Marshall Islands launches national OLPC program

by OLPC Oceania

Hundreds of students, parents, educators and officials gathered today in Majuro, remote capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), to formally launch the One Laptop per Child program in the developing Pacific nation. The launch was the culmination of more than 18 months of cooperation and planning between the Marshallese people, their national government, and their development partners: the United States, the University of the South Pacific (USP), and OLPC Oceania.
In attendance at Majuro’s Delap Elementary School were RMI’s President, His Excellency Christopher J Loeak, the Minister for Education, Dr. Hilda Heine, and the US Ambassador to RMI, the Hon. Thomas Armbruster.

Delap is the first school in RMI to provide laptops for its students. 320 laptops were distributed to every student and teacher in grades 4,5 and 6. The school has full wifi coverage and the laptops connect to a high-speed optic fibre internet connection through an XS School Server loaded with many useful digital resources appropriate for Pacific learning and RMI’s curriculum.
Addressing the event, Minister Heine thanked the US government for funding the project through its continued support of the Ministry of Education, and acknowledged the supporting role of USP and OLPC Oceania in bringing the project to fruition. The Minister emphasized the extensive training of teachers, the importance of e-Learning to the government’s vision for education, and the MOE’s plans to connect  all schools on Majuro to the internet. There are already 12 solar powered VSAT ICT centres scattered across its far flung outer islands and atolls.
Ambassador Armbruster made a strong speech, engaging the children directly in his address. Producing his own “technology” – an abacus – the Ambassador noted while we have always had tools to assist our learning, the most important tool is the brain. Asking how many kids had pets, he noted that just like pets, their new laptops need to be looked after.
He then recommitted the United States’ ongoing support for OLPC in RMI, where there is a school-age population of about 10,000 kids. It is in the so-called “compact” nations of the mid-Pacific — the Marshalls and the Federated States of Micronesia — that the US government is making its only direct commitment to support national OLPC programmes.
Delap’s Grade 6 kids performed two songs for the occasion, one especially composed for OLPC. Singing in Marshallese, it was easy for non-native speakers to understand when the children held up their new laptops shouting O-L-P-C. The launch attracted national media coverage, was broadcast live over local radio and was the topic of several speeches in the national Parliament.
Veteran Pacific OLPC expert, Mr Ian Thomson, now E-Learning Fellow at the University of South Pacific, has travelled to Majuro several times for USP in the past year to advise the RMI Government on deployment and to conduct teacher training workshops ahead of today’s handover. USP signed an MOU with OLPC Oceania to support Pacific deployments in 2010. USP has been assisted by OLPC volunteerNicholas Dorian, who has been in the country for several months.
As part of OLPC Oceania’s community inclusion approach, Mr Thomson conducted a community briefing last week attended by several hundred parents and community members.
“They asked some very good questions as well,” said Mr Thomson. “We are now planning another session on XO basics. The next phase of the project is to launch the project in two more Majuro schools in coming months and then to five outer island schools over the second half of 2013.”
Students sing at launch of OLPC Marshall Islands in Delap, Majuro Atoll:
http://youtu.be/T4zhEijRgmk

One Laptop per Child Program Launched – Marshall Islands

by majuro US embassy

On January 30, 2013, hundreds of students and educators joined Minister of Education Dr. Hilda Heine at a morning ceremony to officially launch the One Laptop per Child program in the Marshall Islands.  Delap Elementary School on Majuro will be the first school in the RMI to receive and begin using the laptops for its students.

Ambassador Armbruster gives a speech at the launching of the One Laptop per Child program with the DES Principal, Minister Hilda Heine, and President Loeak, among others, listening on.

Minister Heine gave a speech detailing the history behind the project’s launch in the RMI, as well as the project’s relevance and importance to education in the Marshall Islands today.  Minister Heine emphasized the extensive training of teachers and careful selection of participating schools based on their performance.  She further highlighted and thanked the United States government for providing funding for the project through its continued support of the Ministry of Education.

Following Minister Heine, Ambassador Armbruster spoke, beginning his speech with a series of questions for the more than 300 DES students seated in the audience, to which he received enthusiastic responses.  Saying that while laptop computers are modern day learning tools which did not exist when he was a student, Ambassador Armbruster explained that his and older generations had their own learning tools, including “Etch-a-Sketches” and abacuses.  The Ambassador emphasized to the students the importance of using their own minds and creativity in conjunction with these tools, as well as the importance of taking good physical care of the laptops.  The ceremony closed with songs performed by the DES 6th grade classes.

Students from DES’s 6th grade classes perform a song at the dedication of the One Laptop per Child program.

In total, the RMI Ministry of Education purchased one-thousand of these special laptop computers using Compact Supplemental Education Grant funds from the United States.  The remaining laptops will be distributed to schools on Majuro, Arno, Ailinglaplap, Aur, Likiep, and Jaluit Atolls.

US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Thomas Armbruster, speaks at OLPC launch at Delap Elementary School, Majuro Atoll:


 

OLPC Niue: reports of demise premature

Following last week’s announcement that the education department is “phasing out” support for OLPC in the South Pacific island nation of Niue, OLPCA is reaching out to the community there, looking at options of how to manage the ongoing communal ownership of the laptops for the benefit of everyone on “The Rock“.  OLPC is working with its Pacific partners to conduct a needs assessment to ascertain the status of the program there, and how they could move forward. We will work with all partners in Niue to ensure the XO contributes to its ongoing educational progress.

We understand the XOs, and all essential associated network infrastructure on Niue, remain in robust working order — and firmly in the hands of the island’s children. It was there that we learned that the OLPC principle of child ownership needed tweaking in the Pacific, where traditional cultures often value the group over the individual. In Oceania children are usually  “custodians” of their laptop, with a responsibility to safeguard it on behalf of the community, and further to share it with that community. These lessons come directly from our first experiences in Niue.

The Niue Department of Education and its partners had put in place a comprehensive and technically competent deployment. Eucators have said the OLPC program “went well” for two years and the XOs produced real educational benefits among students. We are keen to ensure that we document and build on this success, both in Niue and elsewhere in the Pacific. And no matter what direction the program takes we want to ensure it aligns with OLPC Oceania’s Community Participation Guidelines, especially the need for environmentally responsible solutions.

Both OLPCA and the Pacific countries that today are introducing the XO are incorporating lessons from our first Pacific pilots.  We are comparing it to the progress we see elsewhere in remote Australia and in Micronesia in the North Pacific, where the largest donor (the United States) is now working with countries on OLPC.  The fact that a funding shortfall was key to the Niue decision has spurred a broader debate in the region on aid to Small Island States like Niue, and has allowed us to raise the issue with other stakeholders in the region.

 

OLPC Oceania expands to Kosrae, with US support

Since our first partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, which began in 2008, OLPC has seen significant deployments in Niue (the first country in the world to realize one laptop for every child), Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.

Last year we expanded our work in the region to start pilots in 12 other countries from the Pacific Island Forum.  One of the pilot projects developed was a well-received program in Kosrae, one of the four states of Micronesia.

As Michael Hutak reports on the OLPC Oceania blog, we are now working with Micronesia to build on the success of that pilot. Kosrae recently secured a $400K Supplemental Education Grant from the United States under the Compact of Free Association agreement between the US and Micronesia. Kosrae plans to implement a full-scale deployment of OLPC to all of their students from 1st to 8th grades.

 

 

In July, Kosrae deployed laptops to all 810 students and teachers in grades 5-8.  The first laptop was handed out at Utwe Elementary School, by Kosrae State Governor Lyndon Jackson (with Department of Education Director Lyndon Cornelius looking on).

ceremony was held at Tafunsak Elementary School to announce the program, attended by US Ambassador Prahar, who encouraged everyone involved to use their new tools well.  As Oceania expands its OLPC program, this looks like a model to follow, with collaboration from many sectors of the local and international community.

A photo from the handout at Wachung Elementary school, visited by Cornelius and former Senator John Martin.

The second half of the deployment, for the students and teachers in grades 1-4, will take place later this year.

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!

OLPC in Micronesia: the Manual

David Leeming of OLPC Oceania has developed detailed deployment docs for a recent pilot in Kosrae, Micronesia, over at Wikieducator.    It is an excellent summary of what has been learned in the region to date, and useful guidance for anyone trying to organize a deployment for anywhere from 10 to 10,000 students.  I hope to see more great things from this project.

UPDATE (Aug 20): David has published an excellent Teacher Training Manual based on those notes.