A successful Contributors Program project: Rehnuma School in Karachi

If you haven’t seen this blog and this YouTube video from the OLPC Contributors Program project run by Talat Kahn and Carol Ruth Silver in Pakistan, you need to check it out! Watch the video and explore some of the creative ways the teachers and students are using XOs in their school.

This began as a 10 XO Contributors Program project and I was privileged to be their mentor. (Since then they found funding for over 100 XOs and are looking to grow.) And their class experiences and blog have been an inspiration to other teachers around the world. I did give them some help getting started and a couple of “lessons” via Skype, but after that, they ran with it! Notice the enthusiastic local community involvement that has helped make this project the success that it is.

P.S. Carol and Talat are members of the OLPC San Francisco Community. They are also the ones that introduced many of us (myself included) to the Khan Academy videos. We all learn from each other!

Paving the road to connectivity

Alice Rawsthorn follows up on her earlier pieces on OLPC with an short, sweet article in yesterday’s New York Times. “A Few Stumbles on the Road to Connectivity” offers a summary of OLPC’s work and development over the past three years. She touches on many of the changing expectations about the project, by supporters and detractors, over the years, noting that initial detractors worried we would distort the commercial market, or impede other humanitarian projects. But both commercial and other humanitarian projects in education and technology have grown, even in countries where OLPC has reached every school and is a significant part of the annual education or technology budget.

The larger story, often lost in the drama of competing yet similar programs, is the global change wrought by universal connectivity projects. UCPN, Ceibal, Canaima, Connectar Igualdad, Magelhan, Aakash — all are variations on the essential theme. That will soon have transformed education in most of the world. The question is, which regions will still be left out?

OLPC Rwanda Report: Transforming society through access to modern education

As we mentioned yesterday, OLPC Rwanda now has an excellent project summary (pdf) online. It covers the first three years of the national initiative and the related development of Rwanda’s primary schools.

The report captures the spirit and challenges of country-wide change. It addresses the major phases of the project, and the background in government policy and vision, without diving into too much detail.

 

A recent teacher's workshop in Rulindo, Rwanda

A summary, to whet your appetite:

In 2000, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda established 20-year objectives to transform the country into an industrial/service-based economy. This VISION 2020 plan specifies short-, medium- and long-term goals with measurable indicators of progress.

The plan relies on six pillars, the second being human resource development & a knowledge-based economy, and three horizontal areas, the third being science & technology.

In 2001, only one of the country’s 2,300 primary schools had any computers at all.  By 2005, 1,138 schools had at least one PC, 40 schools in Kigali had Internet access, and connectivity was being rolled out to other schools.  Over 1,000 teachers had been trained in computer literacy, from 120 primary schools.

Rwanda announced in January 2007 it would work with One Laptop per Child.  In 2008, it received 10,000 XOs [thanks primarily to our generous donors and the G1G1 program].

In early 2010, the government purchased 65,000 XO laptops so that schools in every school district could begin receiving laptops for P4-P6 students. This purchase was financed by the sale of cellular licenses to Tigo and Korea Telecom, working with the government to extend broadband connectivity nationwide.  They have since purchased another 35,000 XOs, and plan to deploy another 400,000 over the next 5 years. Today the program has a 27-person core team, plus 5 staff from OLPC, working on the project.

The Ministry of Education started with 150 schools, and asked the headmaster and a teacher of their choice to come to Kigali for one week of intensive training. They subsequently spent four days at each school to work with the teachers and students, and one day for community awareness meetings.

Ministry representatives held meetings with local Parent Teacher Associations and local authorities, explaining how laptops would be integrated into the classroom. They also went on radio and TV and write newspaper articles to discuss the project.

 

Parents at a PTA meeting introducing the XO

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OLPC Rwanda takes off

Update: the OLPC Rwanda 2011 report is out!

OLPC Rwanda (twitter) has grown steadily since its launch a few years ago, and is now part of early education in every school district in the country. Rwanda aims to become a technical and Web powerhouse, and has remained true to that vision. Today they are in some ways the most technically advanced country in the region (to the chagrin of neighboring Kenya, which also hopes to be the hub for software and technology development in East Africa). Rwanda is preparing to double the size of the OLPC project in the country over the coming year, now that they have a smoothly-running system in place.

Happily for us (and for future deployments), the country team has put together a beautiful report on their first three years of work, which will come out tomorrow. It is concise and written for a general audience, with a fine balance of perspectives, from political and financial to the needs of teachers and PTAs.

In related news, Joseph and Erize, the two boys who made their own business cards for their OLPC outreach efforrts in Kigali, saw that we wrote about them on the blog last week, and left comments of their own welcoming questions from all of you. :-)

Rwandan OLPC mentors: students with business cards

Back in May, we held an international Scratch Day event in our office called “Rwandese Kids Scratching their Communities.” This event had local students familiar with Scratch, an interactive programming activity on the XO laptop, planning and holding their own workshop. They taught teachers, family members and anyone else who came how to create Scratch projects.

This day was open to all and many new children found their way into our offices to learn more about Scratch and the XO laptop. Two such boys were Joseph (grade 3, 10 yrs old) and Erize (grade 2, 11 yrs old).

In the months that followed, Joseph and Erize kept coming to our offices (near
their houses) to use the laptops. During this time, they not only mastered use of the laptop, they spread word to their friends, and now help and guide other children who have begun coming to the office. Their homes have become popular places with family and friends coming each night to learn more and use the laptops.

The boys had been reserved and quiet, but are now outgoing and confident. Their English has expanded from a few sentences to conversational in just a few weeks. It is clear their work with the laptop has empowered them. They are so happy to be involved with OLPC, that they have each created their own business card and tell everyone in the neighborhood that they work for OLPC!

Joseph and Erize, on their own, chronicled through pictures an afternoon of themselves and their families at home with their laptops:


Visualizing universal connectivity in Argentina

Argentina’s Conectar Igualdad program, which will provide 3M laptops to secondary students across the country by the end of next year, has devoted much time to their web presence.  (The secondary students receive Classmates; 60K primary students in the north have also recieved XOs.) The national education ministry has a history of excellent web sites, including educ.ar, which has gathered learning materials and information for teachers for years.

Conectar Igualdad has, among other things, a lovely real-time summary of the program’s progress, noting the current targets or the deployment and how it has progressed during the current phase in each district.

They are also open about the experimental nature of their work.  They have asked students and communities to come up with great ideas and local initiatives using the laptops and other information technology, running a variety of contests to select the best of them.  The aim of these contests is to highlight the dynamic of “one laptop per child” and universal connectivity, connect with web 2.0 services, and to collaborate with others in a creative way.

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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:

 

Paraguay Vice President hands out awards to OLPC students

Paraguay’s vice president, Federico Franco, recently presented an award to Giulianna Pozzoli, the recent winner of the Nickelodeon-OLPC Scratch animation contest, and other student leaders. This was held Caacupé, home to the country’s first large deployment of children’s laptops.

At 0:39 you can see one of the children in the audience filming his speech on her XO; another is typing as he talks. Others have hand cameras. He talks briefly about how everyone needs to work together to help improve children’s education, for a better future – and this an essential part of it.

Amazing photos and update from the Philippines

The eKindling grassroots group gave a lovely update of their work in the Philippines, last month in San Francisco.  They have been working with the province of Occidental Mindoro for some years. This began with the Lubang pilot, spearheaded by Mayor Juan Sanchez and financed by his friends from National Computer Center Community Outreach, Metrobank, and  many other anonymous donors. eKindling’s counterpart contribution in this pilot was the education programming and training of teachers, students, parents, and local support team.

More recently, Governor Ramirez-Sato has begun an expanded initiative on Mindoro Island.  Elementary schools of the four southern municipalities,  San JoseCalintaan, Magsaysay, and Rizal, will be receiving another 550 XOs later this year.  With Lubang in the north and these four in the south, can the rest of the province be far behind?



The Occidental Mindoro team conducted a baseline readiness survey in March, visiting some of the schools.  This was the children’s first chance to use the laptops.  Since then, there have been two training sessions with teachers from all involved schools, in June and October, and a training session with champion students from all schools in June.

They took  photos of their visit to the San Jose Pilot Elementary school.  Two of my favorites:


Photos by Ideals.ph

The new pilots are being advised (kindled!) by eKindling and managed by the local school system, an excellent example of government/grassroots collaboration.  Thanks to both groups for capturing this day in the life of the schools, and for making it possible.

OLPC Niue: reports of demise premature

Following last week’s announcement that the education department is “phasing out” support for OLPC in the South Pacific island nation of Niue, OLPCA is reaching out to the community there, looking at options of how to manage the ongoing communal ownership of the laptops for the benefit of everyone on “The Rock“.  OLPC is working with its Pacific partners to conduct a needs assessment to ascertain the status of the program there, and how they could move forward. We will work with all partners in Niue to ensure the XO contributes to its ongoing educational progress.

We understand the XOs, and all essential associated network infrastructure on Niue, remain in robust working order — and firmly in the hands of the island’s children. It was there that we learned that the OLPC principle of child ownership needed tweaking in the Pacific, where traditional cultures often value the group over the individual. In Oceania children are usually  “custodians” of their laptop, with a responsibility to safeguard it on behalf of the community, and further to share it with that community. These lessons come directly from our first experiences in Niue.

The Niue Department of Education and its partners had put in place a comprehensive and technically competent deployment. Eucators have said the OLPC program “went well” for two years and the XOs produced real educational benefits among students. We are keen to ensure that we document and build on this success, both in Niue and elsewhere in the Pacific. And no matter what direction the program takes we want to ensure it aligns with OLPC Oceania’s Community Participation Guidelines, especially the need for environmentally responsible solutions.

Both OLPCA and the Pacific countries that today are introducing the XO are incorporating lessons from our first Pacific pilots.  We are comparing it to the progress we see elsewhere in remote Australia and in Micronesia in the North Pacific, where the largest donor (the United States) is now working with countries on OLPC.  The fact that a funding shortfall was key to the Niue decision has spurred a broader debate in the region on aid to Small Island States like Niue, and has allowed us to raise the issue with other stakeholders in the region.

 

XOs in Brazil: impacting early reading and writing

Post via Silvia Kist

Seymour’s Papert ideas are a source of inspiration for many teachers and researchers in Brazil and had a big impact on how the country’s computer lab program was shaped in the past. One Laptop Per Child brought to life Papert’s vision for a Children’s Machine, and also inspired many teachers and academics in the country.

Because of this history, the strongest characteristic of the OLPC project in Brazil is the involvement of universities researching how laptops can create powerful educational experiences, and promote cultural change around learning. Many research labs from Brazil’s top universities are working with OLPC in this challenge, and have developed field studies: including LEC/UFRGS, NIED/UNICAMP, LSI/USP, CERTI/UFSC, UFC.

One of the first investigations in Brazil, was conducted under the supervision of Prof. Léa Fagundes. It studied how the XO impacted the reading and writing learning process of 6 year old children in a public elementary school at Porto Alegre. The full study was published in Portuguese. A summary:

They hypothesized that each child having their own laptop would change the practices of reading and writing by students, impacting how they create concepts about the written language. Student practices were observed and analyzed in two ways: practices proposed by the teacher and things that students did spontaneously.

After 7 months of observations, the research concluded that daily use of networked laptops allows children to use writing and reading in real life situations, differently from artificial activities in school. This kind of usage builds a symbolic environment helpful for understanding the function and meaning of written language (fluency) and leads to a conceptualization process driven by the need to understand others (literacy). In the class that was analyzed, the teacher’s proposals and some other conditions were necessary for that to happen. Project work, laptop ownership by students, connection to the Internet, and the use of a virtual learning environment were among them.

Niue reviews phasing out olpc, citing Internet costs

Niue, a small island nation in the Pacific, became the first country to provide one laptop per child, over two years ago. At the time, OLPC Oceania was just taking shape; since then, another 8000 children and teachers have implemented programs across the Pacific.

Last week Niue’s acting Director of Education, Lisimoni Togahai, said that although the first two years went well, they were phasing out the program. “The school could not afford to pay for the high cost of maintaining the V-SAT that’s connected to the satellite for the internet access.

Niue supported child ownership, and children there take their laptops home and keep them when they graduate. About half of the 500 XOs deployed belong to students who are still in the school system. While schools may be phasing out their subsidized connectivity, the children can use their XOs elsewhere. The country has abundant free wifi – it was touted as the first “Wifi nation” in 2003 for the availability of wifi in all of its cities.

Michael Hutak, coordinator for OLPC Oceania, has been in touch with them hoping for further background. He recently posted a summary of lessons learned so far from Pacific pilots. An excerpt:


* There is country-level demand and political and community support for OLPC in the Pacific;
* Small pilots provide an insufficient evidence base for policy makers;
* Monitoring & Evaluation should be integrated at the outset of an OLPC programme;
* Broad-based regional technical assistance is needed to aid country capacity building;
* Laptops and hardware peripherals should be centrally maintained in the region to efficiently support trials;
* There is suppressed demand for internet connectivity in rural and remote schools.

See also ChristophD’s take and Michael’s followup.

Pixel Qi forges ahead with partnerships, new tablets

Since Pixel Qi, our display manufacturer, announced the recent investment in their work by 3M, that connection has made a few headlines. 3M has noted that “the vision of ubiquitous displays comes much closer to realization.

Since then Pixel Qi have partnered with All American, a global distributor, and with ShiZhu Technology, who are designing a family of four tablets around Qi screens.

I hope this means new lineups and screen sizes will come more easily. I am looking forward to seeing this display tech become standard in handhelds and laptops of all sizes. And I’m also looking forward to the latest screen designs in the new XOs — it seems the already low power draw has dropped by half again.

Australia’s toughest Linux deployment: a plan for 300,000 XOs

Sridhar Dhanapalan is giving a talk next week about OLPC Australia, pitching it as “Australia’s toughest Linux deployment“.  It certainly is that.  He notes their aim to reach each of the 300,000 children and teachers in remote parts of Australia, over the next three years.

From his abstract:

OLPC Aus­tralia aims to cre­ate a sus­tain­able and com­pre­hens­ive pro­gramme to enhance oppor­tun­it­ies for every child in remote Aus­tralia… by 2014.

[T]he most remote areas of the con­tin­ent are typ­ic­ally not eco­nom­ic­ally viable for a busi­ness to ser­vice, hence the need for a not-for-profit in the space. 

This talk will out­line how OLPC Aus­tralia has developed a solu­tion to suit Aus­tralian scen­arios. Com­par­is­ons and con­trasts will be made with other “com­puters in schools” pro­grammes, OLPC deploy­ments around the world and cor­por­ate IT projects.

By pro­mot­ing flex­ib­il­ity and ease of use, the pro­gramme can achieve sus­tain­ab­il­ity by enabling man­age­ment at the grass-roots level. The XO laptops them­selves are… repair­able in the field, with min­imal skill required. Train­ing is con­duc­ted online, and an online com­munity allows par­ti­cipants nation­wide to share resources.

Key to the ongo­ing suc­cess of the pro­gramme is act­ive engage­ment with all stake­hold­ers, and a recog­ni­tion of the total cost of own­er­ship over a five-year life cycle.

 

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

 

 

Guyana launches One Laptop per Family program with 1000 netbooks

President Jagdeo of Guyana has launched an One Laptop per Family initiative “to develop the country’s ICT sector”.  The program has been in planning since last year, with the laptops provided by Chinese manufacturer Haier.  5000 have already arrived in Guyana, with plans for 22,000 more later this year.  Their goal is to reach 90,000 families within two years.

Deployment of the first 1000 laptops began this week — as this is election season, most public discussion has been around whether it is simply an effort to buy votes by a the incumbent party (the PPP).

There is commentary at the Stabroek News.  A selection:

“This is a good initiative but it will not save the PPP from getting the boot in this election.”

“Its not like they are doing the people a favour, this is what they’re suppose to do for the citizens.  Do they think they’ll get credit for it?”

“An independent audit into the distribution of these laptops will show a favor towards so called “rural” residents.”

“Hope they will also get free Internet access, and blog on this site.”

 

Making the world a more intelligent and humane place to live

Rodrigo Arboleda is giving a keynote address today at the International Symposium on Convergence Technologies (ConTech 2011) in Seoul, Korea – a gathering focused on making the world a more intelligent and humane place to live.   His talk is “Children as a Mission, not a Market“, focusing on the challenges of making modern education available to children in developing parts of the world, and OLPC’s lessons learned to date.