Mokshith Voodarla, a high school student with a cause @OLPC

mokshith-1Mokshith Voodarla is a high school student who made a generous donation to OLPC.

Read his thoughts about the impact of technology in his own life and in the world:


From a young age, I’ve been amazed by the way technology helps us in our daily lives. It was mind-boggling to me when I saw subtle things like turning on a TV with a remote happen. This led me to the realization that I wanted to build technology that made people’s lives easier. I’ve always liked to see something happen after writing a program. This started off with LEGO Mindstorms but has come all the way to building Android Apps that automatically take notes for you when taking a picture of a textbook. 
I wanted to benefit as many people as I could with the knowledge I had so I decided to teach kids how to build Android apps. While doing this, I wanted to maximize the benefit of this work, and that’s when I remembered One Laptop Per Child. I’ve always taken for granted the resources I had to do things and I wanted as many people as possible to receive the resources and opportunities to do the same. I realized that by donating to OLPC, my work would help benefit a lot of people. I chose to do just that. 

Working with the kids was great. We started off from them not knowing anything at all to them being able to build a whole calculator all by themselves. We did this over the course of nine weeks. I was happy that I was able to spread that feeling of amazement on many people’s faces when they saw that what they programmed. That kind of feeling is what I live for and I really felt it when I saw those kids experience just that. The feeling itself is indescribable but it’s just amazing. 
Teaching these students and then being able to donate to OLPC was a very worthwhile experience for me and I would recommend if anyone else can, they should make a donation as well. OLPC does great things in developing countries and is a real reason why the world is accelerating faster and faster all the time. All reasons support helping the OLPC cause.

OLPC volunteer program – University of Miami

The University of Miami’s Butler Center for Service and Leadership held an event this past week called “Canes for a Change”, the event is a week held annually in September where students are introduced to the ideas of volunteerism and leadership.

This year, several OLPC Miami volunteers:
Adriana Gonzalez; Yizhou Mao; and Lindsay Acton, took the initiative to set up a table on behalf of OLPC to inform local students about the work OLPC is doing in the community and to get UM students interested and involved in volunteering with OLPC.

The volunteers hosting the OLPC stand were surprised to learn many students already knew about OLPC and were very excited to receive such a positive response from UM’s student body. Over 40 students visited the table and signed up to be a part of OLPC volunteer program in Miami.

Comments on Jeffrey James’s olpc critique

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.

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Tablets and the future of knowledge-sharing

From a recent letter to the editor at Education Week:

Tablet PC learning can provide basic knowledge needed by everyone—English, math, basic physics, and science, hygiene, “How Stuff Works,” and “Rules of Considerate Conduct.” A memory stick instead of a textbook for each K-12 subject would provide continuity. It also would allow students to learn any time in any place on any path at any pace. A memory stick can hold an entire K-12 course, including embedded and practical test questions.

The One Laptop Per Child project has provided more than 1 million laptop computers worldwide. Soon the project will make a tablet PC available… Tablet PCs are already available… this approach to learning is not new. This is the future of schooling.

Illinois Institute updates charger design for Haiti schools

The Illinois Institute of Technology is updating its design for solar chargers being used by OLPC schools in Haiti. Laura Hosman‘s students, working with Bruce Baikie of Green Wifi, are improving designs for charging setups for the off-grid primary schools in Haiti using XOs. Their work was featured recently in the Chicago Tribune.

They have been working on this project with Guy Serge Pompilus, the Haiti national project coordinator, since 2009 — and the focus on robust solar charging has increased greatly since the 2010 earthquakes.

A time to learn

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.