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Figment Project in NYC June 14, 2010

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 2:03 pm
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Ryan Letada, Marife Mago and Adam Holt came up with an idea to combine OLPC NYC Meetup and Figment Project participation together this past weekend. Adam wrote:

“One Laptop per Child (OLPC NYC) invites you to create your own art and music with digital paintbrushes and music makers on our rugged green laptops, and communicate wirelessly and live with other kids, using solar-power!

Build a colorful photo-tapestry together with other kids around the world, or work on a piece together with your new friends at FIGMENT.

Our software empowers kids to take control of their own imaginations, and just Begin Creating. We spark young minds across Asia, Africa, Latin America and North American schools making it possible for kids to collaborate freely across continents. Seize your tools!”

“One Laptop per Child (OLPC NYC) brings people together using rugged low-cost computers and kids around the world in need.  We bring DIY learning using open software called Sugar, that empowers kids to discover and take control of music, science experiments, artistic collaboration, you-name-it.  Come try for yourself, our brand new XO-1.5 laptops, and check out some newly available 10 Watt solar panels! Note that our brand new laptops now include the Gnome Desktop for older children too.

Regardless of what “creativity” means for you, we encourage everyone who deeply cares about learning, Wikipedia and the like (no matter your age) to step up, release your inner child, and start building wireless/collaborative projects of all kinds — our NYC community will then show you how to obtain our free, tough, water-resistant, low-power laptops if your efforts will join ours, organically growing to help kids and school around the world.

Thanks for stopping by Saturday June 12th everyone who cares about rebuilding an exploratory global learning culture for the 21st century!”


Vietnam OLPC Meeting in Hanoi June 13, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 2:22 pm
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You never know how you may impact other people with your action and writing. As Nancie said, it is always nice to know that whatever you started is growing, even when you are away.

As mentioned earlier, Serge Stinckwich organized Vietnam OLPC meeting in Hanoi on June 5. Her wrote:

“Hi all, we were around 15 people for the 1st meeting of OLPC Vietnam developers.I put some pictures of the event here:
I made a short presentation of the OLPC project and a report of my visit to the Vung Vieng village. My slides (report of the VV village visit) are available here:
The conclusions of my visit are as following:
– every XOs are working and are used everyday by kids. They really enjoyed it.
– XOs are not part of a curriculum. This is more a leisure activity at the moment.
– there is a problem with the local teachers: they only stay one year in the village. We need to train them every year. Teachers need to be more involved in the use of XOs in the classroom.
– Only a limited set of activities seems to be used by the children.There is not enough Vietnamese activities
– XOs need to be update to newer versions of Sugar (0.82.1 => 0.88). We need to select specific activities (with good vn translation) and write some pedagogical documentation.
We also made some demos of the Sugar environment (on Linux & XOs). Some students present at the meeting are particularly interested in developing Sugar applications.
One of the conclusions of this meeting is that we need to grow the user & developer Sugar community in order to have more Vietnamese content. This will be one our top priorities of the next months.”


OLPC Realness Summit June 9, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 9:15 am
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I had a chance to speak to the OLPC Afghanistan Director Mike Dawson about his experience at OLPC Realness Summit, which took place in St. John May 28-31. Mike said it was beneficial for him to meet representatives from other OLPC deployments around the world. It was the first time OLPC-doers had an opportunity to meet and talk openly about what has been done and should be done in the future. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to come due to not enough advance notice, but 40 people still made it to the Caribbean to attend the summit and mentor workshop. The ideas have sprung from every continent: to start creating content together, to launch a company to help small deployments, to unite resources to work on software improvements without duplicating efforts, to create user-friendly deployment guides, etc.

Everyone had a chance to show to others new tools and approaches. Mike demonstrated eXe, a program that will help non-programmers to create educational games and content in any field for free. (Mike showed to me Hangman letter game, which he was working on when we first talked on Skype several months ago). Afghanistan is waiting for another grant to go forward with planned activities.

Besides their similarities, Summit participants also accepted their differences, which is the first step to working together. The differences are about: Which deployments are better: micro deployments or nation-wide? Should XO and Sugar be taught as part of normal school curriculum or extracurricular activity? Who should create software: Academia (Chris) or developers (Bernie from SugarLab argued that Academia takes away fun and constructionism element). Who exactly should help deployments?

Read more about the Summit by Chris, from OLPC News, and Beth, from Waveplace, the organizer of the event. I like what Bernie wrote on his blog about the Summit. He concludes:

“By the end of the summit, a strong binding was formed among all the participants, regardless of our widely different professions and approaches to world-wide education.

Many of us asked to follow-up by creating some kind of super-organization embracing volunteers from all camps: OLPC (hardware), Sugar Labs (software), educators and deployments.

As a representative of Sugar Labs, I’d be more than happy to embrace this idea. We’ve been traditionally been very weak on the education front and loosely connected with deployments. We’ve been trying to solve the problem by attracting people with those interests into our organization, but our overly technocratic community managed to repel them.

By starting off with a balanced blend of educators and technologists, we might be able to achieve what our individual organizations couldn’t. Rather than trying to focus everyone on one particular aspect of education technology, it would endorse a wide spectrum of skilled professionals involved in solving the same fundamental problem of radically improving education world-wide through technology, constructionism, interactive curriculum, free software, rugged laptops, teachers without borders and the organized enthusiasm of thousands volunteers.”

(Both pictures Courtesy of Realness)

Unexpected post


OLE Nepal, Vietnam and Boston: Part Four June 8, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 9:06 am
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I asked Rabi several questions:

What do you do every day?

(He looked surprised. I know he is the Executive Director, but  want to know what exactly he does daily.) Sometimes I work up to 16 hours a day, but have to cut down my work hours to not burn out. I lead groups and make sure they all have the capabilities and resources… I manage those groups and resolve problems, work with the government officials.

Why are you doing it?

Because I care about education and  believe that you can’t just drop computers off, you have to show how to handle them, how to teach ICT (Information and communication technology), how to communicate. (I guess, miracles do not just happen, they are made by people.)

Are you happy?

Yes, even though there are always ups and downs. (Find something you love to do and never work a day in your life.)

Do you have a volunteer program?

Yes, we have a program for locals 18-19 year old, who in their gap year after high school. They get trained, and then go to schools and help teachers in April for three weeks. They get technical plus teaching experience at the same time.

What issues do you foresee?

If OLPC switches to a tablet for good, and will not support old models, that will be hard for the existing deployments. Who then gets to decide which school gets new model and which gets old model of XO? Fairness factor will be in question. Then where to get spare parts: batteries, screens, etc. for old models? OLPC should focus on making hardware and improving current model of XO, not necessary creating content or education plans. The other problem is that OLPC does not sell XOs to the public directly in small quantities. Should they? What if a private school wants to buy only 100 computers?

Where do you see yourself in two years?

I will still be in Nepal, running our deployment. There is still a lot of work to be done, especially on getting the government on board. You have to explain what kind of benefits come from the use of computers in schools. We are also thinking about providing consulting services to those who need help with getting XOs and implementing them in their schools.

(Rabi’s picture courtesy of Nancie Severs,


OLE Nepal, Vietnam and Boston: Part Three June 2, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 10:13 am
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Currently OLENepal has a team of 30 people, 15 of those work on creating local content. Rabi showed us a demo of the activities they created for learning English and math. There is enough content to teach several grades all school year! Nepali text-book curriculum was converted into computer- based and improved. The main advantages of a computer based curriculum are that the student gets instant feedback and has infinite number of practice choices, not to mention a game-like interactive way of learning.  The team of creators have to have an educators’ background because as developers they do not know what educators know. Genius techies without any educational experience will not be able to create good programs for students. The goal is to educate all students, not just brilliant ones, but those who are at average and below average.


They provided 4 day training to teachers in their first year, now it is 8 days with on-going feedback and support. Teachers are taught different way of teaching: monitoring and helping, not dry lecturing. At the end of the training, teachers convert problems into solutions and they are not afraid of saying “I don’t know but I will get back to you”. It is important to make this process easy for teachers. One of the biggest myths is that you show the teachers what an XO can do and they will create content or customize it. Unfortunately, it is not true. Teachers will not customize it, even if it requires one hour per week,  or improve or create. Why? They do not have time for that. Some of them teach 7-8 periods a day. That is why OLE Nepal started with basics – just transferred from book-based to computer based curriculum. And then created lesson plans and sample activities.


There should be infrastructure in place. “OLE Nepal has connected all the schools that are part of the pilot program to one another. The schools are also connected to the OLE Nepal central server in Kathmandu, creating an intranet connection between OLE Nepal and its partner schools.Wherever possible, schools have also been connected to the Internet. However, this has depended largely on the pre-availability required infrastructure in the area.

In addition to connecting schools to each other and to OLE Nepal, internal networks have also been set up within the schools. Each school is equipped with a school server that contains E-Pustakalaya and the latest E-Paath updates.
The school server also works as the gateway between the school and the outside network. Each school server is connected to access points in each classroom with network cable. The students can use their laptops to access the server wirelessly through these access points in their respective classrooms.”


OLE Nepal wants the Ministry of Education to have the capacity to take over, that is why they have to involve government in the process on many different levels. At one level it means having right people on the board of directors. Another level – involving policy makers into curriculum creation. Training teachers from the Ministry of Education and paying them for training is another example.  Last year OLE Nepal trained 15 teachers and then sent them to train others to total of 125. They were teaching ICT basic education – info and communication technology. Not just the teachers, but governments, ministries do not want to lose jobs. Instead of threatening them with new technology that might replace them, it is better to involve them into the process and show how it could work well for all participants.


OLE Nepal, Vietnam and Boston: Part Two June 1, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 8:30 am
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So there we were, at Harvard Square Au Bon Pain, surrounded by chess players, Harvard students, lazy stroller, bums and street performers. Both Rabi and Nancie had Xos with them. We sat down at a table facing the street and engaged in a long conversation about OLPC, technology and life choices.

Rabi said they were very idealistic and naïve when they started OLE Nepal three years ago. They had no funding, but they believed that as long as they are doing good work and can show great results, they will get funding and eventually support from the government. They had a good team and were lucky to interest first sponsor the Danish Embassy in Nepal. Later, there were more sponsors, including Food for education group. The program is giving kids food so that they come to school to study, and if their attendance reaches 75%,parents get a liter of cooking oil every month. Richard and Rabi asked, what if these kids go to school for food at first, but in the future they will come to school for education?  OLENepal’s annual budget in year one and two was 400,000USD.

Rabi named three phases of their demployment:

Phase One from April 2008 to March 2009 (Nepali school year) was testing. They started with 2 schools grades 2 and 6 and 135 OLPC laptops.

In Phase Two from April 2009 to March 2010 the pilot was expanded to 26 schools and 2,000 XOs (2,000 more is coming). Not as big yet as Uruguay (350,000 XOs) or Peru (40-50,000 XOs), but big enough to go nation-wide.

In Phase Three, it is expected that the OLPC project will expand across the entire country. More about phases of the OLE Nepal pilot is here:

AS per Rabi, there are four essential elements in a successful deployment:

1. Content, 2. Educators, 3. Network, 4. Capacity


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