Australian brilliance: AU government provides $11.7M for OLPC pilot

via Rangan Srikhanta

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.

From the Schooling section of the annual budget:

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!

Niue sustains their OLPC project, plans future efforts

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 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.

Nicholas on Peru

Giving a poor child in a remote Peruvian village
a laptop to own and take home, is giving that
child hope, self-esteem, and an opportunity to
learn outside, as well as inside school. The
Economist did not read the full Inter-American
Development Bank report, that noted: “Students
also demonstrated increased cognitive abilities
from the OLPC program.”

The purpose of OLPC was not to improve classroom
learning only, but learning in the child’s whole
life. Ironically, Peru is the country where we most
encounter 6-to-10-year olds teaching their parents
how to read and write… I do not have a better story.
Furthermore, reading comprehension, parent involvement,
and a passion for playing with ideas improved. Check
out Uruguay, if you want to find more rigorous
statistics of success from a better organized
rollout.

Lastly, think of the logic behind applying traditional
19th Century testing to modern learning, especially at
early ages. High test scores come from rote learning,
and do not evaluate critical and creative thinking,
initiative and discovery, let alone peer to peer
teaching. It is like using a pedometer to measure
the speed of a car. Error.

OLPC has nearly 3 million laptops in 40 countries
and 25 languages, after six years and almost $1
billion spent. Noone reading this would not give
their child a connected laptop if he or she could
afford one. Why is it so hard to understand that
poor children should get the same?

eduJAM! 2012 Call for Papers

We invite the submission of papers to be presented at the eduJAM! 2012 summit. It will take place Friday-Saturday, May 11th-12th.

A summary of the main contributions from all the papers and the mention of the authors will be published on the event’s website and in the media after the summit. See more details in the document linked here and on our website.

Llamados a Ponencias – eduJAM! 2012

Invitamos a la presentación de ponencias que integrarán el Encuentro de Desarrolladores Uruguay: eduJAM! 2012 a desarrollarse el 11 y 12 de mayo. Un resumen de los principales aportes del conjunto de las ponencias y la mención a sus autores será publicado en la pagina del evento y en los medios de comunicación posteriormente al encuentro.
Mas detalles en el archivo aqui o en nuestra web.

Is traditional testing failing?

The Economist recently published a brief and pessimistic summary of the IDB Peru study. Their writer looked only at standardized math and reading tests as measures of success, ignoring large improvements in cognitive skills. Or maybe, as Richard Jennings suggests, they didn’t read to the sixth sentence of the study:

picked up on a 40-day-old report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and interpreted it as saying the program was failing in Peru. The anonymous Economist writer summarizes IDB’s findings thus:

GIVING a child a computer [does not] accomplish anything in particular… Peruvians’ test scores remain dismal. Only 13% of seven-year-olds were at the required level in maths and only 30% in reading… the children receiving the computers did not show improvement in maths… reading… motivation, or time devoted to homework or reading.

That’s depressing… I suppose there might be some intangible benefit, but it rather looks like there’s no quantitative gain.

But hang on a minute. It appears that The Economist has missed a key point from the report. IDB’s working paper, entitled Technology and Child Development: Evidence from the One Laptop per Child Program, also says:

The results indicate that the program… translated into substantial increases in use both at school and at home… Some positive effects are found… in general cognitive skills as measured by Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a verbal fluency test and a Coding test.

So, instead of a “disappointing return,” or “not accomplish[ing] anything in particular,” IDB did actually find a measurable benefit.

Could it be that the disparity between test scores and actual measured achievement means that it’s the tests that are lacking, rather than the laptops? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that academic testing was shown to be seriously wanting.

And is it too much to ask for The Economist’s journalists and fact-checkers to actually get as far as the sixth sentence in the report’s abstract, before writing the story? I know that many of today’s workers exhibit short attention-spans, but really!

Too right. Unlike traditional standardized tests, cognitive studies tests are more likely to demonstrate the sort of growth envisioned by constructionist approaches to learning: exploration, empowered learning, and creativity.

There were three separate cognitive skills tests measured by the IDB. All four showed large improvements – equivalent to 5-6 months of cognitive development. As the report notes, “these are sizable effects under this metric considering that the treatment group had an average exposure of 15 months” — that’s like getting an extra 3 years of cognitive development by the start of highschool; something worth further study.

IADB studies OLPC in Peru

The Inter American Development Bank recently published the results of a study of the Peruvian schools that received OLPCs in rural primary schools in Peru, over the first 15 months of the program.

The methodology of the study was quite good, with a randomized study of over 300 schools.  But the measurements and focus were not aligned with the goals of Peru’s program, and there is no clear way to compare these results with the other detailed results available from Plan Ceibal’s program in Uruguay.  The after-analysis of their work has tended to focus on short-term math and reading results, whereas the goals of the program were access to knowledge, improvements in pedagogy, and access to computing – which might be expected to show up in the short term only in the abstract cognitive results.

The measured improvement in abstract thinking – roughly 5 additional months of cognitive development, over a 15-month period – is tremendous. It is interesting to note how this result is downplayed in parts of the world where schools live by less abstract standardized testing.

Some recent comments from OLPC staff and implementers, paraphrased for brevity:

Claudia Urrea:

‘The OLPC program in Peru, or any other place, has to be evaluated according to its initial goal. “math, language, and cognitive test results” showed outputs, but have no clear connection to Peru’s 2007 stated objectives, which targeted pedagogical training and application.’

Oscar Becerra, who oversaw OLPC in Peru’s government:

‘We succeeded in giving access to technology to 100% (220,000) of children and teachers at one-teacher schools, who otherwise would have had no opportunity to use ICT.  Most had the option to take laptops home with them.’

Oscar has published other comments that are a good representation of the OLPC perspective.

 

Free Universal Construction – LEGOs and more

The Free Art and Technology Lab today announced a Free Univeral Construction Kit consisting of blueprints for 3D printing of 80 blocks and connectors that allow you to connect a varity of existing building kits.

Currently the kit interfaces with Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles / Bristle Blocks, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob pieces.  Individual adapters can be found on Thingiverse.com or downloaded as a package of STL files.

Three cheers for easier and better building experiences.  We are big fans of building things as a component of learning and as motivation, and have done extensive work with LEGO over the years including making the XO easy to connect with LEGO WeDo kits and other robotic tools.

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.