One Laptop per Child in Gabon: Further Expansion in French Speaking Africa

We just launched a new program in Gabon. From the press release:

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression, announced today that it has launched the project with the Government of the Republic of Gabon to initiate a 1:1 educational computing project for the children in the country.

“We welcome the initiative and leadership of HE First Lady of Gabon, to launch the OLPC project in Gabon and look forward to her continuing support to reach national saturation for primary school children”

The initial phase of the project represents approximately ten percent of the children in Gabon and a total saturation of all primary school children is planned to be completed by 2014.

The OLPC project was initiated by HE First Lady of Gabon, Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba. OLPC will provide full technological, educational and community development training to the Ministry of Education staff responsible for the project’s launch and will provide quarterly ongoing support in the country. The Gabon project will also include the involvement of the Office of the President in planning for countrywide deployment of the OLPC laptops.

“Individual empowerment is the key to the future development of all of Africa and I am very proud that Gabon will demonstrate that educating children through OLPC is the foundation of empowerment,” said HE First Lady of Gabon, Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba.

“We welcome the initiative and leadership of HE First Lady of Gabon, to launch the OLPC project in Gabon and look forward to her continuing support to reach national saturation for primary school children,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, CEO of OLPC Association.

A hat tip to the franXOphonie community, including Kaçandre, Bastien, and OLPC France; thanks to them we have the Guide XO Gabon (from an OLPCorps project back in 2009-10) and a French version of the 2011 deployment guide.

OLPC Uruguay Q&As: Miguel Brechner on Plan Ceibal

Christoph D just posted a lovely interview with Miguel Brechner about OLPC in Uruguay and Plan Ceibal.

And a few months ago Karen Cator, Educational Technology Director at the US Department of Education, replied to a question from Miguel at a learning technology conference. She shares a few views from her Department, from Secterary Arne Duncan‘s interest in Uruguay’s leadership in empowering children, to issues of how long it takes to transition to such a program in our world of independent, federated states. Some states are saying that ‘by 2014 they want to be like Uruguay in terms of… laptop access‘.

Miguel Brechner sobre el impacto del Plan Ceibal

La República recently published an article on the history of Plan Ceibal and how it is seen and referenced by programs in other countries:

Nuestro país es consultado constantemente por otros estados interesados en aplicar el programa de “una computadora por niño”…

Uruguay tiene presencia mundial no solo por el fútbol. El Plan Ceibal hace que nuestro país tenga una presencia importante en grandes eventos. “Hace algunas semanas, fui a un congreso con veinte mil personas en Estados Unidos, y el primer día no dejaron de hablar de Uruguay”, explicó Miguel Brechner.

Read the whole piece (in Spanish).

On OLPC and the diversity educational environments

A reply to S. Varghese

One of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations is to offer a sound elementary education to all children of the world by the year 2015 and to increase their access to information and communication technologies. One Laptop Per Child has worked since 2006 on this urgent educational mission in collaboration with public and private organizations in some forty nations, mostly in developing countries.

The great diversity of educational environments – or the lack of them – is the principal challenge here, and needs careful programming based on local conditions and human resources. OLPC is founded on five principles: ownership, early ages, saturation, connectivity and free and open source collaboration. This is the result of decades of research and development in advanced centers of study, and the XO laptop and the Sugar platform are two remarkable products of this international collaborative work. Other products will come soon as OLPC evolves to give answers to the increasing demands of education.

The central question is how to scale up the OLPC program from a town to a province to a country, in order to satisfy the educational requirements of different student populations. The agenda is getting more complex with the expansion of the geographic area involved. The local authorities must establish a detailed agenda in several steps, to provide a sound educational program to different cohorts of students, continuous training of teachers, and distribution of laptops to all children and teachers. Also the implementation of servers and internet connectivity in schools and public places, the logistics of repair or substitution of the laptops, etc. This whole process is part of a dynamic “cultural evolution” that produces a great variety of results, some unpredictable and innovative.

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A short history of the Aakash tablet

Seema Singh recaps some of the history of the Aakash and related efforts for Forbes India. The Aakash got its start with a tender for 10K units from IIT Jodhpur, which was expanded to an order for 100K from the Indian government. DataWind, the company that secured the initial tender, ran a pilot which received much fanfare, but distributed only 572 tablets to 19 colleges.

There was some debate as to whether these met the initial spec; and work was refocused on an updated design, the Aakash 2.  It’s unclear whether the rest of the inital 10K tablets were distributed to the government; 30K of that model were sold online marketed as the UbiSlate. The Aakash 2 is currently being tested by DataWind and two institutions in India, with hopes for a [new] school pilot of 100K students this fall.  The first of those machines are being deployed this month.

DataWind has had trouble meeting deadlines and demand.  They were beset by many external pressures: heavy pressure to keep the price down, the scrutiny of a very public launch, and requirements that much of their supply chain and manufacturing be based in India (which limited the number of possible partners and added a few single points of failure).

They have accumulated many non-binding statements of interest in v.2 of the tablet; but it’s not clear how many will convert now to sales.  And after a half-year of heady press they have suffered a half-year of negative backlash.  They now aim to offer the commercial version of the Aakash 2 for just under $65; and the Indian government still plans to subsidize half the cost of a model for students – at least for the 100K in this year’s pilot.  While this is still an impressive undertaking, as it was when announced last year, the delay has hurt the national story.  Now people like Singh are calling the project a disaster rather than a landmark success, and worrying that China will launch a similar program first.

Singh highlights a few related projects from around the country:

  • The “$10 laptop” effort started in 2009 by Technical Education secretary NK Sinha (which did not produce a laptop nor contribute IP to the current project)
  • The Ministry of Rural Development’s socioeconomic census, which commissioned 640K tablets in 2011 and 2012 for its door-to-door surveys (at $72, from Bharat Electronics, with no drama but their admitted inability to meet the ministry’s request of a $35 price point)
  • The Tamil Nadu government’s “one laptop per student” program to deliver 1.4M laptops to college students each year for the next 5 years. (They have 6 different vendors sharing the task)

She notes that some of the Tamil Nadu vendors are finding it difficult to complete their deliveries under budget.  But neglects to note that the program was successful enough for Uttar Pradesh to copy it, recently putting out a tender for roughly 250K tablets (for students passing their 10th grade exams) and 200K laptops (for those passing their 12th grade exams), as year 1 of a multi-year program.

We will see whether DataWind manages to make good on their goal of millions of sales this year.  Kapil Sibal continues to push for all 220M students in India to have their own laptop or tablet.  And he continues to say compelling things of his vision, such as “It will be a device that creates content.” One way or another, I hope that vision is realized.

OLPC comes to North Carolina! Knight Foundation sponsors XOs for 3,200 students in Charlotte

The Knight Foundation yesterday announced it would join community leaders from Charlotte, North Carolina in contributing to Project L.I.F.T., a 5-year $55M+ project to improve education in West Charlotte schools.  (It began last January with a $40M round of fundraising; and this year raised another $15M.)

Knight’s contribution will fund a community engagement coordinator to keep parents and local communities in touch with the project as it develops, and for an OLPC program (including XOs and training) for all students and teachers in grades K-5 in the L.I.F.T. schools: roughly 3,200 in all.

This builds on our work together earlier this year, to develop a digital literacy program at Holmes Elementary School in Miami.  Our experience so far suggests that giving elementary students access to computers – and letting them take them home and use them with their families – helps promote better informed and engaged communities.

We are delighted to see this new project take off within the framework of the existing L.I.F.T project. And looking forward to working more closely with the Knight Foundation, whose input has already informed some of our practices. Their background is in community engagement rather than education, which complements the viewpoints of our other partners. And the added focus on community engagement is one of those necessary elements that can make all the difference in longevity and impact.


Children receiving XOs in Miami’s Holmes Elementary School

Christoph interviews OLPC Australia’s Rangan Srikhanta

Christoph Derndorfer recently interviewed Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia, about their plans for the coming year. An excerpt:

You recently launched a new initiative called “One Education” and received $11.7 Million in government funding… Can you tell us more about these developments?

We pitched to the Australian government to kick-off a pilot for 50,000 XOs… a $20m project that would including funding from schools, corporations as well as from government. The program will also provide at least 15 hours of teacher professional development (via moodle) to over 2,500 teachers [to] kick-start a movement to make OLPC the program of choice for primary school children.

What are the biggest challenges that you need to address before you can turn OLPC Australia’s vision into a reality?

Scaling our operations to meet the demand (2 months ago we were a 2,500 XO an year organisation, now we are proposing to do 50,000 in one year) that will be coming through our very small offices in the next 12-18 months. In Australia there are high expectations for service delivery/support.

Read the whole interview.

Uruguay celebrates 5 years of Plan Ceibal!

Plan Ceibal’s first pilot, in Cardal, began 5 years ago on May 10, 2007. The town has a sign commemorating the event. And tomorrow they will host a celebration of the program’s fifth anniversary with a small festival, starting at 11:30. If you’re nearby, come and celebrate ;-)

OLPC Rwanda: building a platform for expression for the whole community

In an Op-Ed in Uganda’s Independent, Andrew Mwenda notes that Rwanda has set itself apart from its neighboring countries in almost every field; including with its tremendous fiberoptic network and olpc laptop program. “building one of the most promising platforms of democratic expression”. He notes:

Kagame has predicated his presidency on performance by his government. Hence, the delivery of public goods and services to all its citizens regardless of their station in life… It is Kagame’s political genius and greatest achievement and is unrivalled in post-independence Africa. But equally it is the greatest source of frustration among elites.

The article is worth a read.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo is in Rwanda this week to thank President Kagame for his amazing work in supporting OLPC for all children in the country, and to learn from the program there.

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!

OLPCA wins local Beacon Award in Miami

One Laptop per Child Association was honored by the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s official economic development partner, for their contributions to the local economy in terms of job creation, business expansion, corporate citizenship and industry leadership.

The 10th Annual Beacon Awards were held at the new Miami Marlins Park and attendees had an opportunity to mingle with industry leaders and notable public figures. One Laptop per Child’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Roberto Interiano, accepted the judges’ special award, sponsored by Baptist Health Systems.

Carnegie Mellon team wins Hult Global Case Challenge

The Hult Global Case Challenge concluded over the weekend, recognizing winners in the three categories of education, housing, and energy – with challenges related to the work of OLPC, Habitat for Humanity, and SolarAid.

The education prize went to the team from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College: Reggie Cox, Elizabeth Cullinan, Ketaki Desai, and Tim Kelly.   They took the prize for their “innovative approach to ensure streamlined laptop deployment and to create a global brand for [OLPC]’s open-source software.“  This continues a tradition of CMU support for OLPC – their ETC lab held a game jam in 2007, and other CMU campuses helped organize a 10-day OLPC Rwanda workshop in Kigali in 2010.

The team wrote about their experiences with the case challenge last month, in the Huffington Post.

Team submissions were judged by a panel of judges including: the CEOs of the three organizations whose case challenges were being considered, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, Unilever Chairman Michael Treschow, and social entreperneur Darrell Hammond.  All of the final submissions were excellent.

The challenge has given us many good ideas for how to improve and streamline our mission; just the judging process has been wonderful. The winning teams will share $1M to pursue their ideas; more updates to come as we see how this unfolds.

You can find a press release about the results here.

Bank of South Pacific donates 1000 laptops to Pacific children

The Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) this week became OLPC Oceania’s lead private sector partner in the region.

OLPC Oceana and BSP are announcing a strategic partnership to advance South Pacific education. As its first act in its role of Lead Private Sector Partner for OLPC Oceania, BSP is donating 1000 XOs to children in three OLPC project schools in the Solomon Islands and Fiji. In coming months, BSP plans to provide more support for children in Papua New Guinea as it spearheads private sector support for OLPC.

Surfing the Net in the Solomons

OLPC’s Regional Director for Oceania, Mr. Michael Hutak, thanked BSP for its generosity and welcomed the partnership as a breakthrough for Pacific education. “With BSP’s strong corporate leadership in the Pacific, its regional branch network and its strong commitment to community participation, we look forward to a long and effective partnership, not just to our mutual benefit but to the advancement of Pacific education.”

BSP Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ian B. Clyne said the new partnership was a perfect fit with the Bank’s corporate social responsibility goals and would broaden the reach and impact of the BSP Children’s Foundation, complementing programs such as BSP’s widely-praised BSP School Kriket program. The partnership continues BSP’s commitment to Pacific development and follows a recent Fiji$100,000 donation to emergency relief efforts following the devastating floods in Fiji.

As Lead Private Sector Partner, BSP will join the regional initiative OLPC Oceania, which is a coalition of national governments, educators, donor agencies, academia, the private sector, civil society and community organizers, all working to assist Pacific Island countries to establish the OLPC concept in schools. Mr Hutak said BSP will bring much-needed private sector expertise and know-how to the Pacific initiative.

Currently there are OLPC projects running in 10 Pacific countries, with approximately 10,000 laptops being used by children in 50 schools. Across the globe, OLPC has distributed over 2.4 million laptops to poor children in 40 countries.

Some 200 laptops donated by BSP’s Children’s Foundation will be deployed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in the Solomon Islands in remote Marovo Lagoon, the site of the first Pacific OLPC project in 2008. The remaining 800 laptops with be distributed in two demonstration schools in Suva, Fiji, in partnership with Government of Fiji and the University of the South Pacific. The schools will be where Fiji’s teacher and technical training will occur. BSP plans to promote the establishment of similar demonstration schools in Port Moresby and will work with the PNG Govt, the World Bank and other partners to scale up OLPC in PNG.

BSP has also agreed to facilitate the collection of public donations to OLPC Oceania projects, both online and through its branch network.

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?

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:

Over the weekend, The Economist 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.

 

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.