XOs for High School: new design, Uruguay snags 90,000

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!

Uruguayan Flag

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.

JAMedia streams television to XOs in Uruguay

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”.

Uruguay offers individual and school XO sales

Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal is now offering individual sales of XOs to students, parents and schools. This is handy for students who have lost their XO (under some conditions schools replace XOs for free when they are lost or broken, but only within limits), for parents whose students are in private schools that don’t have XOs yet, or for schools that want to have an extra supply of machines to set up additional computer centers, hardware labs, or the like.

Yama commented that schools can get lots of up to 60 XOs at low cost to keep at the school — which are then owned by the school, unlike the XOs given to children, but they must commit to connectivity:

Schools wishing to purchase XO lots are required to get at least a 3 Mb fixed IP connection. Those [that do and have] already purchased XOs at a higher price will be comped with extra XOs.

I like the sound of that. That’s about what Chester Community Charter School required for every 1000 students they brought online…

Scratch the World! ANIMATE contest & updated Sugar activity

For those who haven’t noticed Scratch taking over the world, OLPC France published a lovely essay about the contest and the value of Scratch and Etoys for young students.

La promesse selon laquelle le projet CEIBAL donnerait aux élèves du pays des perspectives de réduction du fossé numérique et d’inclusion numérique n’est pas vaine, puisqu’ils sont désormais en mesure d’échanger d’égal à égal avec les jeunes créateurs Scratch appartenant à une communauté internationale à laquelle on doit déjà près d’un million de projets (projets Scratch) de par le monde.

The promise that CEIBAL would address the digital divide and digital inclusion for the nationls’ students is not in vain, since they are now on an equal footing with the young  Scratch artists in an international community which has produced nearly a million Scratch projects.

In Uruguay, Efecto Cine and Plan CEIBAL are running an “ANIMATE” contest through June 15 for the best Scratch submissions by students across Uruguay. Ten winners will be announced, with the top four receiving mini-DV cameras for their schools. (Rules)

Meanwhile, an updated Scratch activity is being developed with full Journal and camera integration, and a new activity release is expected within the week.  Kudos to everyone working on the project.

Efecto Cine and Plan CEIBAL are running an “ANIMATE” contest through June 15 for the best Scratch submissions by students across Uruguay. Ten winners will be announced, with the top four receiving mini-DV cameras for their schools. (Rules)

What happens after saturation: a Ceibal story

Alicia Casas de Barran, the Director of Uruguay’s National Archives, speaks today about “what happens when all students and teachers have their own laptops” at the World Bank in DC.  She has set a good standard for countries interested in digitizing national learning and government material, and it is great to see the national libraries and archives joining the public discussion.

Uruguay continues to build on its success, which last month reported a tripling of access to the Internet in the country’s interior, and that 85% of all children were online. Plan Ceibal continues to expand its vision for the program to include older children.

Super Vampire Ninja lands on the XO

Ready for vampires

Ready for vampires

Batovi Games Studio, a game development company headquartered in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, recently released a long mini-game,  Super Vampire Ninja Zero, for the XO. This is the most recent game being developed in parallel for the XO and the desktop PC.  Batovi has been around since 2005 and has recently begun expanding to new platforms.  It is great to see their handiwork running within Sugar.

Bernie reports that SVNZ is currently a hit in Uruguay and Paraguay, as well as among ninjas. It may be the most polished XO game release since Sim City for the XO came out. Now if only their forces were combined… perhaps in Vampires Take Micropolis, Online Edition?

Update: parents and teachers are often unhappy that their children play games.  No less Doom and SVNZ.  I sympathize with this.  I also remember how a love for games taught me how much you could do with a computer (and how that was my first impetus to program something — how awesome to be able to make something it’s fun to watch others play!).  This is part of the genius of Scratch – it combines the sharable joy of games and animations with an easy learning curve for discovering algorithms and techniques.

OLPC’s work in Uruguay draws attention in the US

Yesterday in Costa Rica, Secretary Clinton gave a moving speech about the necessity of bridging socio-economic gaps across the Americas at the Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial.

She started off by commending Chile’s immediate response to the Haitian earthquake which indicated the increasing strength and cooperation of the region. She goes on to praise region efforts at economic growth including our very own OLPC initiative in Uruguay:

And like you, I have followed the progress that Uruguay and Panama have made towards spreading the benefits of the digital age through initiatives that distribute laptops to children. I was just in Uruguay, meeting with the out-going president and now-president Mujica, and their “one laptop per child” program has given a great boost to learning and access to the wider world.

She says that programs like this “can be a model for the rest of us.” Thanks for the support, Hillary!

US Secretary of State Clinton at the Third Ministerial Meeting in Costa Rica

In her speech, she also highlights six goals of Pathways to Prosperity that the US will focus on helping:
1. The creation of “small business development centers where people can go to get information and advice about starting a business.”
2. Support for “women entrepreneurs across the hemisphere.”
3. Modernization of customs procedures.
4. Better communication through the spread of English in Latin America and Spanish in the US.
5. Green the operations of small to medium-sized businesses.
6. Modernize lending laws and regulations.

La mirada de CEIBAL

Fernando da Rosa just published a lovely blog post about the 160,000 children in CEIBAL using Sugar on Linux, and what this means for their community.  A must-read; with a 3-minute video pastiche that says it all without needing any words:  1 year of CEIBAL + OLPC

From his post:

Al momento actual, noviembre de 2008, ya se llevan entregadas a los niños 160.000 XO, todas con LINUX y SUGAR. Creo que más allá de los números, ver las caras y la alegría de los niños da fuerzas para continuar cambiando las cosas, trabajando por una mayor equidad, una mejor educación y profundizar en el uso de las nuevas tecnologías en el aula.

“As of November 2008, 160,000 XOs have been given to children, all with LINUX and SUGAR.  I think that more than the numbers, seeing the faces and joy of the children gives one stregth to continue changing things, working towards a greater equality, a better education and more thoughtfulness in the use of new technology in the classroom.”