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OLPC DC Club:Power of Volunteers (Part Four) March 30, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:00 am
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polyachka: So you mentioned how DC Sugarlabs was started

curiouslee: Jeff Elkner was successful in gathering high school students to code Sugar Activities, so we asked to be granted official Sugar Labs status.

polyachka: what are the main milestones of the group over the years?

curiouslee: Sugar Labs DC produced the TimeLapse photography activity. They, among other projects, ported TurtleArt to Ubuntu. There was also some development on Sugar for Ubuntu.

curiouslee: Enabling TurtleArt project upload capability was start to developing an online community for TurtleArt.

curiouslee: Sugar Labs DC also maintains a product called SchoolTool for classroom management.

polyachka: Great

polyachka: And it is all done by volunteers, right? No one is really getting paid?

curiouslee: All volunteer with people putting in their own money.

polyachka: why do people do it? they still belive in OLPC’s idea?

curiouslee: People volunteer because they like the original vision and have a desire to meet some other interesting volunteers.

polyachka: You are a volunteer yourself!

curiouslee: Yes. I am an uber volunteer.

polyachka: What do you think is OLPC’s policy about volunteers?

curiouslee: I don’t think there is an official policy beyond how Adam Holt conducts business.

polyachka: I think there should be and volunteers should get acknowledged.

curiouslee: I agree

polyachka: So what is your mission in regards to OLPC?

curiouslee: I stick with OLPC because of the interesting people I meet.

curiouslee: Also, I do believe that  the world will continue towards “ubiquitous computing,” and OLPC is an experiment along the way.

polyachka: so which part do you care the most – making education more interactive and fun by using technology or giving computers to the developing countries so that they can connect to the world and improve their well-being?

curiouslee: I guess I am closer to the second, but as my daughter gets older (age 7 now) I understand education more.


Different strategies (Part Three) March 27, 2011

polyachka: So what do you think should have been done differently at OLPC or by OLPC?

curiouslee: They should have worked harder to build a stronger coalition of other partners.

polyachka : And that was not done because marketing strategy was different – go direct?

curiouslee: Yes. OLPC felt their way was best–go direct to governments and work top down.

curiouslee: Very few at OLPC had any idea of how to build a lasting non-profit.

curiouslee: Was crazy mix of educational idealists and tech dreamers.

polyachka: so how can you marry the two -techies and teachers?

curiouslee: I think the teachers, as you call them, lost. Techies now rule OLPC and Sugar.

polyachka: So how to build a long lasting non-profit?

curiouslee: Aside from Nicholas, OLPC needed a “servant leader” in their management.

polyachka: so what does it mean servant leader?

curiouslee: Definition from wikipedia: Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources (human, financial and physical).

polyachka: what do you think about hardware part. Is it up-to-date?

curiouslee: Hardware is not up-to-date at moment. XO-1.75 should catch up.

curiouslee: OLPC doesn’t feel it needs to keep current because they are shifting to serving the most remote areas.

polyachka: Is it due to the lack of resources at OLPC or vision?

curiouslee: Move to remote areas? Lack of resources yes, I think. Best to go where there is little or no competition and greatest need.

polyachka: what about Intel computers? Are they more up-to date but serve to remote areas as well?

curiouslee: Intel computers like classmate are not power efficient at all and not daylight readable. Also, the educational software is often included as an afterthought.

curiouslee: I have two classmate laptops.

curiouslee: They are miniature office productivity machines.

curiouslee: OLPC wants to focus on original “no school” scenario.

polyachka:  does it mean that no teachers are needed and no curriculum for Sugar?

polyachka: i thought it was proved that it doesn’t work

curiouslee: That varies very widely based on local culture. Adult and teacher presence is essential.

curiouslee: There are plenty of small school houses with no electricity or teachers teaching under a tree.

polyachka: but they all need curriculum

curiouslee: Sure.

polyachka: and who is working on it?

curiouslee: In the larger deployments, there have been contractors or Ministry of Education staffers working on curriculum.


OLPC DC Club, Love and Hate (Part Two) March 25, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 5:30 pm
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polyachka: So can you please tell me again the story of how you got involved in OLPC together with Wayan, I heard it at Boston OLPC meeting briefly but didn’t write it down?

curiouslee: Sure.

curiouslee: Wayan started having bar meetups in DC in fall of 2007 before G1G1. A couple of us had beta XO machines to show.

curiouslee: Then G1G1 happened in Dec 2007 and there was suddenly a huge local user community. So we started monthly meetings in Jan 2008.

polyachka: so you started those meetings in 2007 to help educate users of XO?

polyachka: help them with support or other goals too?

curiouslee: Yes, monthly meetings to support users with tech needs. We also tried to network people interested in deployments. We connected interested python developers and started Sugar Labs DC.

polyachka: why Wayan was so interested in it?

curiouslee: Wayan was working in ICT4D and was very skeptical of OLPC claims. He had much more time in 2007-2008 (no kids!) and started OLPC News web site.

polyachka: it seems that his relationship with OLPC may be described as love-hate, or is it a media trick?

curiouslee: That site got him onto the famous 60 minutes news segment about OLPC.

polyachka: so what is he trying to do with his blog?

polyachka: why is he doing it? for fame and glory?

curiouslee: Wayan got some fame. He felt the OLPC movement (and NN) needed a critic.

curiouslee: He says his mission was to “call bullshit” on NN and Walter’s wild claims.

polyachka: job well done

polyachka: but i think he loves OLPC deep in his heart and maybe wishes he started it

curiouslee: Yeah. At his core, he likes the OLPC mission, but hates how it has been implemented.

curiouslee: He realized early that it was less about OLPC movement than the interesting people around it that one can meet. Almost doesn’t matter if OLPC succeeds.

polyachka: are you saying even if OLPC fails it was still a very inspiring venture?

curiouslee: What endures will be the community around OLPC and Sugar Labs.

polyachka: but will those last?

curiouslee: Yes, even if for some reason it shuts down, much of the community will stay together and move on to related projects.


OLPC DC Club (Part One) March 24, 2011

I met Mike Lee almost 1.5 year ago at NYC OLPC meeting. I remember that all attendeeds were divided into three groups (teachers, techies and promoters), and I was in the promoters group, that was led by Mike.  I remember him explaining to us how we can get involved into helping OLPC with marketing efforts. I really liked that he is people-focused and has a great personality. Since then we’ve met several times and I was lucky to interview him last week to learn more about his work and OLPC DC Club that he runs:

polyachka:  Good morning, Mike! How are you?

curiouslee: Doing fine. Going to Philly tonight thru Tue for conference.

polyachka: How was your OLPC meeting yesterday? Did you have an agenda?

curiouslee: Actually good turnout of 12. We shared favorite Sugar activities in screen.

curiouslee: Physics and Speak were popular. Also Record and TurtleBlocks.

curiouslee: Jeff Elkner wants to organize a DC eduJam.

polyachka: When?

curiouslee: Maybe September. He wants to avoid conflict with other events.

polyachka: And the people who attended the meeting, what are demographics?

curiouslee: Some retirees, two teachers, two programmers, 3 high school students

polyachka: pretty good representation

curiouslee: Only one child–mine.

curiouslee: Harriet Vidyasagar of OLPC India attended for first time

polyachka: oh, nice

curiouslee: Harriet lives 5-minute walk from my house!

polyachka: so Harriet doesn’t live in India?

curiouslee: Both places. She travelled back and forth extensively, but recently retired

polyachka : so how big is the OLPC community in DC area, if you combined all regular attendees?

curiouslee: There are about 30 regular attendees who make it 4x a year or more. There are 175 people on our email list. Scratch Day was biggest event last year with 75 people

polyachka: when was Scratch day?

curiouslee: Scratch Day 2010 was May 22. There’s a blog post with the announcement and some photos on Flickr.

polyachka: what other events do you hold or host?

curiouslee: We hosted documentation jam and have informal meetups on some weeknights at bar or restaurant.

polyachka: those must be well-attended

curiouslee: Weeknight at bars–typically a dozen people. A different group of people than weekends.

curiouslee: We also had booth at NECC 2009 education conference in DC and TEDx MidAtlantic 2009 Baltimore.

polyachka: So howcome you go to some expos even outside on DC when it is OLPC related, is it more your personal interest or you do it because you run this group?

polyachka: Personal interest. Most club members do not have time or money to travel out of the area for OLPC.


March olpcMAP update March 18, 2011

1.  Search made easy: now people come up first! Nick has rewritten search so that names take precedence over group names, and group names take precedence over descriptions, so these searches now show what you’d expect, and more common names (such as “Haiti”) still show the whole country in Google Maps.

2.  New way to move your markers or change your name on the map. And that is how:

* Don’t do it in Internet Explorer, it will not work, do it another browser.
* If you created a brand new marker, you can click and drag marker until you have left the page.

 * If you have an older marker that you want to move: click Edit, then click the new link on top of the window: “Change Name or Location”
* On the new page, click and drag your marker
* Follow the “Click to Confirm by Email” link above the map (this e-mail goes to the contact address for the marker)
* Check your e-mail and click to confirm (it’ll take you directly to your newly-placed marker)

3.  Profile pages: profile pages are different from markers.  It is easy to see all information about the person or deployment on the page and in the future pages will enable creation of groups. You can find a link to your profile page in your marker’s “Bookmarks” section. For example, Nick’s page is

4.  We now have Featured articles or markers on the map’s homepage If you want to suggest somebody’s blog post, article or a volunteer/deployment to be featured on the map, email us the link to a blog or website, or just the name, and we will feature them! Please, use

5.  New view is together with local views like This view enables you to hide either volunteers or deployments by clicking the checkboxes in the upper left.  That’s also where you can check to view News/Articles. It’s possible to do geographic searches of news, just like we do with go=Jamaica, but until we have many news items, we show the most recent 100.

6. You can add more news/articles at  They become part of Shared and the news layer at the same time!  We post it openly at

7. It took several months to process, receive and upload all video interviews from SF OLPC Summit in Oct 2010, but finally it is all done. Please see all 28 interviews uploaded to youtube under user verhovzeva. Links to the Interviews were also added to interviewees’ markers on the map. Enjoy!


Storytelling Class for kids March 13, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 1:00 pm
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What: Learn how to create your very own computer storybook. You’ll get to write about anything you want, add pictures, and draw your characters into the story!

Who: Kids ages 8-12 from the Clarendon Hill Apartments and surrounding areas of Somerville, MA, USA

Where: The CHA Computer Lab.

When: Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:00. The first class will be held on Monday, March 28th!

Monday evenings will be training classes, while Wednesday evenings will be “free play” for kids to practice what they learned. Classes will run every week until mid-May.

More information: Participants in this free class will be using eToys, an interactive computer program designed with kids in mind. They’ll learn how to draw “sketches” using eToys and use these sketches to create a story about a topic of their choosing. Creativity will be emphasized…and ultimately, the goal of this class is to have FUN!

If you’re interesting in signing up for this class: Please call Lince or Franklin from The Haitian Coalition at 617.625.6400. Or, send an email with your name and contact information to and we’ll get back to you shortly! Space is limited, so please RSVP.

Thanks, and we hope to see you soon!


Translation Sprint in Hanoi March 12, 2011

Congratulations, OLPC Vietnam!

Today, March 12, 2011, at 9AM (12 hours ahead of Boston) OLPC Vietnam group met for Translation Sprint in Hanoi. Here are more details from Vu Do Quynh:

CNF center (inside the Institut de la Francophonie pour l’informatique, aka IFI), ngõ 42 Tạ Quang Bửu (Hai Bà Trưng district), Hanoi.

To see the location of IFI on the map :,105.847896&spn=0.00338,0.004823&t=h&z=18


We were four this morning to work on translating the remaining 15 (not counting 2 chapters not translatable, one empty chapter and a false chapter) chapters of the XO Vietnamese manual.

First 12 out of total 29 chapters had already been published in Vietnamese, and the remaining XO_vi manual chapters to finish the translation can be seen here:

Two persons couldn’t show up as scheduled.

We started at 09:15 and finished translating all 15 chapters around 12:00. There was coffee, tea and biscuits. We are now in the process of reviewing and publishing the chapters.

Then we will have to ask Flossmanuals to publish the Vietnamese version of the XO Manual. As soon as it is accepted by Flossmanuals for publication, we will let it know.

Attached is one snapshot where you can see Phương (sitting in front of the computer), Dương and Minh standing behind him.

I think it was a very good and efficient translation experience.
Best regards
Vu Do Quynh (M.)
Hanoi, Vietnam

Thank you, OLPC Vietnam! We are so proud of you.


Boston OLPC Meeting

From Adam, Mike and Andreas:

What a great meeting of 14 minds on Friday, March 11 at 6PM at OLPC office, One Cambridge Center (right above the Kendall/MIT Red-Line Stop), facing OLPC’s most serious challenges. Meeting’s Agenda:

1. eBooks on Sugar Realities (New Read 89)
2. Map jams: and each OLPC/Sugar CITY that will follow in March (Paris, then French Africa) )
3. West Somerville eToys training by Solution Grove
4. Uruguay Summit May 5-7
5. Intel/Computer Clubhouse’s new global mentoring network (“starting soon
right here in town”)

One of the topics was about using eToys or Scratch to engage older kids and/or adults with programming. Nick Doiron summarized some ideas on this topic for the group:
“There are a lot of ideas out there about how to do intro-to-programming and I like what people have done with eToys at the primary school level (if you haven’t seen Waveplace’s experiences in Haiti, read )

As you target middle school level students or above, they’re interested in the internet and media.  Some are interested in technical details – ask any programmer you know when they started.  You can make a high school kid an expert in eToys, but they won’t be any closer to making their own website or Space Invaders game.  If you would give someone a power tool in shop class, you should give them a real programming language on the computer.

Mozilla’s Hackasaurus program is designed for learning HTML at this level. Two amazing workshops in the past month:

They have information about setting up your own workshop at Also, check out ”

This meeting had tremendous value for all participants as it presented an opportunity to connect to people who are interested in similar edu-tech ideas. Photo Courtesy of Mike Lee.


Announcement of Montevideo eduJAM

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 12:41 pm
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Dear community,

During the week we made some progress in the organization of the summit in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The name of the event is eduJAM! 2011 and will take place from Thu May 5 to Sat May 7. Please see the attached file for logo and graphic identity.

The summit main objective is to strengthen the free educational software developers community, with focus on Latin America and the Sugar and olpc communities. The event will feature discussions around future directions and strategy, hacking on specific projects, and exchange of experiences among different deployments.

There is a Program Committee with the following members: Andrés Ambrois, Walter Bender, Gabriel Eirea, Pablo Flores, Gonzalo Odiard and Fernando Sansberro. This committee will define the summit program but of course input from the community is encouraged and appreciated.
A first sketch of the event is shown in the wiki page:

Registration to the event will be required  but we are not ready to announce the details yet.

In addition to eduJAM! a couple of extra activities are being planned to make the most of the summit.

The “Conozco Uruguay Tour” is being organized by members of volunteer organization RAP Ceibal and the OLPC community. It will take place during the days prior to the summit (from Sat April 30 to Thu May 5). More information here:

We are also proposing a Sugar code sprint for Sunday May 8, right after the summit.

There is a first sponsorship from Activity Central and we are looking for other sponsors both at the national and international level.

We hope you can join us and are looking forward to your comments and suggestions.

Best regards,

The ceibalJAM! team.


Open Source Educator (Part Eight: Future) March 8, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:08 am
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<polyachka> What are your long term plans?

<mchua> I’m still going to be working full-time for Red Hat while I’m in grad school.

<polyachka> why do you need grad school?

<mchua> Because I’ve been doing all these things with professors under the assumption that open source *is* a good way to learn.

<mchua> That we’re doing all this work because it’s going to give students a better experience, etc. That it makes a difference.

<mchua> But is that actually true? Nobody knows. Nobody has really tried to find out – how can you tell whether a student benefits, what does it mean for them to be “better”? How can you tell if a community benefits – would that energy have been better spent some other way?

<mchua> I’m going to grad school in engineering education in order to learn how to do that research, so someone will be doing it.

<polyachka> so you think PhD will help you in your career

<mchua> Well, that and I’d someday like to be a professor myself, so yes, the PhD will certainly help with that. 🙂

<mchua> It’s funny – Sebastian and I were joking about this… we work together a lot on our open source and education stuff.

<mchua> and the joke we have is that he makes things, and I make those things scale.

<polyachka> it is great what you are doing

<mchua> He made Sugar on a Stick, and when I started helping with that I did a lot of marketing, etc. to get more people involved, that sort of thing.

<mchua> And right now he’s building his own open source degree at Olin – trying to come up with a study pathway that any other college student could follow afterwards, to actually study “becoming an open source contributor” in college …and I’m going to school to do research on how effective that course of study is, how it can be tweaked and made better, what sort of results it gets you.

<mchua> so we joked that if he built it and I made it scale, then poof, a few decades from now there’d be open source degrees all over the place. 🙂

<polyachka> so your ambition is to make open source dominant in the world?

<polyachka>what in your opinion is so good about open source?

<mchua> I wouldn’t say my ambition is to make open source dominant.  I’d say, perhaps… that my hope – and what I work towards – is that people be free, be teachers and learners, be able to learn what they want to learn so they can do what they want to do.  And I think that the open source way of thinking and doing things is a very positive culture for that.

<mchua> You’re part of a supportive ecosystem, you’re part of multiple communities – your work and your learning has an impact – but you’re free to do what you want as an individual. It’s a nice balance of interdependence, and I like how open source fosters that sort of maturity and trust among people.

<polyachka> last question… do you know that OLPC/Sugar volunteers created

<mchua> Yep, I’ve been following along on the Planets. Great work!

<polyachka> is it ok if we create a marker for you as a mentor and if any open source newbie has a question they would contact you?

<mchua> Sure thing. Put me down in West Lafayette, Indiana, because I’ll be there more often than not over the next 5 years or so. 🙂

<polyachka> Thank you so much, Mel! Good luck with all your open source plans!

<mchua> Thanks!

For more info check Mel’s Blog, her Wiki Page or meet her when she travels near you. Also read more about teaching open source.


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