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.
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?
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 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.”
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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”
It gives me tremendous pleasure to inform you that the Australian Federal Government has committed to fund One Laptop per Child in Australia for $11.7M this year, to launch a pilot project to reach 50,000 children in indigenous communities. Additional funds will come from the schools participating in the program and from corporate/public donors.
The Australian Government is providing over $11 million to support the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Program which will deliver over 50,000 custom built laptops to primary students in regional and remote Australia as part of a 12 month pilot program. The OLPC Australia Organisation (OLPC Australia) aims to support the learning opportunities of indigenous children, particularly those in remote Australia, by providing primary school aged children with a connected XO laptop as part of a sustainable training and support program. Participating schools will also receive information and communications technology (ICT) coordinator professional development, local repair kits, and access to helpdesk and online support.
From the full budget breakdown, It seems that some of the funds for this was redirected from a project pool for the “Digital Education Revolution”. The government is also extending OLPC Australia’s tax-deductibility for another three years, as part of this continuing commitment.
This is fantastic news. Kudos to Rangan, Sridhar, Tracy, Rita, Sasha, Ning, and the whole team. A formal press release will be out in the coming days. There is much more to come from Australia — stay tuned!
There was a bit of concern a few months back when it was reported that Niue’s government was considering dropping support for OLPC. We reached out to them to find out what the reason was, as they had reported a successful and well-received pilot. Now it seems that their education ministry remains interested in OLPC. Thanks to the Niue Education Ministry and to Michael Hutak for the update.
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.