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 :)

Walter Bender on the future of OTPC

Walter Bender recently talked to USAID’s Mobiles for Education (mEducation) monthly seminar group about OLPC’s tablet development, the future of Sugar, and a future where every child has their own tablet.  They wrote up a nice summary of his talk.

As exciting as the introduction of the new tablet was for the small group of attendees at the seminar, Sugar was the focus of the discussion and one that Mr. Bender talked passionately about.  Designed on OLPC’s principle of “Low floor, no ceiling”, it’s designed for inexperienced users, providing a platform, or low floor, on which to explore, create, and collaborate without any limits to its possibilities.

Exploration is key to Mr. Bender’s philosophy.  Designing Sugar and the computers from a “constructivist” perspective, he referred to Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget and his learning theory of “learning by doing” when discussing the intuitiveness of the system.  “We want to raise a generation of independent thinkers and problem solvers, “ he said after displaying a picture of students taking apart and fixing one of OLPC’s laptops.  “Every deployment has students who repair computers and they are designed so that students can fix them themselves.”

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.

A great new schoolsever blog

George Hunt has recently been experimenting with the XS schoolserver (currently XS 0.7) on various hardware setups.  And he is tracking his work on a blog dedicated to the purpose.  We are now including it in the OLPC Planet newsfeed.
http://schoolserver.wordpress.com/blog/

It’s a good read if you have been trying similar things at home or in your own school.  You can contact him with questions or comments through his blog.

 

Turtle Art and Scratch at Vacation Camp (in Miami)

Walter and Melissa Henriquez  ran Turtle Art and Scratch workshops las tweek, during a “vacation camp” for 3rd and 4th graders from Holmes Elementary School.  It sounds like a it was a great success, with the children using Portfolio to make presentations of their work at the end of the week.   Read more about it in the weekly Sugar Digest.

 

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.

Michele Borba interviews children, parents and teachers in Nicaragua

Dr. Michele Borba, the inspiring parenting and educational consultant who has been working recently with OLPC, travelled to Nicaragua with Rodrigo and the deployment last week for the Ometepe project launch.  She writes, “[We] looked like a mini-United Nations representing Germany, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, Denmark, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Bosnia, South Korea, Belgium, India and the U.S. We were teachers, bankers, doctors, writers, embassy representatives, lawyers, and businessmen, but we all shared a commonality knowing that something immensely significant was about to happen on that Island, and could feel it the moment we walked onto a huge field.

She also visited a school that has been part of an existing OLPC project near Managua for over a year, and wrote about the history of the program there.

The first delivery of XO laptops to Nicaragua was in 2009, and the impact is already evident. Statistics show a 40% reduction in drop-outs, a decrease in retention and in violence. Best yet, parents are starting to come to the schools to be involved in their children’s learning, and the teachers recognize those laptops are affecting their teaching!

I visited a small rural primary school (San Francisco de Asís) outside of Managua using XO laptops since November 2010. There is now full OLPC school saturation. Positive changes are clearly apparent: the parents are more involved in their children’s education; there has been a high increase in school registration; and student learning is increasing, and here’s why.

The teachers were all trained by OLPC and continue with monthly staff development training.

Each computer is equipped with grade-level texts including natural science, geography, geometry, Nicaraguan history and culture, a dictionary, and Wikipedia, books (“Mine has Harry Potter!” one boy exclaimed), as well as programs that encourage children’s creativity, music and art. Teachers report that students are now far more engaged in learning. Parents say their kids are using the computers to continue learning at home.

Over the next hours I observed various teaching lessons using the XOs. Sixth graders working in base teams to learn how to mind-map different types of calendars (Mayan, Greco, Julian). Third graders paired with partners to identify bird species. First graders were learning how to use the XO drawing program and discovering beginning programming skills. Fourth graders were mentoring younger students…

Dr. Borba also spent some time talking to students and teachers outside of class:

[A ten-year old] told me that her computer has “greatly advanced my learning… Yesterday I learned about industrial agriculture. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a presentation in my classroom about farming techniques.” She added that her favorite laptop activity at home is doing research on Wikipedia. Her goal, she said, is to become an engineer. I have no doubt that she will.

The whole story is posted on her children and parenting blog.

Ometepe, Nicaragua: una Mágica Isla Digital

Ometepe, Nicaragua is a legendary and extraordinary place: a double-volcano island that has maintained its community and culture fairly distinct from the country around them. Daniel Drake and others have been helping them realize Nicaragua’s latest deployment (past coverage), thanks to the ongoing work of Fundación Zamora Teran, connecting every child on the island to the Internet and to eachother. After its public launch last week, Rodrigo shared this beautiful and inspiring report from the island (pdf).

En el corazón de Nicaragua, y en medio del lago del mismo nombre, el lago más grande de América Latina, millones de años atrás una erupción volcánica formó una curiosa isla compuesta por dos volcanes, uno de ellos activo aún. El nombre indígena, Ometepe, significa precisamente dos montañas. Con 245 km2, constituye la isla de agua dulce más grande de las Américas. Declarada como una de las maravillas naturales del mundo por la ONU, ciertamente posee cierto aire paradisíaco, tropical, exuberante, mágico, como un set de película. Sus 50,000 habitantes, indígenas en un 90%, vivieron hasta hace menos de una generación en un oscurantismo medieval, una especie de parque jurásico, donde ningún habitante sabía leer o escribir. El día de ayer, en un espectacular y malabárico salto de la rana, Ometepe se convirtió de repente en la primera isla de las Américas totalmente digital, donde el 100% de sus 5,000 niños de escuela primaria y la totalidad de sus docentes, recibieron uno de nuestros laptops XO, conectado al Internet de alta velocidad y con las aplicaciones pedagógicas inherentes.

Llegamos a Ometepe acompañando una comitiva de empresarios no solo de Nicaragua sino de todo Centro América y de representantes de organismos multilaterales, ONGs, medios de comunicación internacionales y funcionarios del gobierno, interesados todos en ver por si mismos lo que la fundación Zamora Teran viene haciendo en Nicaragua.

Fundada por el banquero Roberto Zamora y por su esposa Maria Josefina Teran, han logrado en menos de 30 meses una transformación educacional y al mismo tiempo una buena aplicación del concepto de filantropía transformadora, sin precedentes. De su propio bolsillo y con aportaciones recientes de clientes, personas naturales y hasta de un país, Dinamarca, han logrado ya entregar 28,000 laptops en varias regiones de critica pobreza en este país, de por si uno de los más pobres de las américas. Como si fuera poco, anunciaron que aspiran a implementar 500,000 unidades, es decir el 100% de los niños de primaria de Nicaragua, incluyendo discapacitados mentales (autismo, síndrome de Dawn), discapacitados visuales o físicos (ver foto) antes del 2015! Al ver lo que han logrado en estos 30 meses, no me queda la menor duda de que lo lograrán.


Para llegar a la isla hay que tomar primero un bus por más de dos horas hasta llegar a uno de los varios puertos en las riberas del lago. Luego, un Ferry que tiene varias frecuencias de viaje por día, se tarda otras dos horas para llegar al puerto de Ometepe. Desde la distancia, se vislumbran las siluetas de los dos volcanes como guardianes de un ecosistema de exuberancia tropical que necesita cariñosa vigilancia. Carreteras adoquinadas evocan épocas pasadas y al mismo tiempo entrevén aplicaciones prácticas de adaptación a los continuos movimientos telúricos. Los adoquines son más flexibles y se acomodan ejerciendo una labor de amortiguación cuando la madre tierra manifiesta su vitalidad y fortaleza con unos terremotos como el de 1972 que destruyó Managua. Tierra fértil por ser conformada por cenizas volcánicas, la agricultura y el turismo constituyen las principales fuentes de ingresos de sus habitantes. El clima es un poco más benigno que el de Managua, conocida por su calor asfixiante, pues las laderas de los dos volcanes producen corrientes de aire que refrescan un poco el ambiente.

La paradoja consiste en que los niños de esta población estarían marcados a seguir la suerte de sus ancestros, agricultores artesanales de pequeños minifundios con costumbres milenarias pre-colombinas pero que precisamente dichas culturas estarían en vías de extinción por pura inercia. El traer estas culturas a la modernidad, lejos de acabar con ellas, ofrece una oportunidad de poderlas difundir y compartir, como ya estamos haciendo con casos similares en Mexico y Perú.

Convencidos de que la única solución a ese circulo vicioso destructivo es la educación, el matrimonio Zamora Teran decidió embarcarse en esta misión de rescate de las juventudes Nicaraguenses para lo cual adoptaron el proyecto One Laptop Per Child como vehículo de cambio educacional y de inclusión social y económica.

Meses de preparación previa con los docentes, padres de familia y algunos estudiantes claves, garantizan que inmediatamente recibidos estos laptops podrán comenzar a producir el cambio de paradigma educativo y social buscados.

Varios conceptos básicos hacen esto posible… Continue reading

OLPC in Mexico: proudly running Linux

Last week we shared excellent news from OLPC México: Sonora’s plans to distribute XO laptops to 350,000 children across their state over the next three years. A few days later the head of Microsoft in Mexico commented in a Sonoran newspaper that ‘while giving computers to students is a good thing, the Sonora project will fail because XO laptops use Linux instead of Windows.

In the same article the Microsoft spokesperson claimed the OLPC project in Uruguay had been a failure due to “Internet security and privacy issues” and that it changed to Wintel machines. Miguel Brechner, head of Plan Ceibal in Uruguay, corrected those misimpressions. There are 570,000 XO laptops in Uruguay schools, all running Sugar for elementary school students and Linux for middle school students, with no security or privacy problems. While dual-booting Windows was available for years as an option for OLPC deployments, almost none chose that option. (Uruguay tested it out, but opted for Gnome-on-Fedora instead.)

This misinformation from Microsoft is a pity; they seem to have no internal incentives to make accurate statements or to advance education. We applaud the work of the Sonora and Uruguay communities to their students, and look forward to their continued success!

Ghana Together: building networks of teachers

The non-profit Ghana Together has been repairing and deploying donated XOs in Axim, Ghana for years – now providing over 50 XOs in their Children’s Home. They and work with local techs and a student repair center at the Arts and Technology High School in Marysville, WA. They recently wrote about helping a nearby school that suddenly received XOs.

What about Those One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Computers?

In 2011 the Methodist School was suddenly given 30 OLPCs from the government of Ghana.. .They thought they looked liked toys, not realizing that they are actually very sophisticated “learning machines” for primary school children. The headmistress found out that I was coming to Axim, and asked me to come and do an impromptu two-hour workshop.

Consequently, two teachers worked with me to test and update laptops. I engaged Peter Asuah, one of the original WHH scholars, to help test all the OLPCs, chargers, etc. I left a very complete manual… These guys are computer sophisticated, and I’m sure they will do a good job orienting the children.



Since the machines are designed to be “self-exploratory”, it’s been my experience that once children understand the basic way the computer functions, they do very well on their own. In fact, this hands-on, exploration approach is perfect for these children, because they have been so immersed in rote learning from blackboard and exercise books. The science teachers told me they are trying to get away from that kind of teaching, but up to now, they didn’t have materials to work with… now they have materials and machines.

Later in my visit, when the science teachers came up for the brainstorming session, I spent the first hour on another impromptu workshop, introducing them to the basic workings of the OLPC. They were fascinated…

Meanwhile, if anyone reading this has an OLPC you’d like to donate, we’d like to have it, in working condition or not. The Marysville Club is very skilled — they repair them, or if need be cannibalize them.

Read the full post on the Ghana Together blog.

Nicaragua: Fundación Zamora Terán expands to the legendary island of Ometepe

Fundación Zamora Terán recently expanded the work of OLPC Nicaragua to include the community on the beautiful and legendary Ometepe, an island formed by the two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua.



Teachers play a key role in the use of the XO laptop, incorporating it into daily planning and classroom activities. Maria Josefina Terán Zamora, its founder, said of their new island initiative:

During the past two years, we’ve been working hard to ensure that our OLPC project is one of the best in the world and delivers the maximum benefit to our children. Today we are very happy to include the children of Ometepe and connect them to the rest of Nicaragua and to the world.

The Fundación coordinates and executes XO purchase logistics and installation and provides a high level of technical support. A pedagogical training plan has been developed with the support of a qualified educational team that facilitates the integration of the XO into the existing Ministry of Elementary School Education Curriculum. Schools participating in the OLPC project must meet specific selection criteria.

The Ometepe initiative has been supported particularly by contribution from the LAFISE-BANCENTRO Bank, and brings to 25,000 the number of XOs distributed to children in schools across the country.

You can read the official press release.