls, led by Christine Murakami, is preparing for its 2012 trip to St. John. You can follow their awesome trip blog this week. From Christine’s latest:

We are having our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders all work at different paces due to the differences in age and experience. It feels completely appropriate, and what’s great is that the girls are intuitively pacing their classes according to what’s going on in the class. With the shorter periods, there is less stress about “covering the material” than there was in the past, and as a result, the students are learning the material well.

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 😉