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OLPC DC Club: Plans (Part Five) April 1, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:00 am
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polyachka: So what are your future plans with DC OLPC club ?

curiouslee: We would like to do a deployment in the DC area.

polyachka: that would be good

curiouslee: But hope for that has dimmed a bit because of the change in DC govt.

curiouslee: Also, XOs are relatively hard to get and there are still many barriers with Sugar.

polyachka: barriers like what?

curiouslee: The Sugar brand and information materials need an overhaul.

curiouslee: Running Sugar outside of the XO (which itself is hard to get in smaller quantities) is difficult.

polyachka: so what do you think is in future for both OLPC and Sugar?

polyachka: should they both re-think their strategies and become for-profit?

polyachka: offering services to the developed countries?

curiouslee: They would need more capital to restructure and then ramp up as for-profit. I can’t imagine how that would happen.

polyachka: but if they pursue the idea of constructivism, then it could revamp educational system worldwide

curiouslee: Constructivism is one approach of many. It’s not popular everywhere.

polyachka: why not popular?

curiouslee: Constructionism is not known everywhere not because it is not good. There are many other schools of thought.

curiouslee: Every country has entrenched beliefs.

polyachka: I thought that constructivism is not popular as not many believe that children can progress without much supervision

curiouslee: That’s exactly right. A lot of places approach education through rote learning and total control of the children.

polyachka: too bad, i still hope that right amount of education blended with technology can save the world

curiouslee: I hope for the same thing!

polyachka: why were you in Boston the other week?

curiouslee: I wanted to visit the Computer Clubhouse an attend the volunteer meeting at OLPC.

polyachka: thank you for coming

polyachka:  we all admire your DC club and Adam secretly wishes there was a person like you in Boston to have a big OLPC following in Boston

curiouslee: If I lived in Boston, there would definitely be a big group!

curiouslee: Believe me, there have been months where I didn’t want to organize.

polyachka: but you still did and that counts!

polyachka: Thank you so much for answering all my questions!

curiouslee: Ok thanks!


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.


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