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.

Testing a Virtual Digital Library (try this at home!)

Over at OLPC-SF, Sameer and Alex have been exploring new ways to experiment with the bookserver.  They have a new OVA package for Pathagar that you can run: vm-pathagar.ova.zip.  From their blog:

This is a joint effort between me and Alex Kleider, who helped me debug, test and document the endeavor (or endeavour, as Alex would put it). The documentation and virtual machine took shape, largely driven by our need to have the Pathagar Book Server running on a DreamPlug for Madagascar. To that end, we sat down and installed Pathagar on a virtual machine and documented the steps. We used James Simmons’ instructions as a starting point. While the original Pathagar application was written by Sayamindu Dasgupta and Kushal Das, we used Manuel Quinones’ version that has some more tweaks and fixes.

Here’s a screenshot of it in action:

If you are interested in offline libraries, try the Pathagar book server and see what you can do with it.

OS 11.3.1 released for XO-1.75 and all other XO platforms

We are pleased to announce the release of OLPC OS 11.3.1 for XO-1, XO-1.5 and as a formal stable release for XO-1.75. Features, known issues, and installation details are covered in the release notes.

A heartfelt thanks to our many contributors, upstreams, testers, and other supporters. Comments and additional feedback are welcome on the devel mailing list; please download it and try it out.

If you have been following the release candidate process in the last few weeks: this is candidate build 885, released as final with no changes.

Thanks and enjoy!
The OLPC Development Team

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)

Little Pim to provide language learning on XOs

Little Pim the Panda has a series of videos that are part of an ‘Entertainment Immersion Method’  which uses animation to help children learn new vocabulary, and improve analytical, memory and concentration skills in 11 languages.  Children can learn over 360 words and phrases using all of the Little Pim lessons.  Now OLPC is partnering with them to bring language learning to millions of students with XOs around the world.

Rodrigo said of the partnership,  “We are delighted to join forces with Little Pim to make learning language more fun for children. OLPC and Little Pim share a common philosophy that learning should be a joyous experience and that children learn best when learning and play are seamless activities.”  Julia Pimsleur Levine, CEO of Little Pim, said: “We are thrilled to partner with OLPC and help bring Little Pim content to millions of bright young minds around the world.”

Read the press release.

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 😉

Fundacion DJ designing a DJ app for XOs

Fundacion DJ is building an app for the XO to let kids become DJs. They will be able to play two tracks at the same time, switch from one track to another with a cross fader, and use effects and pre-recorded sounds to mix in, just like a professional DJ.

They can record and export their mixes so they can share them or submit them to future contests – like the one the Foundation plans to run. They say of their work on this project: “This will be an alternative way to get kids interested in the art of music so in the future they can become DJs Agents of Change.”

From their site:

Fundacion DJ en colaboración con One Laptop Per Child crearan una aplicación para sus computadoras portátiles XO donde los niños podrán jugar a ser DJs.

La aplicación le permitirá a los usuarios poner dos canciones al mismo tiempo y tener la opción de cambiar entre una y otra con un cross fader. También tendrá efectos y sonidos pre-grabados para que puedan mezclar tal como lo hace un DJ profesional.

También tendrán la opción de grabar y exportar sus mezclas para que las puedan revisar y enviar para un concurso que estamos planeando hacer.

Esta será una alternativa para crear interés en los niños por el arte de la música y que en un futuro se conviertan en DJs Agentes De Cambio.

olpc-inspired pilot launched in American schools in Germany

The US Dept of Defense recently launched a project to give laptops to 4600 high-school students and teachers in US military schools in Germany, in an effort to copy successful programs in the US (such as Mooresville) and elsewhere. This is presented as a curriculum and pedagogy update, not a technical change; starting in places that already have strong wifi infrastructure.

The schools to be involved this year are in Hohenfels, Schweinfurt, Bamberg, Patch, Wiesbaden, Vicenza, Alconbury and Kaiserslautern. If the pilot is successful, it will be expanded to include middle schools and additional cities.

XO Educational Software Project underway

Professors Doug Kranch (of North Central State College) and Terri Bucci (of Ohio State University) are launching an XO Educational Software Project this year. This will be a collaboration between them and their students, and partners in Haiti, to develop math and science modules for the XO. They are also developing a simple router/server setup that Haitian teachers can use to support such software — NCSC’s fall course on client/server development will focus on this work.

The project aims to meet Haitian curricular standards, with ongoing feedback from schools around Croix des Bouquets, in collaboration with teachers, students, and university faculty and students from University Episcopal in Port-au-Prince. These contacts are supported by Ohio State’s ongoing Haiti Empowerment Project.

The group is developing their plans on their group blog, including early efforts this Spring to enhance use of XOs.

It sounds as though they should all be subscribed to the IA Education Project mailing list to share their thoughts!

From Jamaica: OLPC and the need for early childhood education

Craig Perue posted this wonderful video from Jamaica about their work with the first 115-child school to take part in one laptop per child.

And the Jamaica Gleaner last week covered a speech given by Dr. Ralph Thompson to the local Rotary Club about the necessity of early childhood education.

The Government is supposed to provide one trained teacher for 100 children but in practice, this more likely works out to one trained teacher to 1,000.

No country can make overall progress if the vast majority of its citizens are kept in ignorance and poverty. Not in a democratic society. Demagoguery feeds on ignorance. The result will be either chaos or dictatorship.

“The digital gap is shrinking in Peru” [German review]

a translation of Julio Segador’s report for ARD Buenos Aires

Four years ago, we launched OLPC in Peru – now the largest primary-school initiative of its kind in the world – to distribute laptops to 810 000 children. The first results of the project are emerging: The laptop does not automatically lead to better test scores for the children, but may still be useful.

Barely four years ago in Peru, one could hear on every street corner a happy children’s song that came from a promotional film on the Internet. In the video, girls and boys had small green and white laptops in their hands, tapping on them and laughing. 810,000 of them, specially adapted to the needs of children, have since been distributed, primarily to students from economically-disadvantaged families. “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) is the international project behind it, from creative director Nicholas Negroponte of MIT in Cambridge.

Now interim results of the project in Peru have been published. An expert team from the Inter-American Development Bank put rural primary schools under the microscope for 15 months.
The results are mostly positive, says Eugenio Severin, one of the researchers: “The students who have gotten the laptops had cognitive abilities develop a good five months faster during the 15-month study period.”

Hear the German-language audio of author Julio Segador, or read on for the rest.
Continue reading

Learning to read with One Tablet per Child

Can tablets make a difference to a child learning to read for the first time, without a teacher or traditional classroom structure? That’s the question we are exploring with our reading project, currently underway in Ethiopia.


A few dozen children in two rural villages have been given tablets which they are using for a few months. They are interested in learning to read English, and understand this is something they can learn with the tablets; which also come with hundreds of children’s apps.

They are equipped with software that logs all interactions, building up a clear picture of how each tablet is being used. Data from the tablets is gathered each week and sent back to the research team, which also rolls out new updates to the tablets week by week.

Richard is in Ethiopia this week, to get better first-hand knowledge of how the tablets and other infrastructure are holding up, and a visual sense of how they are being used.

“if a child can learn to read, they can read to learn”