Team BUTIÁ from Uruguay has been working on an XO robotics project for over a year. They showed off their line-following XO-robot, butiabot, in Montevideo this weekend. An XO running TurtleArt code hooked up to a mobile robotic platform followed a dark line along the ground.
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.
Over 20 OLPC and Sugar collaborators are in Uruguay this week, visiting schools, meeting with the Uruguayan communities (ceibalJAM, RAP Ceibal, and the eduJAM event team), and preparing for the eduJAM! summit for Sugar developers and educators across Latin America.
The attendees are using a separate OLPC Uruguay 2011 blog for the week to track their various travels and projects in Uruguay. If you can’t be there yourself, you can follow along (and share your own questions for the group) here.
Peru has a large and complex XO project, certainly the most varied anywhere, with its mix of rural and urban, powered and off-grid. Now they are adding local assembly of future laptops, something many countries have considered but few have carried out.
As noted recently, local assembly offers shorter startup times for production, and gives the deploying country more of a stake in the ongoing project.
Peru is being supported directly by Quanta, our factory in China, in this. Similar arrangements will be a bit easier now that the first one is underway, but this sort of arrangement is hard to work out unless the deployment team is planning for a steady flow of hardware delivered over years.
Nevertheless, this is a great step for olpc sustainability. Between Peru’s interest in assembly, Uruguay’s recent interest in design for new audiences, and Paraguay’s interest in developing better software and OS builds, Latin American deployments are taking up shared ownership of most aspects of the project.
From their official announcement:
We’re hosting an olpcMAP discussion session at our Cambridge HQ on Wednesday night, with students (and future collaborators!) from Tufts. If you can’t be there, catch up on recent additions and developments to the project with this month’s olpcMAP update.
Meanwhile, mapping maven Nick Doiron shares the view from his seat in Montevideo, where he is a resident hacker this month with Plan Ceibal.
Ian Quillen writes in Education Week about the varying motivations and sponsors of major global edutech projects. He notes the work of Plan Ceibal in Uruguay (with OLPC) and Kennisnet in the Netherlands (with OpenWijs and related programs), in addition to projects driven in part by for-profit corporations.
I will add a link to a free version of the story when I find one.
The school board of Eastern Townships, Canada, under Ron Canuel, has been pursuing a one laptop per child school program for over eight years, today reaching roughly 2,700 students and teachers. A research paper recently released by Karsenti and Collin suggests their decision to give children their own laptops was a primary cause of the student’s success to date, which has included a 40% reduction in their dropout rate over 4 years.
While they aren’t using XOs in their classroom, I’ve met some of their team more than once and shown them around our offices; they were certainly right at home. It’s great to see this sort of long-baseline research coming out. The only thing better would be similar research from many different facets of the same country or environment, as I hope we will see from Uruguay in another year.
Happy new year to the OLPC community around the world! Thank you for your part in everything we have accomplished in 2010 – from our new initiatives in Gaza, Argentina, and Nicaragua to expansion of work in Peru, Uruguay, Rwanda, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Haiti.
Special thanks to everyone who has worked on the newest iterations of Sugar, and those who put on the grassroots events over the past year in the Virgin Islands, San Francisco, and Uruguay — all of which has helped connect some of our smaller projects and realize some of their educational dreams in new activities. We’ve launched our new website for the year, highlighting the stories from these and other deployments; this blog may merge into that site as well (and you can see blog posts appearing in its News section).
Paraguay’s national deployment, run by Paraguay Educa, has been developing its own build of a Sugar operating system for its students, with help from Sugarlabs. They are calling it Dextrose. The newly-formed Activity Central group, a Sugar-development consultancy, is helping with this work, and supporting some local developers in Paraguay.
Dextrose is a spin of the core Sugar build that will focus on teacher tools and content in Spanish.
While initially developed with feedback from classrooms in Paraguay, this will hopefully become a platform that other deployments in Latin America can use. While Peru has been shy about frequent software upgrades, preferring to have something stable for years at a time, Uruguay and other smaller deployments are good candidates to start using Dextrose as well.
Part 2 of a review of the XO-1.5
Over 90,000 Uruguayan high school students will receive a new XO-1.5 HS (High School edition) laptop. So how is it different from the XO-1 that their younger classmates have?
From the outside, the XO-1.5 HS has the same feel — it’s the same size, and the same antenna ears… though they feel different somehow in dark blue. The color variation on the backplate is more limited — there may be just one set of colors to match the dark blue casing.
To make it easier to use for high school students, the keyboard features larger keys for larger fingers — and it’s now a standard responsive, ‘clicky’ keyboard rather than a waterresistant membrane. Its light/dark blue color scheme represents Uruguay’s national colors, more subtler than the bright green of the other XOs.
Since we redesigned the keyboard, we took the opportunity to make a few other handy changes. The new keyboard screws in and pops out without dismantling the bottom of the XO — taking 2 minutes rather than 15 to swap one out.
I tried it myself during my first XO teardown – the keyboard was probably the easiest thing for me to get out. We did a half tear down and photographed it, so we can also add guidelines for upgrading your disk on the 1.5’s motherboard. And now people seem to be making hybrids of XO-1.5s with the new keyboard (see our Flickr stream for more). I’ll post again when the new repair guide section is ready.
Christoph Derndorfer, widely known for his ministry to young XO pilots, fashion sense, and active speaking / writing /editing about OLPC, has recently kicked off a Latin American Tour. (Todd Kelsey, where are your tour-badge-printing skills when we need them?) He plans to visit all of our country partners in the region with significant deployments this summer, documenting his experience.
Christoph’s travel reports are enchanting. Take for instance the recent photoessay from Montevideo’s eXpO photo exhibit in Uruguay – composed entirely of photos taken with XOs by students in 4 primary schools. And with his iconic beard, long hair, and thousand-meter stare (seen below by the pool at the Fame Factory), Christoph is becoming as known for his xoly presence as for his love of good design and Sugarized icons.
To stalk with him across the southern slopes, deployment by deployment, you can follow his online writings, photos, and twext. He is looking for personal contacts along the way, especially people who have played a role in OLPC deployments, so please get in touch with him if you know someone he should meet.
As weeping and cheering for today’s World Cup results spread across the globe, at OLPC we are hoping to recover enough to try sOccket’s power-generating soccer ball at our next weekly scrimmage. Since Ghana and Uruguay are XO countries we are exhausted from rooting for both sides.
Yesterday, Jessica Lin from sOccket visited us at OLPC and promised to trade a sOccket ball for an XO, in hopes that someday a XO can be powered by the energy of play. Learning in play was strong thread of discussion this week at OLPC. We talked to Jessica about 60+ soccer programs around the world (like the Kabul Girls Soccer Club) that help children learn about teamwork, strategy, physics, and statistics as they participate in their favorite sport. Right to Play was another kindred program we met at the UNRWA education conference, which sparked a brainstorming session about how computer games could be incorporated into RTP programs.
We all have the right to learn & play…
An update on Uruguay’s deployment of olpc in high schools: Plan Ceibal has posted some details and images of the laptops that will be used in this project. Some schools will use the new blue XO-HS laptops, and others will use Magellans — the only implementation of the Classmate design that has been used in large scale deployments (in Portugal and Venezuela).
You can see their take on a feature comparison of the machines. While there’s no check box for “sunlight-readable screen”, robustness, or power management, it’s a good look at how schools perceive their options. I would be glad to see classrooms worldwide adopting any platform like this — both can share the same software and materials.
We have been working on a new XO laptop for high school students — one with a larger and more responsive keyboard better suited to the hands of older students. And Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal, expanding into high schools across the country, will be the first recipient — they’ve ordered 90,000 of the first production run.
These XO-1.5 HS machines are largely the same as a regular XO-1.5: they are VIA machines with Sugar and Gnome desktops, running both Sugar activities and Gnome apps. Only the bottom half is different: they have ‘clicky’ rather than membrane keyboards by default, and the base has been redesigned so that keyboards are much easier to swap out or clean — there are two screws you can access from the battery compartment that release the keyboard, then you can pop it out. No more 10-minute teardowns!
The new machines will be shades of dark and light blue; the factory is still working on getting the plastics and dye selection just right. I saw an early stab at this design, and it was very sexy — but I haven’t seen the final keyboard model they are using yet. As a keyboard fanatic (I can get 70wpm on my XO-1), I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the first one back in the office and will post a review for you.
Now that we have a half-dozen designs or models, we’ll need to come up with a better naming scheme… I’m taking suggestions for names and themes.
Thanks to Flavio Danesse, one of the CeibalJAM developers, children can now stream TV and radio to their XOs using the new Sugar activity called JAMedia. This Sugar activity is a music and video player that can stream online TV or radio broadcasts, or play local media from the Journal. The result offers quite a fine video-watching experience, and for now offers access to over 25 television and 70 radio streams.
CeibalJAM recently made headlines by receiving an honorable mention from the Prix Ars Electronica annual awards for “Digital Communities”.