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.

Bank of South Pacific donates 1000 laptops to Pacific children

The Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) this week became OLPC Oceania’s lead private sector partner in the region.

OLPC Oceana and BSP are announcing a strategic partnership to advance South Pacific education. As its first act in its role of Lead Private Sector Partner for OLPC Oceania, BSP is donating 1000 XOs to children in three OLPC project schools in the Solomon Islands and Fiji. In coming months, BSP plans to provide more support for children in Papua New Guinea as it spearheads private sector support for OLPC.

Surfing the Net in the Solomons

OLPC’s Regional Director for Oceania, Mr. Michael Hutak, thanked BSP for its generosity and welcomed the partnership as a breakthrough for Pacific education. “With BSP’s strong corporate leadership in the Pacific, its regional branch network and its strong commitment to community participation, we look forward to a long and effective partnership, not just to our mutual benefit but to the advancement of Pacific education.”

BSP Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ian B. Clyne said the new partnership was a perfect fit with the Bank’s corporate social responsibility goals and would broaden the reach and impact of the BSP Children’s Foundation, complementing programs such as BSP’s widely-praised BSP School Kriket program. The partnership continues BSP’s commitment to Pacific development and follows a recent Fiji$100,000 donation to emergency relief efforts following the devastating floods in Fiji.

As Lead Private Sector Partner, BSP will join the regional initiative OLPC Oceania, which is a coalition of national governments, educators, donor agencies, academia, the private sector, civil society and community organizers, all working to assist Pacific Island countries to establish the OLPC concept in schools. Mr Hutak said BSP will bring much-needed private sector expertise and know-how to the Pacific initiative.

Currently there are OLPC projects running in 10 Pacific countries, with approximately 10,000 laptops being used by children in 50 schools. Across the globe, OLPC has distributed over 2.4 million laptops to poor children in 40 countries.

Some 200 laptops donated by BSP’s Children’s Foundation will be deployed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in the Solomon Islands in remote Marovo Lagoon, the site of the first Pacific OLPC project in 2008. The remaining 800 laptops with be distributed in two demonstration schools in Suva, Fiji, in partnership with Government of Fiji and the University of the South Pacific. The schools will be where Fiji’s teacher and technical training will occur. BSP plans to promote the establishment of similar demonstration schools in Port Moresby and will work with the PNG Govt, the World Bank and other partners to scale up OLPC in PNG.

BSP has also agreed to facilitate the collection of public donations to OLPC Oceania projects, both online and through its branch network.

Nancie Severs on the recent OLPC Help Sprint!

Nancie wrote up her week visiting Boston to work on the updated Help activity, in her travel blog:

Last October at the San Francisco [OLPC] Volunteer Summit, plans for the Refresh-Help project evolved. This week in Boston, here we are! The details can be found on the wiki. Adam Holt (OLPC & Haiti), and volunteers Christoph Derndorfer (Vienna), George Hunt (engineering & School Server expert) Mark Battley (Toronto/Kenya), Craig Perue, (Jamaica), Laura de Reynal France/NosyKomba, Harriet V (India). Sandra Thaxter (MA/Kenya) Ed C (Indiana), Sameer (OLPC-SF & Jamaica), and locals Bernie, Dogie, SJ and others worked and played together at the Cambridge OLPC offices to try and get this project done! Chief organizer Caryl Bigenho was busy helping remotely most of the time. There were other folks around the globe furiously writing and editing too.

Thanks for all who helped out! We still need people to help finish packaging the result into a new Help.xo activity, and translate the result into Spanish.

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.

Nagorno-Karabakh deployes 3,300 OLPCs to connected schools

Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region which seceded from Azerbaijan in 1991, and has been engaged in a  low-grade military conflict involving Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since.  Recently they have launched a New Education Project to improve primary education across the region.

Many of the children in the region have schools, and some have internet access.  This week, they launched a small OLPC project, deploying laptops to 3,300 students in 16 connected primary schools in the cities of Stepanakert (the region’s capital), Shushi, and Karin Tak.

Vladik Khachatryan, Minister of Education and Science of Nagorno-Karabakh, was present at the launch.  He announced,

This program will improve the quality of education of elementary school students in the NKR, and what is more important, will make more information available to them and their families… within a short period of time we will be able to establish equal educational opportunities in all NKR.

Rodrigo added,

Education is a key factor to breaking the vicious cycle of ethnic hatred and violence for children who live in conflict zones.

I look forward to seeing the project develop, and hope that the recent focus on children and education brings stability and peace to the region.

2012 Doc Sprint Begins

Many incredible volunteers are still on their way to Boston, sacrificing their Passover/Easter holiday weekend, for our April 6-10’s Doc Sprint. Officially starting Friday at OLPC HQ in Cambridge, Massachusetts!

The 5-day task is Huge. So was the marathon preparation. Our goal here, and now: to engage thousands more active users worldwide, of all ages, to understand the POWER of the XO laptop and its Sugar learning system — 4.5 full years after this global XO kids learning movement truly hit the road.

U R What U Eat!

It’s time. And our community tools are all rapidly coming together to make this all happen — so our community’s priorities boil down to documenting:

  1. XO Hardware
  2. Core OS, Sugar & Gnome
  3. Sugar Activities
  4. Learning Tactics, School Server, Volunteer Community

Our driving goal?  Refreshing our touchstone manual that first appeared way back in early autumn 2008.  No, NOT another deployment guide or deployment gossip. But something succinct+snappy, dare we say approachable+fun? With dramatic changes in store…

In the end? The most cool Sugar Activities on every continent will make our best Chapters visible, just 1 click away, for Years To Come.

The amazing reality?  Key documents (and videos) are already being slapped into shape, and interlinked in far more meaningful ways, and far beyond core manuals.  Consider Walter Bender’s newly concise summaries of his 25 favorite Activities, real world server-in-field tricks emerging into the light — with new kinds of project-sparking videos imminent from implementation experts like Kenya’s Ntugi Group.

Don’t forget.  You too CAN contribute, even from a distance, even just joining our team mailing list library@lists.laptop.org!

R We Alearning Yet?

Thanks to all running this race for the ages!  Especially Christoph Derndorfer, Caryl Bigenho, Seth Woodworth and Laura de Reynal for their most priceless prep 🙂

OLPC Jamaica evolves: an inspiring story

This guest post is from Sameer Verma, professor at San Francisco State and founder of the OLPC-SF regional group.

I was on sabbatical leave at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Fall 2008. There, I helped start the Center of Excellence (CoE) at the Mona School of Business at UWI. Through the CoE, we started the OLPC Jamaica project on September 5, 2008. In Jamaica the team has been led by Craig Perue – who was two weeks ago appointed Advisor to the Minister of Education!

It has been three and a half years since that first effort, an uphill battle to get the project going to fulfill its goals of early childhood education, technology in remote and rural places and community outreach and impact, not to mention supporting IT infrastructure (server, wireless LAN, content filtering, traffic management) remotely over a VPN for 5 year olds 🙂

Last year, we implemented 115 OLPC XO laptops in two schools, and the results have been amazing. I was on a data collection trip over the recent break, and what we are finding through the initial analyses is impressive:  An increase in numeracy by 12%. And the most sought-after program is TuxMath. Other results will be interesting as well, we hope.

 

Here is a brief on OLPC Jamaica and a video clip (12 minutes well spent) of what we have done so far.   These are *my* children 🙂

SF State is mentioned in the credits at the end.  This is also an example of OLPC’s Contributor Program at work. We were fortunate enough to have been seeded with 10 OLPC XO-1’s in 2008.

 

The Islamic Development Bank will support a 50-school deployment for OLPC Cameroon

Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.

The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroon’s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.

Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.

Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.

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”.

Delaware student builds English-to-Creole translator in Scratch for XOs

Eric McGinnis, a senior at U. Delaware, took part in a visit to Haiti earlier this month coordinated by his school, UNC Charlotte,  Waveplace, and Mothering Across Continents.  After taking a course in game development, he built an English-to-Creole translator in Scratch which he distributed to students at the Waveplace school.

The UDaily covered the trip and his project.

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.