Island of teachers

Translation from the original by Jennifer Castillo Bermudez

One year ago, the Ometepe Island started a digital revolution, as the Zamora Terán Foundation delivered five thousand XO computers to all students and teachers in the 32 primary schools at the Ometepe Island. With this generous donation, Ometepe Island became the first digital island in the region.  Following this digital revolution, Ometepe now boasts a 90% student retention rate and has shown great increase in school performance.

John Martinez , 9 , is “glowing” the most. In a class of 24 students, he was the quietest of the classroom. However, when he received his XO computer, he became the ” technical advisor ” of Professor Martha Rodriguez’s classroom, in the Rigoberto Cabezas School of Ometepe Island. “Now when I am giving classes on topics, he tells me which educational app I can use to teach that kind of Spanish, Math or Science. He is outstanding,” says Rodriguez. This once quiet child was the first one in his class to learn how to use the XO.” Within a week of receiving the computer, he told me he was able to use it and he offered to help me,” says Rodriguez. According to Martinez, “She [his teacher] did not want to use the computer because she didn’t know how, and I wanted us to start using it, so after a week of having it, I learned to do it and was able to teach her how to use it.”

Since February 2012, all primary students on the Ometepe Island became teachers in the classroom. In addition, the students began to excel in competitions organized by the Ministry of Education ( MINED ) at the state and national level. “Retention rates and school performance improved. Now they all are teachers on the island because children learn quickly,” says Byron Countryman, MINED delegate on the Ometepe Island. The island has 4,512 elementary students in the two municipalities: Altagracia and Moyogalpa, according to Paisano. In just over a year, “Our students have become more active students. The boys have developed more skills and knowledge for their own learning,” says Countryman. Last year, Gabriel Alberto Muñoz was elected as the best student of Rivas and Maria Roberta Flores won one of the first places in the Reading aloud competition organized by the MINED.

The arrival of the XO computers also alleviated the need for classroom textbooks, says Jorge Luis Espinoza , director of the College Ruben Dario. Prior to the arrival of the XO computers, said Paisano, “We had an 80% shortage of books in subjects such as language arts and math. The computers have helped us to resolve this deficit.”

Professor Mirna Sevilla Romero says the incorporation of new technologies in primary education ” woke students up,” and also “demanded a  greater commitment from our teachers”. She continued, “If we, as teachers, are not familiar with technology and its use in education, our students will be far ahead of us.” “Our methods of evaluating student performance also changed because now we not only do written tests, but teachers also organize tournaments and competitions in the classroom that incorporate the computers,” says Leyla Road Barrios, director of the Rural Education Core schools Koos Koster , where 520 students study.

The children also get to use the computers outside of the classroom. “In the evenings, when I’m studying with my computer and helping my mom, I teach her, because she cannot read or write,” says John Martinez.

The Zamora Terán Foundation has invested more than $7.5 million since 2009, when it began distributing XO computers in Nicaragua. To date, over 30,000 computers have been delivered in 104 schools in the country, according to reports from the Foundation. In addition, more than 6.500 hours of teacher training has been provided . The teacher training program also provides ongoing monitoring and pedagogical support to schools.

“If kids can learn to read, then they can read to learn” Nicholas Negroponte – Tablets Reading Project in Ethiopia

MIT Technology Review’s annual EmTech is the premier conference focused on emerging technologies and their impact. Each year, this unique event brings together key players from the technology, engineering, academic and management communities to discuss the technological innovations that are changing the face of business and driving the global economy.

During the last conference, Nicholas Negroponte presented the latest information about the Reading Project, an experiment/research, conducted with kids in Ethiopia to see what can happen without a teacher, because these kids have none.

During September, MIT Technology review posted the article “Another Way to Think about Learning” describing some of what was going on. Recently, a new article explains more on the latest findings; “Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

Learn more about the Reading Project explained by Nicholas Negroponte in the following video (min 57:53):

Watch live streaming video from emtech2012 at livestream.com

Nicholas is back to the stage on a Panel: minute 2:19:20

OLPC Heads to Charlotte, North Carolina

Thanks to Knight Foundation, OLPC will be providing laptops and training to over 2,500 teachers and students in Charlotte’s Project L.I.F.T. Zone.

Initial Teacher Training: August 14 and 15, 2012

On the morning of August 14, OLPC staff members and support personnel embarked upon three school sites to provide training and development to nearly 150 teachers from seven school sites. OLPC was greeted warmly and the positive energy was contagious; teachers were eager to get their laptops and to begin exploring right away.  It was a thrill to see teachers dive right in opening laptops, exploring new Activities and “friending” one another. The first day, trainers focused on OLPC’s learning principles and project goals. Teachers learned about our work around the world, the theory of Constructionism and the benefits of the SugarLearning Platform. It was a meaningful session of exploration and collaborative learning. By day’s end, teachers were able to present their Portfolios and talk about the various projects they created in Sugar. 

Day two of training was dedicated to curriculum alignment and ways to incorporate XO laptops into daily classroom routines. Teachers were given strategies for implementation and some spent time sharing ways that these machines could transform their classroom cultures. In the afternoon, teachers worked in grade level groups to create aligned lesson plans using Sugar Activities and Common Core State Standards. North Carolina is one of 45 states that has adopted Common Core, a comprehensive K-12 curriculum thatemphasizes 21st century learningskills and real world application of content.  Community leaders, administrators and teachers all believe that these laptops are one tool that will position their students for success in the global economy.

As we closed day two, teachers were given an opportunity to share their lesson plans and discuss the many new options that the XO laptops provide. Student engagement and collaboration will take on a new meaning in the 2012-2013 academic year.

Check back frequently for how OLPC is doing their part to L.I.F.T. up Charlotte’s West Corridor!

Children talk about OLPC in Rwanda

OLPC Rwanda, which is planning to expand their OLPC deployment to 160,000 children and teachers by next summer, has been talking more about their work and interviewing those currently involved. Africa Online has been running a series on OLPC over the past two weeks, including a recent article on XO use in schools in Kigali.

Rwanda adds laptop security, gets new XO-1.5s

Rwanda is rolling out a software and firmware update to the students and teachers in their current schools, as they prepare to deploy a new batch of XO-1.5s as they approach their 100K milestone.   Project lead Nkubito Bakuramutsa gave a few interviews about the process, which started two weeks ago in southern Rwanda.

The security update may also give them a chance to reflash their current machines to XOOS 11.2, which has improved solar charging performance and overall power management along with many speed and interface improvements.

The planned expansion of their program will make Rwanda the largest OLPC deployment outside of South America, surpassing even the US and Mexico.

Update from the Field: Birmingham, Alabama surveys

Earlier this year, Shelia Cotten and coauthors HaleMoroneyO’NealBorch published an overview of their data from surveying 27 schools during the first year of the city-wide OLPC project in Birmingham, AL.  In the 2008-2009 school year, 1st – 5th Grade students and teachers, in every public primary school in the city, received XO laptops via this program. — amounting to over 15,000 students and teachers. and every public primary school in the city.

The paper, ”Using Affordable Technology to Decrease Digital Inequality“, appeared in Information, Communication & Society Volume 14, Issue 4.  From the summary:

[F]ourth and fifth grade students at 27 Birmingham City schools were surveyed just prior to receiving the XOs and then again about 4.5 months later. A total of 1,202 students were matched between the two surveys… students who used a computer to do homework before receiving the XO, tended to make greater use of the XO and felt it helped them in their education. Teachers’ use of the XO was also an important factor. Students who reported their teachers made greater use of the XOs in the classroom tended to use the XO more and felt that the XO had a positive impact on their education.

These findings highlight the importance of training teachers to make effective use of new technology and the need to develop curriculum to integrate computers into the classroom.  Dr. Cotten is currently leading a National Science Foundation funded project that helps… teachers receive training which builds technology-teaching capabilities so that students develop the attitudes and the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically advanced society.

Their research has continued since then, and they will also publish about longer-term results.

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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eduJAM! starts in Uruguay

The eduJAM! convocation is going strong, with 2-3 days of Sugar camp and discussion among developers and teachers from across the world. Keep an eye on the ceibalJAM site in the coming days for videos and notes from the event.

You can browse some of the presentations on the edujam2011 slideshare account.

eduJAM!-invitacion

eduJAM! invitacion

LEGO WeDo and OLPC Peru: national collaboration

The Government of Peru and LEGO’s Education group have been testing the WeDo toolkit in classrooms with XOs since it was released in 2008. This year they have launched a national program to distribute WeDo kits to roughly 20,000 schools.

LEGO’s Lars Nyengaard writes:

“I am happy to announce that the first major deployment of WeDo for XO will happen in Peru, starting this year. An amazing 20.000 schools will be populated with WeDo. 80.000 teachers will be taught in WeDo and the constructionist approach. More than 1,5 million children will experience WeDo across Peru.

We visited Brazil and Peru to understand the challenges for education in some of the underserved areas. Personally, I will never forget my visits to Brazil, the people I met and the children trying out our WeDo prototypes… we have pursued the original idea of bringing robotics constructonism and WeDo to countries, where the OLPC XO is deployed. I am happy, joyful and invigorated by the decision of the Peruvian government to deploy 92.000 WeDo sets with programming software, activities and teacher training.”

OLPC has been testing many different types of sensors and electronics kits, since the earliest work on Turtle Art with Sensors. The XO has also become a fine dedicated Scratch machine, and WeDo kits are easily enabled from within Scratch (with some handy video tutorials). If you can get your hands on an XO and a WeDo kit, try this with your friends, children, and students.

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.

Sharing the flame of inspiration

This past weekend, we had a country meeting in Cambridge – the sort of gathering of national project leads, and honest sharing of lessons and challenges, that I love best about OLPC.  It ranged from the familiar to the unexpected.  It is fascinating to observe the  with Gaza and Afghanistan providing useful perspectives on what is easy and what is hard in very dense and very sparse regions, under economic and military pressure.

It left me with a lot to think about regarding how we scale passion, awareness, and the practicalities of deployment — we saw a few different successful models for scaling to hundreds of thousands of children and teachers, and discussed social and political pitfalls to avoid.

At the same time, Juliano wrote up a very personal reflection on the recent teacher training sessions he has helped organize in Rwanda.  He comments that last week’s work felt more effective than any he had done so far, but that it made him think about the challenges of scaling training to an entire country.

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Peru plans OLPC expansion for next year

Peru is planning to expand their OLPC program to reach every primary school in the country next year.  Last week, during a meeting with regional leaders from the country’s 24 departments, Oscar Becerra commented on plans for the program to reach over 16,000 primary schools across the country – though not every child in each of those schools will have an XO at first.

Peru is working with the department leaders to help them organize regional programs to complete the saturation of their schools.  They are also expanding their awareness and training programs for teachers, with an event last Friday for over 500 teachers. Walter and Rodrigo were both present for some of last week’s events (Walter has been visiting many of the South American OLPC deployments, as anyone following the Sugar digests will know), and the general vibe and feedback from both administrators and teachers was quite positive.

Rwanda: capacity-building for teachers in 150 schools

OLPC Rwanda organized a capacity-building workshop for 300 teachers this week. The school-head and one lead teacher from each of 150 schools attended. The GC4LL blog has a detailed writeup. I like this quote in particular, since passing on the ideas behind our core principles takes time:


They also are going to learn about the two main points of the OLPC implementation: one laptop per each child and children take laptops home. Those two points are always controversial and it is very important that school’s principals understand the underlining logic behind them. It the school management buy the concept, the success chances of the project in the school increase significantly.

There is also a photoset from the event and a copy of their “training booklet“(PDF) online.

eKindling makes strides in Lubang, Philippines

The eKindling project, a classroom XO project on the island of Lubang in the Philippines, is making good progress. They are supported by roughly 100 donors and organizers from across the Philippines. After a consultation visit this past winter, they recently purchased XOs for their school. They wrote up a project checklist, a 5-day teacher workshop schedule, and formed contacts with OLPC Friends, OLPC New Zealand, and Squeakland.

Recently they published a debrief of their weeklong teacher workshop. You can follow this and other progress through updates to their project page (thanks to Mafe and others).

OLPC Greece supports 28 schools

OLPC in Greece has distributed 550 laptops to over 30 classes in each of 28 schools, and will soon be done with the deployment phase of their program.

In each participating class every student gets their own laptop, but no school has saturation.  I am curious as to how it will turn out.  Each school seems to have done its own internal training and planning, with a high ratio of participating teachers to students — many teachers are engaged in each school.  They all share a country-wide mailing list to discuss their work.  They have made a lovely visualization of their national network, linking proudly to the individual sites of each participating group.