OLPC UNRWA Gaza : After a long wait Rafah adopts the XO

Also in Arabic: في اللغة العربية

Students with their laptops, after putting their names on them.

After a 10-month wait for approvals, the UNRWA OLPC core team, administrators, parents and children of Rafah took part in a brilliant beginning to the UNRWA OLPC program in Gaza, with a celebration event on April 29th. I was fortunate to spend the days beforehand with this team and their community. They worked tirelessly – children, parents, teachers, developers, and administrators – and it was inspiring to work with them.

The Palestinian people have the optimism, resourcefulness, and dedication to turn a speck of dust into a garden. Not just any garden, but one that the entire community shares.

And the XO has a special feature beyond its tech specs and activities – it can energize a community to have hope for their children.  One member of the core team, Jamil, remarked;  “This is XO is a humble machine, we can take it and do great things with it.

They did.

In a mere 12 weeks after their first intro to the XO, the Gaza core and community team:
- prepared infrastructure
- designed and gave workshops for 200 teachers and 12 administrators
- introduced the XO to 2000+ students
- helped these children introduce the XO to their parents
- created a digital library
- ported their own ILP learning games to run on the XO
- integrated Memorize, Chat, Browse, & Speak into classroom activities
- helped teachers begin distributing homework via the XO
- witnessed initially skeptical parents begin to advocate at shops and mosques for XOs for all the children of Gaza

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Sugar goes mainstream… on a stick

A recent publicity push and a number of public demonstrations of Sugar on a Stick (which recently released its Strawberry edition) have attracted many interested new developers and a lot of intrigued parents and teachers.  I’ve seen it mentioned on digitial library lists and public education channels, in contexts that wouldn’t normally be discussing laptops or computers.

Sean Daly writes about a recent round of feedback from a local community of children and parents.  Chat and Maze seem the most immediately attractive to this community of computer-savvy children.  Some comments of interest:

The principals were interested in jabber collaboration which they had never heard of.

One mom expressed frustration that dropdown menu choices found by mouse rollover could not be validated with the Enter key.

Several parents and a teacher asked about translation tools.

Some parents who had already heard of OLPC asked where the crank was. [still!]

It’s worth a read.