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).

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.

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!

Updated TCO from Uruguay: $400 over 4 years, incl. connectivity, training

Uruguay has now deployed over 500,000 XOs to students from 1st to 9th grade, since 2007. This includes a nationwide laptop deployment, a nationwide wifi rollout, teacher training, material development, and maintenance & repairs.

They note a number of beneficial side effects:
* 15,000 unregistered students were registered
* roughly 1/4 of parents are getting connected through their students laptops

From a recent presentation by Miguel Brechner of Plan Ceibal, at the September meeting of the Association of Learning Technology.

Miguel Brechner on technology and teachers

Miguel Brechner, the compelling head of Plan Ceibal, gives a talk about the impact of the Uruguayan program, which has now reached almost 500,000 children and teachers in the country. He discusses impacts on the lives of children, plans for the future, and empowering teachers. (He also seems to be experiencing a revelation of epic proportions in the opening sequence of this video.)

Presentation, Part 1 | Part 2

From his talk:

There is no magic here. Ceibal will not solve Uruguay’s problems, but it is a technology that can help us solve them.

En Uruguay hay dos banderas: la primera la selección uruguaya de fútbol, y la segunda el Plan Ceibal.

CMU’s iSTEP program makes English literacy apps for the XO

Carnegie Mellon University’s iSTEP internship program is working with Plan Ceibal in Uruguay to develop and deploy English literacy activities and web apps that work well on XOs, for children of all ages. They are also creating tools to help teachers customize these apps. The interns have been living and working in Montevideo while doing this work.

This is just the latest in a series of projects by CMU students to support OLPC initiatives around the world.

Khan Academy videos and OLPC

Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal has a group of teachers and students that have been subtitling and using Khan Academy videos in Spanish over the past year. You can see some of the resulting videos here.

Sam Seidenburg has some suggestions about how we can improve learning with such videos: writing Activities that could be written to support math tutorial and physics tutorial work, or making similar format videos to help people get started with eToys.

Neil Dsouza at teachaclass.org has offered to help anyone who wants to start using Khan Academy videos in their classes.


Nick Doiron returns from heav^B^B^BUruguay, learns from great philosophers

Nick’s last post from Uruguay waxes poetic about the always-active Ceibal headquarters, recalls his first day in the country, and quotes from some of the great thinkers of our age.  Worth a read.   He may have less time for OLPC in the coming 18 months, but olpcmap is only getting better.


eduJAM! starts in Uruguay

The eduJAM! convocation is going strong, with 2-3 days of Sugar camp and discussion among developers and teachers from across the world. Keep an eye on the ceibalJAM site in the coming days for videos and notes from the event.

You can browse some of the presentations on the edujam2011 slideshare account.


eduJAM! invitacion

April olpcMAP updates

We’re hosting an olpcMAP discussion session at our Cambridge HQ on Wednesday night, with students (and future collaborators!) from Tufts. If you can’t be there, catch up on recent additions and developments to the project with this month’s olpcMAP update.

Meanwhile, mapping maven Nick Doiron shares the view from his seat in Montevideo, where he is a resident hacker this month with Plan Ceibal.

What motivates education revolution?

Ian Quillen writes in Education Week about the varying motivations and sponsors of major global edutech projects. He notes the work of Plan Ceibal in Uruguay (with OLPC) and Kennisnet in the Netherlands (with OpenWijs and related programs), in addition to projects driven in part by for-profit corporations.

I will add a link to a free version of the story when I find one.


OLPC MéXicO (yes, it’s a play on letters) has been writing about their current work (in San Luis PotosíNayarit, and Mazahuas) and future plans on their website.  Recently they’ve hinted at getting children in Mexico to program robots using their XOs, following in the footsteps of Peru and Plan Ceibal.  That was always my favorite part of construction class…

They’re also maintaining an active Twitter feed, with their favorite quotes and clips from OLPC’s history as well as from education projects in Mexico today.  Both are worth following.

The impact of laptops in education

By Antonio M. Battro, OLPC’s Chief Education Officer

As stated by the Millennium Goals of the United Nations, it is our duty and responsibility to provide a good education for all children. The purpose is to provide at least elementary schooling to every child in the world by the year 2015.

Education is essentially about universal values of truth, beauty and good. These values are embodied in historical times. We must recognize that today a new artificial environment interacts with our planet: the digital environment. The sad fact is that while many of us live in the digital era, many more are excluded. The digital divide is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in contemporary education, especially in poor communities.

An isolated school without computers and connectivity to the Internet is incompatible current educational requirements. But of course, technology is not sufficient. Technology may have an impact on education only if constructive dialogue is occurring among teachers, students and their families. Moreover, digital technology should be in the hands of children at an early age for them to learn the new digital language as a second language. And it must be mobile (laptops or netbooks, instead of PCs) because children learn in many kinds of settings, not only in the classroom.

Some economists have tried to measure the educational impact of digital technologies, but they have reported conflicting results (cf. Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality, by Randall Stross, New York Times, July 9, 2010). For instance, children using computers at school and at home have attained good computer skills while their grades in mathematics and language declined. The more so if they live in low income households. These results need clarification.

First, it is important to understand that time is needed to produce a cognitive transformation in a student. It is possible that some of the reported failures are biased because academic performance was evaluated too soon. Any evaluation must factor in the time span of an entire cohort, which is the basic unit in education. The time cannot be abridged; it requires the entire development of the young mind, from childhood to adolescence, some 10 years since the child enters first grade when most of the connections of the developing brain are made. Many cognitive capacities may be latent for years before they are expressed. Currently, tests are frequently done in static and conventional cross sections during the school year instead of in longitudinal studies of individual cognitive dynamics.

Second, in the digital era we can use digital tools for assessment (e.g., online monitoring of the student activities) but we still need new methodologies to obtain robust results. In particular, traditional statistical comparisons between experimental and control groups (as reported in the quoted studies) are not possible when the digital divide disappears and the entire population of students and teachers of a region or country has full access to the digital environment at school and at home. In that case, the control groups disappear and all students have been “vaccinated.” We must invent new methods of evaluation for the digital era.

Third, scale creates phenomenon. We need to change from microscopes to telescopes in order to encompass the wide spectrum of natural phenomena at different scales. The same is true in education…

Continue reading

Ceibal high-school project update

An update on Uruguay’s deployment of olpc in high schools: Plan Ceibal has posted some details and images of the laptops that will be used in this project. Some schools will use the new blue XO-HS laptops, and others will use Magellans — the only implementation of the Classmate design that has been used in large scale deployments (in Portugal and Venezuela).

You can see their take on a feature comparison of the machines. While there’s no check box for “sunlight-readable screen”, robustness, or power management, it’s a good look at how schools perceive their options. I would be glad to see classrooms worldwide adopting any platform like this — both can share the same software and materials.

XOs for High School: new design, Uruguay snags 90,000

We have been working on a new XO laptop for high school students — one with a larger and more responsive keyboard better suited to the hands of older students. And Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal, expanding into high schools across the country, will be the first recipient — they’ve ordered 90,000 of the first production run.

These XO-1.5 HS machines are largely the same as a regular XO-1.5: they are VIA machines with Sugar and Gnome desktops, running both Sugar activities and Gnome apps.  Only the bottom half is different: they have ‘clicky’ rather than membrane keyboards by default, and the base has been redesigned so that keyboards are much easier to swap out or clean — there are two screws you can access from the battery compartment that release the keyboard, then you can pop it out.  No more 10-minute teardowns!

Uruguayan Flag

The new machines will be shades of dark and light blue; the factory is still working on getting the plastics and dye selection just right.  I saw an early stab at this design, and it was very sexy — but I haven’t seen the final keyboard model they are using yet. As a keyboard fanatic (I can get 70wpm on my XO-1), I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the first one back in the office and will post a review for you.

Now that we have a half-dozen designs or models, we’ll need to come up with a better naming scheme… I’m taking suggestions for names and themes.

Uruguay offers individual and school XO sales

Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal is now offering individual sales of XOs to students, parents and schools. This is handy for students who have lost their XO (under some conditions schools replace XOs for free when they are lost or broken, but only within limits), for parents whose students are in private schools that don’t have XOs yet, or for schools that want to have an extra supply of machines to set up additional computer centers, hardware labs, or the like.

Yama commented that schools can get lots of up to 60 XOs at low cost to keep at the school — which are then owned by the school, unlike the XOs given to children, but they must commit to connectivity:

Schools wishing to purchase XO lots are required to get at least a 3 Mb fixed IP connection. Those [that do and have] already purchased XOs at a higher price will be comped with extra XOs.

I like the sound of that. That’s about what Chester Community Charter School required for every 1000 students they brought online…