A visit to Wonchi: OLPC’s Ethiopian Literacy Project

Evan Szablowski was in Addis Ababa, spending a week meeting Ethiopian entrepreneurs. Michael, one of the tech leads for our literacy project in Ethiopia, was one of the people he met with. He was captivated by the literacy project, and on hearing that Michael was heading to Wonchi (one of the two villages taking part in it), he and his teammates decided to tag along.

While he was there he met some of the students eager to show off how they liked to use the tablets (they are using Motorola Xoom tablets with mainly off-the-shelf Android literacy apps, with a few custom apps and tweaks by OLPC). At some point, one of the children (below) stood up to quiz the others on what they were learning.

Evan wrote up the experience in a beautiful essay on his new blog, illustrated with photos from the day.

While this is just one anecdote from the project, the photo series is priceless, and puts the whole effort in context: the geography of the town, the social setup of the small farming community, and the economic circles of the village and the technicians supporting them.

An overwhelming sense of excitement and optimism overtook us, and we couldn’t stop smiling as we watched. We left with such a feeling of inspiration and optimism, amazed at witnessing two completely different worlds [fuse] with one another… Zach said this was the best thing he has done in a long time, and I agreed.

I hope they realize it someday. I hope that someday one of those kids will say, ‘When I was only 4 years old, the laptop project from MIT came to my village, and it forever changed my future.’ What an amazing perspective that person will have.

This was not foreign aid, or handouts… This was education, and just the first step in enabling them. Enabling the young minds of Africa for brighter futures. For a brighter nation, and a brighter continent.

@Evan: Thank you for sharing the day with us!

“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.
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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.

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.

Homo docens: The teaching brain in the digital era

You can find the full essay on the olpc wiki.

Summary: The formidable expansion of the digital environment in our planet is one of the most urgent challenges of this century. This new environment supports most human activities around the world today. Among the multiple socialchanges empowered by the digital environment we must emphasize the transformation of the education of the new generations, the so-called “digital natives.” The access to this digital environment is now becoming a hope for millions of students and teachers, a way to overcome ignorance and poverty. It is a human right, and a value in itself.

At the same time the digital environment is becoming the common ground for the mind, brain and education sciences. We think that the future of
education will depend on the increasing integration of these sciences. And education is the hope of humanity. The teacher is facing new pedagogical challenges in a globalized world. We should however acknowledge the fact that while we have significant information about the learning brain we lack a similar knowledge of the teaching brain. Our expectation is to bridge this neuro-cognitive gap in the next years.

Update from OLPC Jamaica in August Town

Reposting a recent update by Jamaica’s Craig Perue

I have very good news. Just in time for the one year celebration of the launch of our XO deployments at August Town Primary and Providence Methodist Basic School, six members of the global OLPC community will be visiting us. They will be taking lots of pictures, doing interviews, workshop sessions, meeting the parents, teachers and students – all during the week of January 29 to February 5. One of the goals while they are here is to collect lots of content – National Geographic quality pictures and amazing stories that will be published later in the year along with those of five other small OLPC deployments worldwide.

This is an initiative to publicize to a worldwide audience the great OLPC work being done in Jamaica, Madagascar (Nosy Komba), Philippines, Kenya, Haiti, and Vietnam.

The team visiting Jamaica includes:

- documentary film maker, Bill Stelzer, who works with the OLPC deployments in the US Virgin Islands
- OLPC’s community support manager since 2007, Adam Holt, who splits his time between Boston and Haiti
- executive director of Ntugi Group, Mark Battley, who support OLPC implementations in Northern Kenya
- Quentin Peries Joly and Laura de Reynal, University students from OLPC France who have done extensive work with the OLPC project in Nosy Komba, Madagascar
- Nancie Severs, who envisioned and started the first OLPC deployment in a floating village, Vietnam.

San Francisco State University signs an MOU with OLPC

For four years, OLPC has had fruitful collaboration with the indefatigable Sameer Verma and others at SFSU, on hardware, Sugar activity design, and community building. Now at last we have a formal MOU between the University and OLPC[A]. This may be just the first of many MOUs with universities in the US, as we develop a network of supporting organizations working with OLPC on international projects.

Sameer and his students and colleagues have already worked with grassroots OLPC projects in Tuva, India, Armenia, Jamaica, and North Africa. Thanks to you all for your support and great ideas so far; we look forward to working more actively together, and perhaps drawing in new departments as well ;-)

There’s a lovely and unflinching personal recollection by Sameer of the development of his XO addiction, on SFSU’s opensource blog. A few highlights:

OLPC came into my professional [and personal] life in July 2007 when I signed up for the Developers Program and got an OLPC XO-1 B2 machine. How excited was I? I slept with it under my pillow. Seriously.

The hype and novelty factor diminished in six months and the question arose: “Why bother spending a Saturday for this?” Then came the answer in the form of actual projects… work, not just advocacy. We started with four projects and now have a list of fourteen.

You can read the text of the MOU as well.

Powerful ideas in Brazil: Etoys authoring and conceptual development

Etoys is one of the most powerful tools on the XO — in terms of what it can do, how flexibly it can be used, and how it helps guide and facilitate thinking. This blog post from long-time OLPCer Sylvia Kist shows some of the research that has been done with children and Etoys on the XO.

Can programming on Squeak Etoys on the XO laptop help students develop concepts about the Big Bang theory? Or about phenomena such as the Lunar Eclipse? About breast cancer?

Working with Brazilian children and investigating their production, researchers from the Laboratory of Cognitive Studies of the Institute of Psychology of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (LEC/UFRGS) have been examining the potential of programming activity on Squeak Etoys for authoring and conceptual development.

This past November, part of this investigation was presented in a paper at the XXII Brazilian Symposium on Computer in Education (SBIE) and XVII Workshop on Informatics at School (WIE) in Aracaju (SE/Brazil), awarded as one of the best papers of the event. The work context was the trial of the Brazilian federal program One Computer per Student (PROUCA) in Porto Alegre, one of the five experiments of the first phase of the project, coordinated by LEC/UFRGS, in which XO laptops were adopted.  (More details after the jump.)


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Ecuador gets laptops for 3800+ elementary students

Two progressive towns in Ecuador is launching an olpc scheme: 4000 students and teachers in elementary schools in the cities of Cuenca and La Libertad will get laptops this year. The program includes its own plan for repairs and support, comprehensive training for teachers, and work integrating digital content. Schools involved will get one of XOs, Classmates, or HP netbooks, and the results will be compared. In all, the program will cost $2.5M, and will serve as a pilot for the district. If successful, it will be expanded to further elementary schools.

From a summary of the program:

El Ministerio de Educación de Ecuador firmó un convenio en septiembre del 2010 para Mi Compu, un programa piloto Uno a Uno en las escuelas. El plan se propone distribuir computadoras portátiles a 3.200 estudiantes y 172 docentes en la ciudad de Cuenca, y a 622 / 26 en la ciudad de Santa Elena.

Las computadoras portátiles XO, Classmate y HP se distribuirán y se compararán en cuanto a sus ventajas técnicas y pedagógicas. El piloto ofrecerá también un soporte técnico robusto, mantenimiento de las computadoras, conectividad y software para docentes y estudiantes; va complementado por 120 horas de capacitación docente que consta de tres módulos: familiarización con el hardware y el software, uso pedagógico de las TIC en el aula, y una introducción a las herramientas de medios digitales tales como software especializado para maestros, investigación en Internet y contenido digital educativo.

El objetivo es estudiar el impacto de las computadoras laptop sobre los estudiantes y los docentes, tomando en consideración la distribución de computadoras, su capacidad y el soporte técnico. Para más información, sírvase leer: “Se Entregarán Laptops en Cuenca y La Libertad”, Boletín informativo Pizarra, Ministerio de Educación, Noviembre 2010, No. 3