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OLPC Summit SF 2012 October 29, 2012

OLPC Community Summit took place in SF in October 19-21. Read Nancie’s blog post about it:

G1G1, Change Lives & Change Your Life“We were staying out in Bolinas at the Kleider’s lovely home. When I say we, I mention that there were 8 of us spending the weekend there and 15 or more staying over on Sunday night after the lovely and lively End of Summit Party. 15 house guests and who knows how many party attendees? That’s a lot of food and a lot of work! June and Alex, & Tanya and Mike’s gracious hospitality included comfy accommodations and gourmet meals in a gorgeous relaxing setting. And Alex, the van “captain” for the 1 hour commute to downtown SF, took us on some of the most scenic roads in the area. For the Kleider’s, this was their 3rd year hosting. I know we all share in my sincere thanks.

This is the third year of the Summit. OLPC-SF http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugarcamp_SF_2012#Photos  OLPC San Francisco, a volunteer group, dreamed up, planned and sponsored this event, partnering with San Francisco State University which generously hosted our event. The work of Professor Sameer Verma of the SFSU Business School enables the continued sponsorship of this event by SFSU and its student volunteers. Together with members of OLPC-SF, they ran a top-notch event.

The conference began on Friday evening with a meet and greet. Saturday and Sunday there were full days of sessions presented in one of three tracks, Education, Outreach and Technology, and included presentations from OLPC Boston and Miami folks also. Sameer - Thanks for all you do!

A highlight was on Sunday when we heard about the latest stories and data from “The Reading Project.” This is the famous recent “helicopter tablet drop” project in Ethiopia. Nicholas Negroponte still posits that children can figure everything out and learn how to learn without teachers. His plan to drop tablets into a community without prior exposure to any technology, and without instruction on how to use them, to see whether the kids in an illiterate village can learn to read on their own is a bold one. For its experiment, OLPC chose the Motorola Xoom Android Tablet (a touch screen) and loaded it with apps, both free and proprietary. 20 kids each in 2 remote Ethiopian villages received Xoom Tablets. One of the interesting things  about this project is that the tablets have an SD data card included and the “sneakernet” team of 2 visits the sites once a week to swap out the data cards. The cards are Fed Ex’d to the Cambridge office team for analysis. How much arer the tablets being used? Constantly. What are the children doing with them? Are they learning to read upside down or right side up? We had a fascinating glimpse and we await the rest of the story as it plays out.

The OLPC XO-4 About The Learning Project, Ethiopiawith the touchscreen was available to see. We hear that it will be available perhaps in January, 2013. We learned that the Sugar Activities need to be modified to work with touch, but it has an on screen keyboard that pops up for use when text boxes appear.

I have a better understanding of how a school server can be designed and installed, and how content can be customized for installation on multiple XOs, very useful in larger projects and in projects localized in languages other than English. We heard about things that work well on all fronts, and we thoughtfully discuss obstacles and problem solving. Always in the forefront is discussion of the future of OLPC, the future of olpc, e.g., the role of the global grassroots volunteer community, and the mission to provide access to education to the millions of children worldwide who are still without any schools, teachers or formal learning means. With very few exceptions, this incredible global and usually online community works tirelessly without pay and we each pay our own expenses for equipment to improve the XO as a learning tool, and for travel to meetings and for our site work.

On Monday the Sugar Hacking Sprint began and continued through Wednesday. The list of topics to be addressed was ambitious and I am anxious to see the products of the continued volunteer efforts this week.  As always, the story is in the photos! Huge thanks to Sameer, June and Alex and family, SFSU, and the members of OLPC-SF for all of your hard work and for the wonderful OLPC-SF Summit 2012!”

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Ba Chieu Home Update (Part One) July 31, 2012

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 4:17 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I received an update from Celia Caughey about the Ba Chieu shelter in Ho Chi Minh:

“Dear friends and supporters of the Ba Chieu Home ,

I am happy to report to you following my visit to Vietnam last month.  I met with the girls several times and they were in good spirits and enjoying their summer holidays.

I attach a copy of this newsletter with photos if you would like to print it out, but have set the text out below.

I also have available an updated list of all the girls, with a photo of each and a brief background about them, so please let me know if you would like me to email that to you also.

Activities

Once again all the girls finished the academic year well and graduated up to the next class (in Vietnam they need to reach a certain level to be able to proceed to the next grade).  That is quite an achievement, and reflects well on the way Ms Yen is managing the Home and coaching the girls.  Hau (10) is continuing her interest in art and won 2nd prize in the district in the “Green Paint” competition.

The girls also spend time in the computer room, and many are now on facebook with a group set up for their friends and supporters.

The girls get up  at 5.30 each morning, do exercises, chores to clean the house, wash their own clothes (the older ones helping the younger), have breakfast and are out to school before 7am.  I recently heard of a survey of retired people as to what factor determined who had the most satisfaction in their lives:  the key thing was having been used to working in their homes as children.   So perhaps the girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in the Home will get more life satisfaction than our pampered western (and wealthy Vietnamese) children!

Girls leaving

There has been quite a bit of movement in the past year, with 8 girls moving out and 9 new girls.  Of the girls leaving, Tien, Nga and Thao have returned to live with their grandmothers;  Tien, Nguyen, Nga and Hong have left to go home and Loan has left to go to Nursing College.  Loan has always dreamt of becoming a nurse, with strong Christian principles and a commitment to wanting to help sick people get better.

She will make a wonderful nurse, and I was pleased we were able to provide some funding for her college fees to help her realize her dream.  I have always told the girls to dream their dreams and we would help them make it happen.  So it is very satisfying to see one of the girls who has been in the Home since soon after it began when she was 7 now coming through at 21 and able to train in the vocation to which she has aspired.

Two of the other older girls, Thuy and Tien, both aged 20, have now finished 2 years of study at a technical college in Go Vap specializing in economics and accounting, and both now have jobs, Thuy in a bank and Tien as an accountant, so they are able to support themselves and have left the Home”.

It’s been two years since I met the girls in Ho Chi Minh. 5 out of 6 girls I was teaching Sugar left the shelter. One day I’ll visit them again.

 

Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part One) December 24, 2011

I was going to write about The art of happiness in the troubled world book, but my computer caught a virus. Instead of getting mad at the hackers who wrote that virus I thought of a topic for my blog. First, let me tell you what I learned about Virtual Reality and the role of technology in psychology during the 119th APA Convention back in August. I attended at least 4 sessions about it.

Assessment of video game use. They were talking about Star Craft Game, and how it is popular to watch it in Korea. Spectators want to become players and win one day, even though their chances are pretty slim. We watched a video about thousands of spectators observing players of the game live in a big space which looked like a concert hall. People were rooting for their favorite players, eating and drinking. It looked crazy to me. Competitive video gaming is new to the US.

Is video gaming just for fun? The answer is no. For older adults games are used as therapeutic and learning tools. For example, insurance companies are developing video games to help reduce number of accidents per member. For children, some video games help improve pro-social skills, working memory, cognitive process speed. For people with disabilities, to learn and develop skills, example, read together and talk together. learningworksforkids.org, based in RI, suggests smarter playing curriculum. They use with children Say, Do, Review technique, so that children learn, practice and remember, they also take breaks between activities and do physical exercise. It’s called “play diet” that helps make video games digitally nutritious.

Video games are not intergenerational yet, but the goal is to help parents transfer their knowledge to children in interactive way.

Clinical use of video games – measures are still being developed, as there should be corrective index to adjust scores, not only self-report measures and interviews, etc. There is also a need for age appropriate measures, measures of stability, engagement, content (solitary, violent, competitive) and lists of side effects (unequal potential effects, consequences. etc).

Students spend too much time on games instead of studying. Impulse control is still hypothetical and can’t be observed or how it triggers behavioral addiction. Methodology is not efficient based on analogy. It is necessary to rate and analyze effects not only of new games but current games.

Virtual Reality (VR) is “a consciousness-noticing machine” and could be immersion(with goggles) and avatar-based. IBM plans to create avatars for every employee in 4 years, they will have new 3-D studio; it helps employees to better communicate. Avatar: “you are not a gadget”.

Examples of VR: flat public – Second life, flat secure – Inworld solutions, immersion public and immersion secure – Virtually Better.

Why VR is popular? It is an incarnation for some, virtual ability to be anything you want. So far there are ½ billion online game players. On average, 1 hour per game. Average age of the player is 10-15 y.o. In 2013 there will be 2 billion users. Online games help satisfy the need for human interaction. They also make changes in human behavior.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer

 

One hell of a dream September 12, 2011

Fall 2000-Spring 2001 I was in NYC, struggling to adjust to new culture and find ways to go to grad school. In the summer of 2001 I made a friend, who got killed two months later in a car accident. When I learned about her death, I was in California, on a spontaneous trip from San Fran to Los Angeles. Running out of money, I couldn’t continue my trip even further, so I remember getting to the Los Angeles Airport and buying a $100 ticket in cash to New York, where I still had some of my stuff. It was the 10th of September 2001.

What is really strange, I remember being on the plane and having the feeling of detachment and emptiness. I wasn’t afraid of anything happening on the flight, as I had nothing to lose, I thought. In a way I didn’t see any meaning in my life. I was just passing by.

When I arrived in New York, I went straight to my friend’s place, who lived in Brooklyn. In the morning of Sept 11, I was still sleeping when the land line phone rang. I didn’t want to pick it up but to continue sleeping. The answering machine was on and I heard my friend saying: “Marina, wake up, wake up, the war has started”. I immediately picked up the phone and still not completely awake tried to understand what she was saying. She told me about the first tower going down. And then I turned TV on and learned the whole story: the terrorist attack on America. My friend’s apartment was in the basement of a small house, the owners, an Orthodox Jewish family, lived upstairs. According to their religion they didn’t watch TV, but on that day, the couple came to watch TV too. We all wanted to know what will happen to the country, to us, to the whole world. We felt horror, grief, shock and fear. We felt compassion for all. As I stepped outside the house, in the middle of the day there were no sun, only grey clouds covering the sky and pieces of ash falling down on us. It did look like the end of the world.

I was scared and wanted to escape, to go back to Massachusetts, but couldn’t do it for several days as all public transportation was shut down between cities .When I finally made it back to the Vineyard, I met up with a friend of mine who knew Lena, the one who died in the car accident. That friend said that we should not worry about Lena, as she definitely went to heaven, not hell. Still horrified by the latest events, I was thinking too much about Lena, the victims of 9/11 and myself… How unfair their deaths are. Who decides who will die or who will live? Are we worth living?.. And right after our conversation I had a dream:

I’m in the office, there are people around me, who are working. I’m doing something as well, probably, work too. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a man dressed as a government official comes to me and says: “Your time is up, you have to go.” Taken by surprise I couldn’t help but ask in return: “Already? And who decided? Where, to hell?” He doesn’t answer, which I interpret as “not heaven”. I try again by asking: “Is it final?” He quietly says: “Yes”. All I could say is “I don’t agree, I demand to see a decision maker”. He, definitely surprised by this turn in our conversation, pauses but then gives me a sign to follow him. I enter some private office, the messenger man leaves and the door closes behind him. And in there I see another man, more established, in gray suit, sitting at the desk. He doesn’t speak, because he knows that I asked for this audience and I’m the one who will be speaking.

I don’t even remember how but I sat in a chair in front of the table and full of emotions I started my emotional speech.”Why do you think that it is my turn that came? Is it because I didn’t do any good deeds in this lifetime? Because I only wasted my time given to me? If I haven’t done anything so far, that doesn’t mean that I will not do anything in the future. You are supposed to give everyone a chance. There are circumstances and a person may experience difficulties, but that doesn’t mean that she is not capable of anything good. I know that I have a lot ahead of me. And may I ask what kind of right do you have to deprive me of my life, when my parents are alive? My mother told me that she will not be able to survive the death of her children. Did you think about consequences of your decision?  That by ending my life you will end the life of my mother?”

All that time the man in gray suit, who was the boss of that department or the chief of death, and on whose decision depended whether I’ll live or die, didn’t look at me even once. He was busy writing something in his notebook. I couldn’t see what he was doing exactly or what his was writing. Maybe he was taking notes about my life, or was studying my life case. I was scared as I thought he was calculating and weighing what I’ve done more in my life – good or bad. In every moment he could stop me and say “Enough, your case is closed, not sufficient evidence to let you live…”

And suddenly, I saw him put his notebook on the desk and I peeked in it. In front of me in this whole grayish setting I saw on the paper a big red heart that the man drew while I talked. And in that moment I realized that I’m allowed to live more but under condition that I create more good things in my lifetime. And I woke up.

Reposted from http://www.theultimateanswer.org/blog/2011/09/11/ten-years-ago-my-dream/

 

Girl’s stories May 30, 2011

This is the first time I learned their stories, and some of them are shocking, you wouldn’t tell if you saw them that they had hardship in their lives, because they are full of life and positive energy. The following is from Celia’s file about 6 girls I taught last year:

Ho Thi Hoang Anh (1995) is 15.  She is an orphan who was begging at the Saigon train station before coming to Ba Chieu Home.   Her father was from Hong Kong, and went back there.  Her mother died of breast cancer in 2000.  Hoang Anh came to the home in 2002.  She finished Class 6 with above average in 2009 and wants to be a kindergarten teacher. (She also wanted to be a teacher 2 years ago.) In 2010 she finished Class 7 also with above average grade. She likes sewing.

Nguyen Thi Huong (1993) is now 17.  She was abandoned by her father, her mother works but is too poor to look after her.

She finished Class 7 with above average grade in 2009 and Class 8 also above average in 2010.  Huong likes cooking.  She wanted to work in finance and banking when she grows up but is now favouring cooking (chicken with ginger is her favourite dish).

Ho Thi May Hanh (1990) is 20.  She was abandoned by her mother, so her father looked after her and they earned their living by collecting rubbish.  She has been in the home for 8 years since 2002.

She has always liked to cook, and gave me the recipe for Bun bo Hue.

She finished Class 9 (end of Junior High School) in 2009 with above average grade and Class 10 with excellent. She is now going on to study at a City School for 4 years from which she should graduate with 2 certificates, one in accounting and the other a high school certificate.

The following three girls are not longer at the shelter, and as Celia mentioned it is a good thing because it means that they reunited with their families:

Nguyen Cat Tien (1995) was abandoned by her parents and came to the Home 4 years ago.  She finished Class 5 with average grade in 2009 and Class 6 also with average in 2010.  She likes to cook

 and wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up.

Pham Thi Mai Thao (February 1997) is 13.  She came from Ben Tre.  Her family migrated to Ho ChiMinh City to find work as servants and were transient with no home.  Thao has just finished Class 7 with excellent.  She enjoys literature.

Phan Thi Huong (1994) is 16. She’s finished Class 8 with average in 2009 and Class 9 also with average in 2010.  She will now leave school and start a 2 year course in hospitality learning the restaurant trade. She wants to work in a restaurant.  She left the Home to go back to her family.

 

olpcMAP May Update: Part Two May 29, 2011

Disappearing markers: The latest update to Google AppEngine should help us store all of our markers, without worrying about them disappearing on us. http://googleappengine.blogspot.com/2011/05/app-engine-150-release.html

They’re announcing a couple of things at the Google I/O Conference and
we’ll have to go over their blog posts in the next few days to find out
how it can help olpcMAP.

Still interested in getting it on WikiMedia ToolServer, though.  Bastien
(Wikimedia) was very interested in the possibility when we talked.

Collection: Here are the XO maps of the world, Uruguay, and La Rioja in Argentina:

* http://i.imgur.com/fsF2W.png
* http://i.imgur.com/hQR6y.png
* http://i.imgur.com/FcH99.png
Interactive map (random URL is random)
http://www.openheatmap.com/view.html?map=DeclassifiedEfrainsChiselled

Summary: As part of my Plan Ceibal work, I have significantly updated the OfflineMap activity.  Built-in maps library, compatibility with Google Earth files, measuring tool, extensions for users with internet connections, and other features and improvements.  I’ll upload it when I get home.

Nick finally flew back to his homeland after two months of working for Plan Ceibal. We (OLPC family and blood related family) met at Royal East in Cambridge to celebrate his return. After just one week at home he will move on to bigger places and things. He will do an internship in ESRI, then possibly Facebook in the fall and starting Jan 2012 he will participate in Code for America fellowship program. He said:” This is exactly the opportunity I’ve been looking for – one that combines civil engineering with technical, computer-sciencey stuff.  I don’t know which city I will be working for, but much of next year I will be at the program’s office in San Francisco”.

OLPC Foundation (Boston office) has moved to its new office in Cambridge. Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!

 

olpcMAP May Update: Part One May 28, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The month of May is almost over. There was a lot of happening. For those who missed (including me) EduJam in Uruguay and OLPC Summit, check out the blog and pictures at http://olpcuruguay2011.wordpress.com. Updates from Nick:

The map activity: Hola mapmakers!

As part of my Plan Ceibal work to get web activities playing nicely with recent builds of Sugar, especially the XO-1.5, I have updated the
Map activity. Download today: http://maptonomy.appspot.com/Map-12.xo. Your up-to-date XO-1, or any XO-1.5 (even HS), now can:
– Search and explore maps from Google and OpenStreetMap
– Write descriptions of places; plot lines and shapes
– Add photos, Wiki articles, olpcMAP dots, and WikiMapia places inside
your map view

– Use an online library to download maps used by
firefighters and biologists

– Collaborate with other XOs on the same mesh/Jabber network.
Collaboration shares the view, markers, and other map data.  So several users can add points and edit each other’s descriptions.  If one user visits the map library or imports a Google Earth points map, the points are shared with any connected laptops.  Same thing for OfflineMap and mesh networks. We have a few XO-1.5s going to a school in the Congo this summer, and they are absolutely psyched about mapping! 

From the Summit: We’re at the Uruguay summit now, about to have Adam say a few words about olpcMAP along with other communities’ favorite web tools.  Etherpad is popular in South America.

I get to represent Uganda in a panel tomorrow, and then there’s the freeform “unconference” part where I know there’ll be a lot of
discussion about one of the Plan Ceibal projects. Also, we just got news here at Plan Ceibal that they are looking to buy
Kindles.  They also have many teachers using the Intel Classmate laptops to view music and video.  I don’t think there’s as much support for the XOs except that they are cheaper when you are giving them to all students.

New feature: For any future Jams, people can indicate if they are participating, like they did for eduJAM Summit: Go to http://olpcMAP.net/jam, use the search, open your marker, and select “Join Jam” (next to edit). We also have a page at http://olpcMAP.net/jam/es that’s in Spanish. Translation is welcomed.

Disclaimer: this is (a) experimental and (b) totally unofficial – not sponsored by ceibalJAM or Plan Ceibal.

 

 
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