Christoph Derndorfer recently interviewed Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia, about their plans for the coming year. An excerpt:
You recently launched a new initiative called “One Education” and received $11.7 Million in government funding… Can you tell us more about these developments?
We pitched to the Australian government to kick-off a pilot for 50,000 XOs… a $20m project that would including funding from schools, corporations as well as from government. The program will also provide at least 15 hours of teacher professional development (via moodle) to over 2,500 teachers [to] kick-start a movement to make OLPC the program of choice for primary school children.
What are the biggest challenges that you need to address before you can turn OLPC Australia’s vision into a reality?
Scaling our operations to meet the demand (2 months ago we were a 2,500 XO an year organisation, now we are proposing to do 50,000 in one year) that will be coming through our very small offices in the next 12-18 months. In Australia there are high expectations for service delivery/support.
Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroon’s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.
Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.”
Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.
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.
Students at the handout ceremony
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.
In early May, Save the Children‘s State of the World’s Mothers 2010 report ranked Afghanistan last among the 160 countries surveyed, in terms of how easy it was to raise children.
While medical care is often limited, and being an infant in Afghanistan poses many risks, it is also a tough place to grow up. Only 52% of primary aged school children are enrolled in school, where classes are often made up of more than fifty students. Despite the extraordinary restoration of public schools and teachers over the past decade, there is still a lack of teachers and school buildings, and children receive an average of 2.5 hours of school a day. That is half of what children in developed nations (OECD) receive.
These numbers reflect a vast improvement from when the Taliban controlled the country – over the past three years, school enrollment has grown from 800,000 students to 4.5 million. But youthful curiosity is not bounded by time spent in school. We are working to make sure that, district by district, these children have tools and projects to explore and to experiment with, so they can have time to learn even when school does not have time for them.
A class of Afghan girls at work on their XOs. Photographed by Elissa Bogos
Note: Some information comes from the latest OLPC Afghanistan Briefing Note.
Tech Crunch TV interviewed Maureen Orth recently on the introduction of OLPC in rural Colombia on their tl:dw videocast.
This was a timely reminder that Colombia has been building a network of supporting pilots and foundations in the years since this first urban school began implementing OLPC. The largest projects are in Medellín (perlas), in Caldas, in Altos de Cazucá, and in Itagüí (1, 2). Some of these are much more rural, and required helicopter drops to get them underway.
Since 2008, we have worked with the Afghan Ministry of Education to build capacity for OLPC in Afghanistan. The initial pilots over the past year have been with 4th-6th grade students, in MOE schools and community-based education groups.
OLPC has committed 5,000 laptops to pilots throughout the country, starting with Esteqlal High School in Nangarhar Province’s Jalalabad city. There the program engaged all fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, with a ‘3 phase implementation model’ (below) used by the ministry.
The next project involved five schools in Kabul city. Initial feedback has unfortunately only been measured in terms of standardized test results (in math and literacy), but initial results showed a 20% increase on those tests.
In the coming months, national team plans to include schools in other provinces. They also aim to recruit and train more technical people to help with planning and preparing teachers and connectivity teams for schools across the country.
Teachers and assistants at the Universidad Evangélica de El Salvador
El Salvador, which began a 400 XO pilot last year, has been in the news again this week. Their vice-minister of education Erlinda Handal gave an interview about their program “Cerrando la Brecha del Conocimiento” (Closing the Knowledge Gap), and mentioned hoping to expand their olpc project to cover all primary students in the country over the next four years.
“Children being able to take the ‘laptop’ home is something new, expected to amplify the process of learning, and this opens greater opportunities, better prospects for success.”
I hope to see more news from El Salvador, or at least more videos like these, in the future.
The Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pennsylvania, with roughly 2500 students, is the largest pilots of XOs in a charter school, and one of the largest single-school pilots in the US. They began in 2008 with 1400 students in 6th through 8th grades, and have since added over 600 more students in 3rd through 5th grades.
They planned their infrastructure and teacher preparation carefully — adding a high-bandwidth network connections within their school to handle the dramatic increase in Internet usage they expected, and running regular workshops with the head teachers from their 3 initial grades to develop new materials to make use of laptops in and out of the class. And they have engaged city and state policymakers and other potential supporters in their area from the beginning.
I helped them with the initial deployment and a school-wide demonstration we gave to the students — and I still remember the joy with which they glommed onto the new machines; the teachers full of ideas after some brainstorming, and the students pepped by our demonstration of a competitive two-player Maze session. They recently asked to test out the 1.5 and future tablet models, and seem to be growing their student body steadily at over 10% a year. I hope to visit with their teachers again soon to see how this has changed their views of teaching.
“I like to use the computers for English and to know about them” says Daphine of Kasiisi Primary School in rural western Uganda.
The Kasiisi Project helps to promote conservation through education around Kibale National Park, Uganda by building classrooms, hiring extra teachers, supporting healthy environments, providing support for 90 students to attend Secondary School, and working with other school support organizations. Over the past 15 years, Kasiisi has grown from a small, one-building school to a massive compound with a kitchen, library, teacher housing, and now computer classes. Much of the early success of Kasiisi can be associated with a strong Head Mistress and support from the Kasiisi Project.
My name is Jeff Bittner, and I have been working for the Kasiisi Project since October 2008 helping to support Kasiisi and the 4 other schools in the Project.
I have been involved with a variety of activities since my arrival, including the introduction and implementation of roughly 150 XOs (see our Kasiisi blog for more background). As a person working in the schools before, during, and after the introduction of the XO Laptops, I have seen the way that these computers can excite and engage the students, as well as the complications that come with them.
Sridhar’s report is worth a read – though I’m looking forward to hearing more about how the 1.5’s are being used in class. (Sridhar: I’d love to have a guest post from you with more about how the laptops are being used, and how the initial handout went) Over the weekend, there was a nice short writeup of the progress in the deployment there by the Daily Telegraph. They took some gorgeous photographs while they were visiting the schools. And here’s a lovely video from the same part of the country.
Imagine you are sitting on your comfy couch watching TV. You decide to tune in to 60 Minutes. They are talking about a nonprofit organization that is bringing a low-cost laptop to children in developing countries. You think that is a great idea and decide to learn more.
Fast forward two years, and you are in the middle of a floating fishing village in Ha Long Bay in Northeast Vietnam. You have started a project to bring a number of these laptops to the only school in the village. While there you are tackling a variety of speed bumps that arise. These range from easy to extremely challenging. As the days pass, you can see the joy in the children and adults of the village. You realize that you have made a difference and changed their lives. You have changed their world for the better.
This is the story Nancie Severs of New Hampshire relayed when she presented at OLPC’s Cambridge headquarters. Hearing Nancie speak is inspiring. She has heart and energy. Last year she visited the Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village with her husband Mark. She thought of OLPC and realized she could bring the XO to this village with a plan. She says if the XO laptops work out here “in the middle of the sea” where learning resources are limited, books are destroyed by the salty air, and newspapers blow away or get wet, then she will be convinced that it can work almost anywhere.