Make your XO Racy with lightweight PuppyLinux

Mavrothal has been promoting PuppyLinux as a lightweight OS for the XO for a long time.  Last year he began releasing polished “XOpup” builds, most recently XOpup 2.2 – providing the most light-weight desktop around for the XO-1 and XO-1.5.

Recently he published a build system that lets anyone build their favorite Puppy-distro for the XO, and has used it to package the latest release: PuppyLinux Racy 5.1.110  (currently only for the XO-1).   This 90MB build includes a softphone app, printing / camera / CD support, and the Mozilla Seamonkey suite (browser, HTML editing, email, newsfeeds, and IRC).

He’s even taking feature requests for the build – give it a spin and let him know what you think.

Kenyan teachers on strike, XOs and volunteers take over

In rural Eshibinga, Kenya, teacher Peter Omunga has at the Eshibinga Primary School, Kenya, been doing an amazing job sharing his experiences with Sugar and OLPC over the summer. Peter maintains the Eshibinga Digital Village blog, documenting the introduction of IT and electricity in their community. They recently received 2 XO laptops, which he has used to interest his primary students in reading, writing, math, and making videos. He has had help from Fred Juma at the nearby Bungoma pilot school and from global volunteer Sandra Thaxter.

Eshibinga is a rural part of the country that is starting to benefit from solar power centers, but that has very limited access to water, electricity, and healthcare.

The school had been keeping laptops in the principal’s office at night at first, but over the past weeks as a national teacher’s strike has emerged, the students were given the laptops to take care of, and received another two laptops from donors.

Sydney from the school’s IT Club has been writing about what it’s like to study on their own when the teachers are away:

Robert arrived carrying our usual [XO] laptops. They are normally stored at the school office. The principal had sent Robert to pick them from his office. He also had left a note for us. We opened it and read it out aloud. “Make good use of these xo laptops and take good care of them. They may be the only teachers you may see in this school until the government ends the ongoing teachers strike”

Students have been meeting at school on their own with their XOs to study computers and practice writing and videotaping their own stories (and considering what it means to share a personal journal with others). And one of their teachers has been maintaining a blog about their work this summer, and is with them at school, helping them learn despite the strike.

0% of XOs run Windows

A stray comment today about Windows not working on ARM machines, by someone who thought all OLPC laptops had moved away from Linux, reminded me to reaffirm something:

Every XO we have ever made shipped from the factory with Linux. The 2M+ XOs running Linux is one of the largest deployments of Linux in the classroom anywhere in the world, and the largest in primary schools.

A few thousand dual-booted into Windows [XP] as well, either at the time they shipped or after being reflashed – after a Microsoft team modded a version of XP for the XO, and our firmware made dual-booting possible. That was an impressive bit of coding and optimization, and Uruguay in particular was interested in dual-boot machines, testing them in classrooms on XO-1’s, but decided not to continue those tests. The only other machines that ever made use of the dual build were part of programs sponsored by Microsoft. In all, under 7,000 XOs have ever run Windows natively, 5,000 in Uruguay.   That is less than 0.3% of all laptops we have ever produced. (In contrast, running software under emulation through wine or SugaredWine is popular in Latin America.)

I have heard of a few teachers that had those machines in at least one class, in Uruguay or Peru, but have never seen first-hand reports from anyone using them. If you visit or know of a school that tried this please share your stories; I would be interested to hear about the experience.

Educacion 2.0 : the next decade

BBC Mundo writes about “Educación 2.0“, noting OLPC’s programs in Latin America, Argentina’s Conectar Igualdad and Spain’s Escuela 2.0 projects. It discusses laptops, tablets, and access to knowledge online, and with a nod to the proposed full-saturation projects in South Korea and Thailand.

While there are many approaches to a connected classroom, there’s no question that this is where schools everywhere are heading. The simple question is when each system will make the transition, and at what age students will be allowed to make those connections. A more interesting one is how teaching and school systems themselves will change when the logistics of learning – and of identifying children’s talents and interests – is separated a bit more from the physical layout of schools and homes.

Sugar Day Argentina: Sept 25-26, in Junín

Reposting an invitation from SugarLabs Argentina to their first Sugar Day, in Junin, to be held September 25-26.

SugarLabs Argentina quiere hacer publico el próximo encuentro de desarrolladores de la plataforma de aprendizaje Sugar. Este evento sera realizado entre los días 25 – 26 de Septiembre del 2011 en la ciudad de Junín, provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

El objetivo del encuentro es de juntarnos en una sesión de trabajo de programadores – code sprint – con la intención de escribir código, enseñar, aprender, colaborar e incentivar el desarrollo de software libre sobre Sugar en las distintas comunidades de programadores. ¡ Y por supuesto reforzar y generar nuevos lazos de amistad en esta comunidad !

La propuesta del encuentro se basa en el dictado de un taller inicial de programación en Python sobre Sugar y en el code sprint ya mencionado. Compartimos el cronograma preliminar:

— —
<Domingo 25>
11:00 – 13:00 Apertura – Discusión, pendientes y prioridades a programar en el code sprint.
13:20 – 15:00 Almuerzo.
15:30 – 20:00 Se dispondrá de un espacio para quienes quieran iniciar el code sprint.
</Domingo 25>
<Lunes 26> /*dos track en paralelo*/
Track 1
09:00 – 11:30/12:00 Taller inicial de programación en Python sobre Sugar.
Track 2
09:00 – 13:00 Code sprint.
13:20 – 14:30 Almuerzo.
15:00 – (a definir) Retomamos Code sprint.
Despedida.
</Lunes 26>
— —
El taller se realiza con el apoyo de la empresa Actvity Central.

Por ultimo, queremos difundir que durante el Viernes 23 y Sábado 24 en la misma ciudad -Junin-, el grupo de usuarios de Python Argentina -PyAr- llevara adelante la conferencia del lenguaje Python 2011. Motivo por el cual decidimos realizar nuestro evento en continuación a la PyConAr-2011

Acercarnos tus propuestas e interés en participar, para que juntos, ajustemos todos los detalles necesarios para llevar adelante y compartir entre todos este evento.

http://ar.sugarlabs.org  |   sugarday2011@ar.sugarlabs.org

Life in a Day film publishes XO clip from Peru

Life in a Day is a film capturing a single day through the lives of people across the planet — filmed by thousands of people and edited into a feature-length documentary. They have been showing the film across the country for the past month, after a preview at Sundance at the start of the year. It’s pretty wonderful – something I wish we would do as a society every year, perhaps with different editorial groups.

The film team recently posted the clip of the young Peruvian student Abel going about his day with his XO, on YouTube, talking about life working on the street with his father, and pleased as punch with everything he can read about on Wikipedia. Abel was one of a handful of young people in Peru who were asked to submit film from their day to the crew.

This is one time when I am glad to see creative groups making full use of Facebook. The film’s facebook page is the best source of new information about he film, and while we have been a casual fan of the film for some time, it was one of their updates there that pointed us to the new clip. Kudos as well for making so many of the individual stories from the film available on YouTube — please continue to do the same for the parts that didn’t make it into the movie!

Nickelodeon / OLPCStories contest : only one week left to participate!

A month into our olpcstories contest with Nickelodeon Latin America, we have received some friendly media coverage in Latin America (in La Crónica in Mexico, and CanalAr in Argentina) and have gotten many contest submissions.

As Christoph noted earlier this week, this is the last week to submit your entries to the contest.

Promoting the Knowledge Economy in the Arab World

A recent research paper by Michael Lightfoot, published recently  in SAGEopen, reviews the impact of technology-related education reforms, including improved access to computing and the Internet, on education in three middle-eastern countries: Bahrain, UAE, and Jordan. Detailed comments are welcome on our wiki research page.

(SAGEopen is the new open access journal by SAGE, and covers “the full spectrum of the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities.”)

Dr. Sugata Mitra in Montevideo, Uruguay

This essay is reposted by Carlos Rabassa of Uruguay, from a lecture he gave in June.

Dr. Mitra gave an excellent lecture on June 2, 2011 at Universidad ORT in Montevideo, Uruguay on “The Future of Education”.

His first major experiment was the hole in the wall computer, which was later replicated in many locations. They look like the ATM, Automatic Teller Machines, the banks use. They are computers connected to internet, located behind walls. The users have access, from the other side of the wall to the screen, a video camera and a touchpad.

These computers are accessible from streets in neighborhoods where kids had never used a computer. The children are not given any instructions. Researchers collect data for their studies on how the computers are being used.

Dr. Mitra started working in India his birthplace, then in England where he is now based, Newcastle University. He has been traveling and testing his findings all around the world. During the days preceding the lecture he had been working in Uruguayan schools.

He showed us studies made in India and in England. In India, they have problems getting teachers to work far away from the important population centers. In England teachers prefer not to work in areas where there is a large concentration of government subsidized housing.

In both places, it is hard to get teachers to work with the children they need them the most. That is the origin of his interest in researching how far can children go, by teaching themselves. The results of the computer in the hole in the wall, led Dr. Mitra to further his research in that direction.

In a question of hours, children with no knowledge of English and no computer experience surf internet. They ended up learning English at an amazing high level except for a horrible pronunciation. This was until they found out the dictionary offers sound recordings with the pronunciation for each word. And until they found dictation or voice recognition programs that work well only as long as the pronunciation is good.

Dr. Mitra stressed his background is not as an educator. His method in the many experiments he related to us, in different countries and languages, has always been the same:

– Let the children use computers connected to internet.
– Encourage them to work in groups of four.
– Let them talk among themselves.
– Let them move freely to another group if they feel more comfortable.
– Let them visit another group to pick up some ideas and then return to their own group.
– Challenge them with questions.
– Answer all requests for help from him by saying “I don´t know; I have to go”.

He found that when children are interested in learning, they learn.

They are not intimidated by difficult questions corresponding to age groups much older than their’s. They are not afraid of trying. They might fail in getting the final difficult answer requested but they keep trying and learning many other advanced subjects on the way.

In certain experiments, he found the students were able to make great progress towards these challenges usually given to much older children. After reaching a certain level, their learning would slow down. This was in England. He recruited volunteer grandmothers who would follow the work of the children and encourage them the way grandmothers do with their grandchildren, congratulating them at each step, and showing interest in their work. The result was another big progress in the level of achievement.

Grandmothers volunteer to talk over internet with far away children. There is no formal teaching, just reading fairy tales and talking in English. The result is improved English and specifically improved pronunciation.

Continue reading

St. Kitts enters 2nd phase of laptop program

St. Kitts is expanding its (lowercase) olpc program for high school students. The program, sponsored by their diplomatic ally Taiwan, began with 1200 students in April. This month they are adding 2400 more students.  Ambassador Tsao, the Taiwanese ambassador to St. Kitts, said on Monday that children having their own laptops was “tantamount to hav[ing] keys to their bright future”.

Minimally invasive education

Antonio Battro wrote recently about spontaneous reading and literacy experiments with laptops, in an essay on computers as reading prostheses (for children and others). In it he refers to Sugata Mitra’s work in India with the Hole in the Wall project:

In this sense, we should also experiment with spontaneous reading using a computer. OLPC will start now to deliver XO laptops with special software to remote communities with no schools where children and adults are lacking reading, writing or number skills. An inspiration was the famous “hole in the wall” experiment done in India with illiterate children who spontaneously started to read while sharing an unsupervised computer, what Sugata Mitra calls “minimally invasive education”.

Everything we learn in life is part of our education — most of it not conveyed explicitly by instructors. From your own experience: how has minimally invasive education been part of your life, in contrast with controlled, highly directed learning?

OLPC Oceania teams up with University of the South Pacific

Mike Hutak, OLPC Oceania director, signed an agreement with the University of the South Pacific this week, committing to work together to further research and teacher training on 1-to-1 Computing in the region.  Mike commented on the handover in Fiji:

USP is the leading teacher training institution in the region with campuses in all 10 Pacific countries where there are OLPC projects. Governments and ministries of education will now have access to the best minds in the region for their country to using the XO laptop in the classroom. And at the Japan Pacific ICT Centre, they will now have access to the best facilities too.

 
Mike: thanks for the update!

Concurso de Nickelodeon y OLPC: reglas publicadas!

The contest rules are out for the OLPC/Nickelodeon storytelling contest.   OLPC and Nick will be judging the submissions together.  All XO users in Latin America are eligible to compete by submitting a story, anination, or other multimedia clip of up to 3 minutes.  Contest ends August 29.

 

OLPC Association y Nickelodeon organizan y juzgan el concurso en conjunto (anuncio, reglas completas):

Hat tip to Claudia, Christoph, and Giulia.

New XO-1.75 contributors program: test our new prototypes

Are you programming on XO hardware today? Working on Sugar core or
activities? Porting Fedora or other distros to ARM?

As I write this, XO-1.75 B1 prototypes are being assembled 20 meters
away from me. These are engineering samples — some will go to drop
tests and mechanical and electrical torture tests. Luckier units will
go to the hands of passionate developers interested in helping us with XO-1.75.

To request one, please follow the instructions on the wiki:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_program#FAQ

We cannot guarantee every request will be satisfied —
unfortunately, we have a limited number of units and we may have to
turn some requests down.

These units will be early samples: expect hardware and software bugs,
and be prepared to report them and help us in the diagnosis and fixing
(it wouldn’t be fun otherwise!). We will be asking recipients to be
very proactive in reporting bugs and using the latest software for
them. And to remember that these machines are /on loan/: offer to pass
on your prototype if it is not being used.

It will be a fun 2011 — our goal is to have a new hardware platform
and OS: XO-1.75 running XO OS-11.3.0, and there is a lot to do between
now and the end of the year.

We’re hoping to hear from you!

Registration opens for SugarCamp Paris: September 9-11

reposted on behalf of OLPC France

Registration is now open for the 2nd SugarCamp Paris. Please join us in making Sugar a better learning experience!

This event is organized by OLPC France, and takes place in Paris, France from September 9 (evening) to September 11 (evening).

The goal is to enhance Sugar as a free learning platform, already used by ~2M kids around the
world, and to focus on a specific problem: how to make Sugar *documentation* better with respect to accessibility and readability?

Partial travel refunds are available for regional trips for those who could not otherwise come. Please contact the organizers with any questions.

Let’s take this challenge, and enjoy a good time with many members of the OLPC/Sugar community!

Computers as reading prostheses

by Antonio M. Battro, Chief Education Officer, OLPC

Children can learn a new common and universal language that we may call “digitalese”. Even before speaking, infants can perform with the computer many interesting actions by pressing a key. This elementary action, the “click option” – to click or not to click- is the consequence of a conscious choice made at the cortical level of the brain. The remarkable ability of our brain to make simple choices and make predictions about the outcomes of an action is the basis of the acquisition of a universal “second language” by any kid in the world with access to a computer, the so-called “digital natives”. In a sense we are witnessing the unfolding of a new “digital intelligence” (Battro & Denham, 2007).

Children learn to speak any language without the help of a grammar, just by hearing how others speak in their community, and they also learn to communicate with a computer -and via the computer with other people- when they share the same digital environment just by peer-to-peer interaction. This is why “saturation” is a central principle of the OLPC program. It is a matter of scale. We need a large numbers of participants in different cultures to enhance the diversity of strategies for teaching and learning.

It may take some time to find the best spontaneous strategies to learn how to read and write with the help of a computer but we already have some hints about successful prosthetic devices in education. For instance, nobody will deny that the cochlear implants have changed the life of a deaf person. Today the implanted deaf person can hear not only environmental sounds but understand language as well and early implants in deaf infants is increasing the formidable success of those neuro-prostheses. We can expect similar neurocognitive breakthroughs in reading and writing soon thanks to the “prosthetic” use of a computer at a very large scale.

As a matter of fact, many children using the OLPC platform since early ages (another basic OLPC principle) learn to type before they learn to write with paper and pen! In a sense we are witnessing something that educators didn’t predict. In most schools the explicit or implicit rule is to learn handwriting before typing and children start with the difficult analog skills needed to draw a letter, a word or a sentence (by a continuous and precise hand movement) before they are allowed to use a keyboard, a much simpler digital skill (a simple discrete action). The alternative is to start with the digital skills before “going analog” but for many educators and parents this strategy is considered a “forbidden experiment”. However it happens that nowadays in many places children enjoy the right to use a laptop not only at school but at home, and the once forbidden experiment is happily and spontaneously performed. In the “expanded school” of a digital environment children don’t need a pen and paper to write.

In this sense, we should also experiment with spontaneous reading using a computer. OLPC will start now to deliver XO laptops with special software to remote communities with no schools where children and adults are lacking reading, writing or number skills. An inspiration was the famous “hole in the wall” experiment done in India with illiterate children who spontaneously started to read while sharing an unsupervised computer, what Sugata Mitra calls “minimally invasive education”.
Continue reading

Tamil Nadu seeks 6.8M laptops for older students

On June 4, the Electronics Corporation of the state of Tamil Nadu [ELCOT] floated an international tender for sourcing 912,000 laptops.Requirements include a 2.1GHz clock, 320G hard drive, 2G of RAM, 3 hour battery life, and an Intel chipset. Also required: Lin/Win dual-boot, a 36-month warranty, and managing regional repair centers across the country for 3+ years.

ELCOT tender

ELCOT tender elc58921

The Times of India reports that this is part of a long-term program to provide free laptops to 6.8M pre-college students across the state, and they are hoping for bids under $300 a unit. Unlike previous pronouncements about laptops for children, which were received much media attention with little result, this tender received comparatively little fanfare, and was focused on logistics. The tender closes in early July, and delivery is to start on September 1 of this year.

This free laptop program is a political promise made by the AIADMK party, which is currently in power. They worked through ALCOT to carry out a similar program in 2006, the Free Color Television Scheme,  which provided color televisions to every family without one (4 million in all). In response to complaints that many of these televisions turned up on a grey market, they are mandating hardware and software marking of the machines to note they are from Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK haven’t budgeted for the program yet, however: this week their Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa petitioned the central government in New Delhi for funds to support it.