Antonio Battro – Interview in Madrid

Antonio Battro, our Chief Education Officer, is both an MD and PhD who specializes in the development of basic cognitive and perceptual processes in children and adolescents. He has introduced computers and communication devices in schools in several countries in South America, as well as promoted the use of computers as digital prostheses for the disabled persons. He is considered a world leader in the new field of neuroeducation, the interaction between mind, brain, and education. Battro is an Argentine national and long-standing member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Here, the video of his latest interview in Madrid. (Spanish)

OLPC to begin in October in Fiji

The Cabinet in Fiji has approved the Ministry of Education’s ‘One Laptop per Child’ program, scheduled to begin in October according to the Fiji government online portal.

The Cabinet agreed that funding will be provided to facilitate two phases of the project. The Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Mr Filipe Bole.

The Pacific Island Countries Ministers of Education agreed to implement the OLPC project in 2007. In 2008, pilot programs began in Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu. The project aims to bridge the digital divide at the Primary School level as it involves children aged 6 – 8 years old.

The Minister announced that 800 laptops will be donated by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP).  The first phase of the project will be in Papua New Guinea, with three demonstration schools in the Suva area. These schools are Draiba Primary School, Nabua Sanatan Primary School and the Navesi Primary School. The schools will begin the project in October of this year.

The Minister for Education, Filipe Bole, said the program will expand to 30 schools in 2013.
“By the end of next year, we hope to have all primary schools participating in the One Laptop Per Child program. After that we will move to secondary schools,” Mr Bole said.
“This is part of Government’s efforts to reform education for all students. The Government wants to keep students at school so that they can complete their education.”

The Minister said that the project intends to promote a cultural and educational network, bringing officials from the culture, education, media and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors together to foster the inclusion of culture in education.

He said that the project compliments and enhances other ICT in Education initiatives and will help develop 21st century computer and IT skills in Fijian students. This will greatly contribute to making Fiji a Knowledge-based Society.

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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Niue sustains their OLPC project, plans future efforts

There was a bit of concern a few months back when it was reported that Niue’s government was considering dropping support for OLPC.  We reached out to them to find out what the reason was, as they had reported a successful and well-received pilot.  Now it seems that their education ministry remains interested in OLPC.  Thanks to the Niue Education Ministry and to Michael Hutak for the update.

OLPC Colombia newsletter

OLPC Colombia published the first issue of its newsletter, UniverXO, this month (pdf), with an essay on “La Revolución educativa con tecnología sigue en alza” (‘Advanced technology and the education revolution’).

Comunidad One Laptop per Child Colombia, bienvenidos a
la edición número 1 de nuestro boletín interno de OLPC, el
cual circulará mensualmente para que compartamos
noticias, artículos, publicaciones, eventos e historias
cotidianas relacionadas con los programas de OLPC en el
país y en el mundo. Ésta es una invitación a protagonizar
un movimiento de transformación educativa. Generemos
reflexiones e iniciativas para transformar la educación, el
aprendizaje y las prácticas pedagógicas. La clave es
compartir. ¡El cambio está en nuestras manos!

Read the full bulletin on the OLPC wiki!

Nicaragua: Fundación Zamora Terán expands to the legendary island of Ometepe

Fundación Zamora Terán recently expanded the work of OLPC Nicaragua to include the community on the beautiful and legendary Ometepe, an island formed by the two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua.



Teachers play a key role in the use of the XO laptop, incorporating it into daily planning and classroom activities. Maria Josefina Terán Zamora, its founder, said of their new island initiative:

During the past two years, we’ve been working hard to ensure that our OLPC project is one of the best in the world and delivers the maximum benefit to our children. Today we are very happy to include the children of Ometepe and connect them to the rest of Nicaragua and to the world.

The Fundación coordinates and executes XO purchase logistics and installation and provides a high level of technical support. A pedagogical training plan has been developed with the support of a qualified educational team that facilitates the integration of the XO into the existing Ministry of Elementary School Education Curriculum. Schools participating in the OLPC project must meet specific selection criteria.

The Ometepe initiative has been supported particularly by contribution from the LAFISE-BANCENTRO Bank, and brings to 25,000 the number of XOs distributed to children in schools across the country.

You can read the official press release.


e.Studyante : A new OLPC + connectivity program in the Philippines

Philippines has a number of amazing pilots underway. The grassroots eKindling group reports some remarkable success stories from their Lubang program, and have helped the province of Occidental Mindoro build on that success.

Now a new e.Studyante program in the Philippines, started in the Manila, plans to providing primary students with OLPCs and connectivity for the next 25 years. This program was started by P&G Philippines, along with Smart Communications (providing Internet connectivity) and the Synergeia Foundation.

e.Studyante recently launched at the Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in Tondo, Manila. The program focuses on engaging education, supported by technology: it distributes XOs to students, provides other tools and training for teachers, and includes vetting and updating educational software and materials. It aims to make learning “fun, empowering, relevant, and easier” for kids, and to reach 1 million primary students by its 100th anniversary in 24 years – roughly 40,000 a year.

Chad Sotelo, P&G’s Country Marketing Manager, explained:

“We intend for this to complement traditional learning methods and tools instead of competing with them… A laptop and Internet connectivity becomes [their] window to the world’s knowledge and places it at their fingertips in real-time. People and places they had no access to before are now within their reach. These tools expand their horizons and minds and encourage them to dream and attain a brighter future.”

The program is funded in part through the sale of P&G promo packs, at retail outlets across the country; part of the price of each pack goes to the program.

Powerful ideas in Brazil: Etoys authoring and conceptual development

Etoys is one of the most powerful tools on the XO — in terms of what it can do, how flexibly it can be used, and how it helps guide and facilitate thinking. This blog post from long-time OLPCer Sylvia Kist shows some of the research that has been done with children and Etoys on the XO.

Can programming on Squeak Etoys on the XO laptop help students develop concepts about the Big Bang theory? Or about phenomena such as the Lunar Eclipse? About breast cancer?

Working with Brazilian children and investigating their production, researchers from the Laboratory of Cognitive Studies of the Institute of Psychology of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (LEC/UFRGS) have been examining the potential of programming activity on Squeak Etoys for authoring and conceptual development.

This past November, part of this investigation was presented in a paper at the XXII Brazilian Symposium on Computer in Education (SBIE) and XVII Workshop on Informatics at School (WIE) in Aracaju (SE/Brazil), awarded as one of the best papers of the event. The work context was the trial of the Brazilian federal program One Computer per Student (PROUCA) in Porto Alegre, one of the five experiments of the first phase of the project, coordinated by LEC/UFRGS, in which XO laptops were adopted.  (More details after the jump.)

 

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OLPC Rwanda Report: Transforming society through access to modern education

As we mentioned yesterday, OLPC Rwanda now has an excellent project summary (pdf) online. It covers the first three years of the national initiative and the related development of Rwanda’s primary schools.

The report captures the spirit and challenges of country-wide change. It addresses the major phases of the project, and the background in government policy and vision, without diving into too much detail.

 

A recent teacher's workshop in Rulindo, Rwanda

A summary, to whet your appetite:

In 2000, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda established 20-year objectives to transform the country into an industrial/service-based economy. This VISION 2020 plan specifies short-, medium- and long-term goals with measurable indicators of progress.

The plan relies on six pillars, the second being human resource development & a knowledge-based economy, and three horizontal areas, the third being science & technology.

In 2001, only one of the country’s 2,300 primary schools had any computers at all.  By 2005, 1,138 schools had at least one PC, 40 schools in Kigali had Internet access, and connectivity was being rolled out to other schools.  Over 1,000 teachers had been trained in computer literacy, from 120 primary schools.

Rwanda announced in January 2007 it would work with One Laptop per Child.  In 2008, it received 10,000 XOs [thanks primarily to our generous donors and the G1G1 program].

In early 2010, the government purchased 65,000 XO laptops so that schools in every school district could begin receiving laptops for P4-P6 students. This purchase was financed by the sale of cellular licenses to Tigo and Korea Telecom, working with the government to extend broadband connectivity nationwide.  They have since purchased another 35,000 XOs, and plan to deploy another 400,000 over the next 5 years. Today the program has a 27-person core team, plus 5 staff from OLPC, working on the project.

The Ministry of Education started with 150 schools, and asked the headmaster and a teacher of their choice to come to Kigali for one week of intensive training. They subsequently spent four days at each school to work with the teachers and students, and one day for community awareness meetings.

Ministry representatives held meetings with local Parent Teacher Associations and local authorities, explaining how laptops would be integrated into the classroom. They also went on radio and TV and write newspaper articles to discuss the project.

 

Parents at a PTA meeting introducing the XO

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School computer labs passing out of favor

Mike Trucano, in a typically balanced and measured World Bank blog post, notes that computer labs are coming under increasing scrutiny — and that despite decades of use in the developed world, there is little evidence for them being an effective use of resources given today’s options for discovering computing, learning to use software tools, or connecting to the internet.

Expert opinion, at least in many OECD countries, is increasingly calling into question the reliance on school computer labs as the primary model for impactful use of educational technologies.

He notes the common arguments for teaching with or building computer labs, a countervailing shift towards personal and mobile computing, and the history of the concept.  A good read, and a strong argument for the need for long-term studies to compare and contrast various options without prejudice — so that we cannot again say, decades from now, “The evidence base in support of  <this educational and technological model> is, to my knowledge, not very robust… there is still not a lot of rigorously obtained hard data that we can point to.” We shouldn’t be able to say that about any significant aspect of educational life.

That sort of ignorance in science, business, politics or economics would be utterly unacceptable.  We should demand more, not less, for our own education — which underlies our capacity to pursue the rest.

Making the world a more intelligent and humane place to live

Rodrigo Arboleda is giving a keynote address today at the International Symposium on Convergence Technologies (ConTech 2011) in Seoul, Korea – a gathering focused on making the world a more intelligent and humane place to live.   His talk is “Children as a Mission, not a Market“, focusing on the challenges of making modern education available to children in developing parts of the world, and OLPC’s lessons learned to date.

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?

Narrative Interfaces for OLPC

This Friday at 2pm EST, Scott and others will talk about how OLPC creates student-centric learning experiences, and how the software stack could become less shallow in terms of providing a narrative and journey to those experiences.

Those interested in joining are welcome to come to OLPC’s new offices at the American Twine building for the discussion. There will be streamed and higher-res posted video of the sessions as well. See Dr. Ananian’s blog for further details.

Turbana and Fundauniban support OLPC in Colombia

Fundauniban, the social foundation of Turbana Corporation, recently launched an OLPC project for 8 rural schools in Uraba, Colombia. The program was launched at the Uniban Institute library with 800 XOs.

CEO Juan David Alarcon said in announcing the program, “education and personal growth [are] the key for the development of the region, and there is no better place to start than empowering children to take an active role in their education and future.”

Non-flash version here.