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.
By Antonio M. Battro, OLPC’s Chief Education Officer
Jeffrey James wrote a critique of OLPC last year, proposing a balanced pattern of “sharing computers” among children (say 5 children per computer, in the US or the UK) instead of the olpc “one to one” model – one laptop per child (and per teacher). As an alternative to olpc, James proposes that “the number of students per laptop stands in roughly the same ratio as the difference in per capita incomes between the rich and the poor country” (p. 385). In his view, the OLPC idea to persuade the developing countries to exceed the standards of shared computers of developed countries seems “utterly perverse” (p. 386).
It seems that his reasoning will fail if we substitute mobile phones for laptops. We don’t frequently share mobile phones, and in many poor countries their number exceeds James’s predictions about ratios of income and information and communication technologies in the hands of people. It seems difficult to accept the universality of his model about “sharing”, because laptops, tablets and mobile phones are rapidly converging in new hybrids.
On the other side, his ideas for successful low-cost technology sharing are not clear. One of his options, for instance, is “to purchase Intel’s Classmate computer at a similarly low price and let [them] be shared by as many students as is thought desirable” (p.389). In Argentina, where the Classmate has been most widely adopted, the national government is deploying some 3 million Classmates to cover the whole population of students and teachers of the secondary public schools in the country, on a one to one basis – an idea first proposed by OLPC some 5 years ago. It would be interesting to know the current state of affairs of other options he references (Simputer, NComputing, sharing multiple mice). However the quoted references are from 2006 and 2008, and 3-5 years is a long time in the digital era.
From the point of view of psychology and education, some comments about “teaching” need careful revision. First, in his paper James never speaks of the need to give laptops to the teachers, despite the significant mass of teachers in the world. On the contrary, OLPC programs start in every country by giving a laptop per teacher and providing corresponding teacher training. We know that a) “digital skills” develop in stages from the very early ages, as a second language (Battro & Denham, 2007) and b) most teachers didn’t have the opportunity to early access to this new global environment in the poor and developing countries.
Earlier this week, the municipality of Bluefields in Northeast Nicaragua received 7,500 XOs from the Fundación Zamora Terán. These were distributed to all primary teachers and children in the rural community, which is a mix of Miskito, Mestizo, Rama, Garifona, and Creole families.
Roberto and MaryJo Zamora, the husband and wife owners of LAFISE-BanCentro bank, founded the Zamora-Teran Foundation last year to train teachers and students involved in the OLPC projects in the country, and to distribute and manage the logistics and telecommunication infrastructure of the project. This is an extraordinary example of a private sector, non-profit entity helping to motivate their country by example, in launching a project like this — and we are lucky to be working with such a skilled and dedicated regional partner.
This marks the first regional saturation in the country, in an already remarkable community — they already have a thriving Bluefields forum online covering everything from art to civic development. Nicaragua may well become the next educational success story in Latin America.
Sameer Verma and OLPC-SF are putting the finishing touches on what’s going to be an amazing community event at SFSU this weekend — an international Community Summit for OLPC hackers, implementers, and researchers from dozens of countries and projects. We’ll kick off with an evening party tonight and then with a full agenda from tomorrow morning through Sunday night.
Mike Lee, Andreas Gros, Tim Falconer, Tabitha Roder, Marina Zdobnova and others have been taking part in the Books in Browsers event, so I can confirm that people from a few different countries have already arrived. And we will have some nice surprises for attendees tonight and tomorrow morning… so please join us early!
Christoph Derndorfer, widely known for his ministry to young XO pilots, fashion sense, and active speaking / writing /editing about OLPC, has recently kicked off a Latin American Tour. (Todd Kelsey, where are your tour-badge-printing skills when we need them?) He plans to visit all of our country partners in the region with significant deployments this summer, documenting his experience.
Christoph’s travel reports are enchanting. Take for instance the recent photoessay from Montevideo’s eXpO photo exhibit in Uruguay – composed entirely of photos taken with XOs by students in 4 primary schools. And with his iconic beard, long hair, and thousand-meter stare (seen below by the pool at the Fame Factory), Christoph is becoming as known for his xoly presence as for his love of good design and Sugarized icons.
To stalk with him across the southern slopes, deployment by deployment, you can follow his online writings, photos, and twext. He is looking for personal contacts along the way, especially people who have played a role in OLPC deployments, so please get in touch with him if you know someone he should meet.
This past weekend, OLPC Afghanistan reached Baghlan province, working with the Ministry of Education’s deployment team to provide XOs to 280 children and teachers in grades 4-6 at Firdausi High School. (In Afghanistan a ‘high school’ can refer to any school whose upper grades reach past 9th grade, but can include students in 1st grade as well.) Firdausi becomes the seventh school in the country to take part in the Ministry pilot program. The Ministry is working on plans for extending this early work into full-saturation regional or national efforts.
The Firdausi project will integrate the XOs into the school’s teacher planning and curricula, as well as in after-school projects. They may be used outside of school by families to access training, job information, and resources to develop and improve farms and small businesses.
This pilot rollout was assisted by USAID Afghanistan. At the end of the day, Earl Gast, the national mission director, commented: “These computers are an investment in Afghanistan’s most important resource – its people.”