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.

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.

Sri Lanka completes first stage of national OLPC plan

Sri Lanka is a good example of collaboration between government, ngo’s, and international bodies.
They began an OLPC pilot in 2009, with support from World Vision Lanka, to see what a national laptop initiative might look like. This month they have finished deploying XOs to the last of their 13 pilot schools, chosen from each region of the country.

The program has been supported by the faculty at Colombo University, with educators working on a digital curriculum, texts that are included on every XO, and over 80 software programs (in Sinhala and Tamil) for students in grades 1-5.

Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena, overseeing the program, sees the XOs as “an ideal solution for the underprivileged schools which do not have electricity supply”. Now the ministry is considering how to expand this to the nation’s other primary schools.

South Africa: Building grassroots support for access to a modern education

As noted last week, Jackie Lustig has compiled a report from our South African projects. It draws on background data from the country, and highlights work done there over the past four years.

Starting with a gift of 100 laptops from donors on Boston, and expanding through the interest of a number of OLPCorps projects in 2008, South Africa has expanded its OLPC community to almost 1500 students and teachers today.


OLPC South Africa case study, 2008-2012

(This is an 8MB pdf, so may take a moment to load)

Revisiting the history of Sugar

Just before the new year, Walter wrote up a quick recap of the history of Sugar design and development.

Our principal partners in Sugar development were a small engineering team from Red Hat and Pentagram. The Red Hat team, under the leadership of Chris Blizzard, an experienced systems engineer, was tasked with leading the software engineering effort behind the development of the Sugar desktop. Lisa Strausfeld, a former MIT Media Lab student, led a team from Pentagram tasked with developing the interaction design and graphical identity of Sugar. In six months, this core group was able to produce a basic framework for Sugar upon which a community of pedagogists and software engineers could build learning activities. The team used an iterative-design process: rapid prototyping of ideas followed by critiques, followed by coding. We went through two to three cycles per week until we reached consensus on a basic framework.

Joanna Stern takes a detailed look at the XO-3

Joanna Stern, who has reviewed many OLPC models in the past, takes an in-depth look at the XO-3 prototype at CES, in a detailed review for The Verge. In addition to an excellent writeup, she interviews Ed McNierney while exploring the laptop in person, in what looks like Max Headroom’s office. They talk about everything from hardware and power to software and deployment.

They also took the best set of photos of the XO-3 and solar-cover to date!


The XO-3 tablet is on display at CES

As foreshadowed 18 months ago, an XO-3 prototype is debuting at CES this weekend, and will be shown off next week at the Marvell booth. Here is a sneak peek at what it looks like:

If you are heading to CES, you can stop by and see it yourself! Ping Giulia to set up an appointment, or drop by the Marvell booth. Charbax of olpc.tv will be on site as always, recording some video and interviews.

The XO-3 will sport a 1024×768 Pixel Qi screen, half-gig of RAM, and a Marvell Armada PXA618 chip. Some of the soft cover designs proposed so far include a built-in solar panel. More updates coming over the next week; for now, here is our CES press release.

The XO-3 is still planned to enter production at the end of this year.

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.

OLPC and Marvell announce the XO-3 tablet

Also: The first Marvell ARMADA-powered XO 1.75 laptop will begin shipping in March to school children in Uruguay and Nicaragua

SANTA CLARA, Calif. / LAS VEGAS (Jan. 9, 2012) – Marvell Semiconductor (Nasdaq: MRVL), a worldwide leader in integrated silicon solutions, and One Laptop per Child, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping every child in the world gain access to a modern education, demonstrated a version of the much-anticipated XO 3.0 – a low-cost, low-power, rugged tablet computer designed for classrooms around the globe – at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show.

“We’re proud to introduce the XO 3.0 tablet, showcasing the design, durability and performance features that make it a natural successor for our current laptops, which have been distributed to more than 2.4 million children in 42 countries and in 25 languages,” said Ed McNierney, Chief Technology Officer of One Laptop per Child. “The XO 3.0 builds on many of the technology breakthroughs we made with the XO 1.75, including the use of the Marvell® ARMADA® PXA618 processor, resulting in a significant decrease in power consumption-a critical issue for students in the developing world.”

“Marvell is committed to improving education–and the human condition-around the world through innovative technology for Smartphones, tablets and a myriad of new cloud-delivered services. Partnering with One Laptop Per Child is one way we can deliver a revolution where it matters most-to benefit children in some of the poorest places on the planet,” said Tom Hayes, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Marvell, and a member of the OLPC advisory board. “Marvell has been with One Laptop per Child from the start, and we’re doing whatever it takes to help the organization realize its mission of providing meaningful educational opportunities to the 500 million school-aged children around the world.”

Marvell and One Laptop per Child also announced today that the XO -1.75 laptop will begin shipping to customers in March 2012. Over 75,000 units of the XO 1.75 have already been ordered by OLPC projects in Uruguay and Nicaragua. Both models use the Marvell ARMADA PXA618 SOC processor, which doubles the performance of the earlier XO 1 while using only half the power. The XO 1.75 features a sunlight-readable screen, and all other features and design characteristics of the two previous versions of the XO laptop.

The XO 3.0 tablet will also feature the Avastar Wi-Fi system-on-chip.
It is also the only tablet that can be charged directly by solar panels, hand cranks and other alternative power sources

Other features include:

• Updated Pixel Qi sunlight-readable display
• Choice of Android or Linux operating systems
• Unique charging circuitry to support alternate power sources
• Choice of laptop covers, including one with built-in solar panel

GoGoNews kids’ news activity to ship with Sugar

GoGoNews, a site providing news summaries for kids, is developing an XO activity to showcase their news.   Like the older NewsReader activity, it will offer regular updates from its online feed.   OLPC plans to ship the activity with future XOs, in English and Spanish.

The activity is scheduled to be done by February.  GoGoNews founder Golnar Khosroshawi says of the project “Together we will equip children with relevant technology and content, regardless of location, to promote learning and understanding, not just of academics, but of people, countries and cultures.

For details, see the press release in English and Spanish.

OLPC Asia team visits Sichuan school, updates their XOs

Last week twenty volunteers joined the OLPC Asia team to return to the OLPC pilot school in Sichuan.  OLPC donated 1000 XOs to children and teachers at the school, which supports students whose schools were destroyed by the 2008 earthquake.  The visitors spent a few days at the school, meeting with the school community and helping them update and repair their machines. Here’s a snapshot of them at work:

 

Health activity updates from Nepal

OLE Nepal has focused on health activities for some years now. Recently they undertook a project to develop a suite of them with educators from the UN’s World Food Program. In their August newsletter they announced that project’s successful conclusion:

OLE Nepal has completed the development of interactive digital learning activities designed to promote awareness in agriculture, food security and nutrition amongst school children. This set of thirty activities were developed with support from [the WFP] and are correlated with the Grade 5 “Science, Health and Physical Education” subject prescribed by the national curriculum.

OLE Nepal developed the activities in both Nepali and English. [They] have already been integrated in OLE Nepal’s larger E-Paath activity suite, and distributed to all OLPC program schools.

This is great news. Now we just need to upload them to the Sugarlabs Activities Hub and help get them localized into more languages. The E-Paath bundle and wiki pages could use updates as well.

Updates from OLPC Greece: multimedia, programming, and plans

Since 2009, OLPC Greece has provided one laptop per child in 35 classes and groups around the country.  580 XOs in all, with the inolvement of many teachers.  They have kept us updated via our wiki and regular emails, and shared some interesting work from their students.

My favorite post is from the 3rd graders at the Sminthi School —  they made large tiles of stencil art, rearranged it on a school wall, and turned it into stop-motion animations with Scratch (video).   Their professors Psychogios, Rigas, and Aspioti, brought this work into with their math, informatics, and art classes.

Recently the OLPC Greece team published a short summary of their work from the first two years, and their goals for the coming year.  They note the need for local hardware labs, software updates, and technical support.  You can follow their work, in Greek, on the public mailing list for the pilot.  (An excellent practice!)

Students and teachers work on a stencil in Sminthi

Students and teachers work on a stencil in Sminthi