April 20, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

In this blog post I want to explore the value of sharing educational resources by looking at the continuing benefits each of the contributors to "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist" have received from their efforts.

Fifteen years ago I began work on an open textbook called "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist".  Having worked on Summer curriculum projects in 1993 and 1994 organized by the visionary supervisor of Mathematics in Prince George's County Public Schools, Dr. Martha A. Brown, I had already seen both the power of collaborative educational materials creation as well as the show stopping limitations caused by the inability to effectively reproduce and distribute the end products of such effort. The World Wide Web was just beginning to appear at that time, and I began dreaming of the day when educators would be able to use it to create and share educational resources. The non-hierarchical nature of such collaboration would be liberating, I imagined, freeing the creative spirit within teachers who participated and providing direct educational benefits to the whole world. About 6 years later I had the opportunity to test this idea in practice, and now about 15 years after that I can look back and describe how it worked. 

I've just returned from Pycon 2014, the 12th annual community sponsored conference of the international Python community.  I attended the the 2nd annual education summit this year, and inspired by both the summit and the graduate class I'm taking this semester, I spent some time online researching the availability of open textbooks and other open educational resources, which appear to be proliferating at a sizable rate of late (Open educational resources, n.d.). 

While poking around these materials I came across a new interactive version of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (Miller, B., Ranum, D., Elkner, J., Wentworth, P., Downey, A., & Meyers, C. 2013). I was aware this existed since Brad Miller emailed me when he started working on it back in May of 2011.  Unfortunately, I haven't been teaching Python during the regular school day for the last 5 years, so I didn't have time to get involved with this project, and it slipped from my mind. Rediscovering it now, I was amazed. As the overview page for the tools that Brad and David are developing illustrates, they are extending the document publishing tool we use in the Python community to include sophisticated assessment item types as well as visualization tools (Miller, B., & Ranum, D., 2013). They have packaged their work into a project called The Runestone Interactive Library (2014), and have a collection of books already using their tools. With the prospect of the STEM program for which I changed jobs 5 years ago finally emerging, it is time for me to get back into working on Python resources, and I am delighted to see how much progress has been made developing and enhancing the free tools to do this while I was away.

Looking back, I am struck by how much I have benefited from contributing to How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. I suspect that most of the other contributors would echo this sentiment. Here are some of the different versions of the book together with the people who worked on them:

1998: Original Java version by Allen Downey

1999 - 2002: First edition of the Python version translated from Java to Python by Jeff Elkner.  Professional Python programmer Chris Meyers joined shortly thereafter. Allen published this version of the book through Green Tea Press  (Downey, A., Elkner, J., & Meyer, C., 2002).

2002 - 2012: 2nd edition of the Python version, rewritten to be more "Pythonic" by Jeff and Chris (Elkner, J., Downey, A., & Meyers, C., 2012, April 12).

2012: Prof. Peter Wentworth creates the third edition of the Python book using Python 3.   (Wentworth, P., Elkner, J., Downey, A., & Meyers, C., 2012, October 1). He has since created a version of the text using C#  (Wentworth, P., 2014, March 7).

2013 - Present: Brad Miller and David Ranum create tools to make an interactive version of the book (Miller, B., Ranum, D., Elkner, J., Wentworth, P., Downey, A., & Meyers, C., 2013).

Without Allen Downey's original version of the book using Java, I would not have been able to make the switch to Python in my classroom back in 1999.  Because I did, Allen was introduced to Python (by "reading his own book" as he said in a preface to a later work).  Allen is now a regular author of books published by O'Reilly but still available as free textbooks, including his "Think" series.  Several of the books in this series, including Think Python, Think Complexity, and Think Bayes, use Python. When Peter Wentworth wanted to try Python in 2012, he benefitted by having a free book to start with together with the right to modify it to suit his purposes and the tools to make it easy for him to do this.  When he wanted a C# book a few years later, he could use these same tools and his own early book as a foundation to start from. When Brad Miller and David Ranum wanted to experiment with building new tools to make textbooks more interactive, they were aided by having a free textbook to which they could apply their work.

As I prepare to return to teaching computer programming and start working on a new textbook aimed at aspiring web developers (2014) , I will borrow from and build on the work and ideas of each of the other contributors to this project.  This blog post has actually only scratched the surface of documenting how and where this book has been used. It has been translated into many other languages, both natural and programming.  It has been read by people all over the world. I've received emails from people as far away as Korea telling me how much they appreciate this book being available to them online.  I'm glad for this opportunity to write some of this history down, and wish I had the time to dig further, but it is more important now to get back to work on the book.


Downey, A., Elkner, J., & Meyer, C. (2002). How to think like a computer scientist: learning with Python. Wellsley, Mass.: Green Tea Press.

Elkner, J., Downey, A., & Meyers, C. (2012, April 12). How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python 2nd Edition. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://openbookproject.net/thinkcs/python/english2e/

Elkner, J. (2014). Beginning Python Programming for Aspiring Web Developers. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.openbookproject.net/books/bpp4awd/

Miller, B., & Ranum, D. (2013). An Overview of Runestone Interactive. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://interactivepython.org/runestone/static/overview/overview.html

Miller, B., Ranum, D., Elkner, J., Wentworth, P., Downey, A., & Meyers, C. (2013). How to Think like a Computer Scientist: Interactive Edition. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://interactivepython.org/courselib/static/thinkcspy/index.html

Open educational resources. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources

The Runestone Interactive Library. (2014). Runestone Interactive. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://runestoneinteractive.org/

Wentworth, P., Elkner, J., Downey, A., & Meyers, C. (2012, October 1). How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python 3. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://openbookproject.net/thinkcs/python/english3e/

Wentworth, P. (2014, March 7). Think Sharply with C#: How to Think like a Computer Scientist. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.ict.ru.ac.za/Resources/ThinkSharply/ThinkSharply/index.html

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at April 20, 2014 01:49 PM

April 18, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Senate Support for Free Textbooks

In a blog post on the Care2 website, Kevin Matthews writes about a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last November which would help fund the creation of open textbooks (2013). The Affordable College Textbook Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Al Franken, aims to help address the skyrocketing cost of education by greatly reducing the amount that students have to pay for textbooks (Bill Text, 2013).

This bill strikes at the heart of the key question facing our society as we move through the 21st century - will we as a species be able to transition from the self-destructive organization of society around production for exchange toward the more rational and hopefully planet saving organization around production for use based on need?  It will not be easy even in this simple case to make the transition. As Mr. Matthews correctly points out,
Inevitably, the Affordable College Textbook Act will face criticism from people asking whether the government should get into the textbook industry at all and to leave the cost up to the "free market" (2013). 
The textbook industry will certainly use whatever lobbying power it can muster to make this argument, but as Mr. Matthews also points out, lack of student choice in which textbook to purchase make textbooks a very poor example of a "free market". Mr. Matthews also describes the process that textbook publishers have traditionally used to keep the used textbook market from providing any solution to the skyrocketing textbook costs - releasing new editions every few years to keep used textbooks from being usable.

Open textbooks can be read for free on the Internet or printed for a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.This makes open textbooks a pretty compelling case of openly shared resources being of direct benefit to society.

By making the reproduction and distribution of open textbooks so inexpensive, the Internet opens the possibility of global access to educational resources on a scale never before imagined in human history. The only thing standing in the way of this access is the insuppressible urge on the part of the greedy to accumulate ever more at the expense of everyone else and regardless of the broader consequences. In his keynote address at Pycon 2014 in Montreal this past week, "Internet elder" John Perry Barlow summed up both the promise and the threat this way:

I felt there was something so naturally liberating about the Internet. That it was about connection; it wasn't about separation, which broadcast media obviously were. It was about a conversation, it wasn't about the channel. It wasn't about content, which is a word only recently derived when the containers went away. Note that. It's a code word for "We're a large corporation and we own all human expression and we call it content" (2014, 6:02).

Barlow, J. P. (2014, April 12). Keynote. pyvideo.org - Keynote - John Perry Barlow. Retrieved April 17, 2014, from http://pyvideo.org/video/2587/keynote-john-perry-barlow

Bill Text 113th Congress (2013-2014)S.1704.IS. (2013, November 4). Bill Text. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:S.1704:

Matthews, K. (2013, November 30). Will Congress Make College Textbooks Free?. Care2. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.care2.com/causes/will-congress-make-college-textbooks-free.html

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at April 18, 2014 05:54 PM

April 16, 2014

OLE Nepal

XO Data Visualization in the Field

After spending three months volunteering at OLE Nepal in Kathmandu, I got an opportunity to participate in a field trip to visit  program schools participating in OLE Nepal’s laptop program. Long-awaited time has come! Even though I missed an earlier trip to Baglung as I was bedridden with bronchitis, I recovered in time to join [...]

by martasd at April 16, 2014 08:35 AM

April 15, 2014

Tabitha Roder


Sharefest is an annual conference held in Hamilton, New Zealand, in September. In it’s seventh year, it aims “to encourage and develop an ongoing community of practice where those engaged in e-activities… can share their innovations and experiences” (http://wordpress.isle.ac.nz/shar-e-fest-2014).


Theme: E-learning in practice: How are learning technologies and social media being used effectively to enhance student learning and achievement?


Keynote speaker: Professor Jan Herrington 


  • First call for papers:  8 July 2014
  • Conference: 29-30 September 2014

Registration: click on the “register” link and you get sent an email to activate your membership 

Submission: the submission system will go live in early July, so plenty of time for you to prepare!

The old website provides a bit of history and the flavour of the event. 

by tabitharoder at April 15, 2014 09:40 AM

April 14, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

eLearning 1

For the last several weeks of my Higher Education in the Digital Age course, I have been tasked with investigating and writing about a current topic (or a set of current topics) within the course purview. As a math / information and communication technology (ICT) teacher, I wanted to chose a topic that would be directly relevant to what I do in the classroom. Inspired by our investigations in class, I've been using several online resources this Spring with my students, including Code Academy and Khan Academy. I've also been maintaining my own online educational resources on ibiblio.org since 1999. Since the start of school this year, I have been hearing about flipped classrooms in professional development and staff meetings at work. At the Education Summit I attended at Pycon last Thursday, I learned that the MOOC platform edX runs on a completely free software stack, which has been released as a project called Open edX. This greatly increases my level of interest in exploring MOOCs, since I can do so without violating my commitment to software freedom.

My goal for our end of course investigations will be to some how tie all these things together, to look at how they relate to each other, and to develop a short to medium term plan for how to use these tools in my work as a teacher.  I'll also use this opportunity to jot down some thoughts on what a longer term plan might look like.

The first thing to do is to figure out if there is a single term that can be used to refer to all these differing tools and technologies, which have in common only that they make use of the World Wide Web. After poking around on Wikipedia, it seems that the best fit is the term eLearning.  Specifically, what I'm interested in is web eLearning. So for my current topics investigation I plan to explore how I can use web eLearning in my teaching.

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at April 14, 2014 04:56 PM

Sayamindu Dasgupta

B.R. Ambedkar and his prophecies

Today, 14th April, is the birth-day of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Indian Constitution. I hadn’t read much of Ambedkar before, and I almost accidentally stumbled upon his work while reading John Dewey as a part of grad-school work. Ambedkar, it turns out, studied under Dewey at Columbia, and considered Dewey as one of his favorite teachers — a paper outlining the influence of Dewey on Ambedkar can be found here.

A couple of weeks back, I was reading the speech that Ambedkar gave towards the end of the constitution drafting process. Even after nearly 65 years, the speech rings largely true, in an almost prophetic manner. The text of the entire speech is available online as a part of the public parliamentary proceedings (volume XI, part 11, pages 55–63), and here are some excepts that I thought are extremely relevant even today:

‘If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.’

‘This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.’

‘On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.’

by sayamindu at April 14, 2014 05:25 AM

April 12, 2014

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

olpc 2.0: challenge to makers

I made a presentation at the Maker Faire@Shenzhen Educational Panel forum on April 7, 2014. As there were  many makers from all over the world, I took this opportunity to challenge makers to contribute their expertise in building the next device/devices for olpc 2.0. I used Einstein quote and a recent comment of Walter Bender to illustrate a few points on making  learning tools.

I met the Malaysian group whose members  are mainly from Penang Science Cluster (PC). Ha had a nice photo taken together with Dale Dougherty.  PCP will be running a very large Science Fair in Nov 15-16 this year :-). The date struck a chord :-) 

Maybe a reminder that basecamp2014 should continue into Penang as we trek into asia? Let see where the karma of olpc 2.0 will take.

I managed to have long discussions with 2 low-cost motherboard developers to ignite their interest in helping develop Open Learning Platform Devices olpc 2.0. They (and their staff)  were  impressed with the current XO4-touch, and now have a better understanding of  its value and WHY the XO laptop is the best integrated solution for children in harsh environment.

In my talk,  50%  have heard about OLPC, but less then 10% have actually touched one. I found out that Joey Hudy don't own one :-( 

Makers from various part of the world made use of  idle time (during bus travel) to explore the XO4 Touch and are IMPRESSED. A Japanese maker mentioned that the XO is the ultimate geek hacking tool sought after by friends he know. On that note, maybe I will engage this super evangelist for a Japanese sponsored deployment team in the future!

Other highlight is a glimpse into the manufacturing process of products at various Shenzhen factories :-). Manual labor is still needed in the process. Enjoy this Gear Activity that I found fascinating to watch. Just don't stick your fingers in it!

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at April 12, 2014 12:19 PM

April 09, 2014

Tabitha Roder


Manaiakalani is an elearning and literacy strategy that is being coordinated out of Pt England School but includes a lot of schools in the Tamaki region of Auckland. 

The plan was/is to get one netbook per child (almost like one laptop per child but not quite?) for students from year five through to year thirteen, and to distribute wireless broadband into homes in the community, increasing family engagement in education. The first netbooks distributed run Ubuntu and they use Google apps for managing their work. Software in the build includes GIMP, Scratch and TuxPaint. The newer devices are Chromebooks. 

To see how it all fits together you might want to check out the Tamaki Achievement Pathway website.



The Manaiakalani Hackers meet at Pt England fortnightly to support the project, along with all the other stakeholders: teachers, students, families, philantrophists, researchers, contributors, and the Manaiakalani Education Trust (hopefully I included most of the stakeholders in my list!). 

Us hackers wrote some design principles way back in the beginning, which we revisit occasionally to see if we are still on the same page. We have indepth honest discussions at our meetings – rowdy, passionate discussions – where lots of points of view were brought to light and thrashed about. We frequently have guests at our meeting and all the given feedback is very useful.

I think the role of the hackers and the Trust are to facilitate the changes necessary, so technology is developed, and solutions tailored to be appropriate to the pedagogy desired.



Wow! Looking back over the last few years since Manaiakalani started, here are some highlights courtesy of http://www.manaiakalani.org/our-story 

  • Tamaki College became New Zealand’s first state secondary school go fully digital in 2012 with all 600+ students with netbooks and has doubled its NCEA level 2 results for Māori and Pasifika in its first digital year making it among the top 60 improving schools in country
  • We have research validated rates of improvement for reading, writing and number across its primary schools that exceed national averages
  • We have developed and tested a software product called the Teacher Dashboard which is now in is the hands of 1m + users in the USA and elsewhere
  • Commercial partners have invented a wireless network that has gets UFB quality wireless into family homes for $4 netbook per month
  • More than 1500 families on an average adult income of $19k are paying off netbooks at $40 deposit and $15 per month over 3 years with an 80%+ payment success
  • Nearly $4m over 4 years has been raised to support this innovation and nearly 30% comes from parents
  • Tamaki year 9 students are sitting internal assessment online (NZQA have announced all exams will be online in 10 years)
  • We are creating a digital teaching academy in 2014 partnering with the University of Auckland.

The success comes down to:

  1. Collaboration across 11 schools where ‘all boats rise on a rising tide’
  2. Parent as investors with support from commerce and philanthropy
  3. Results focus on reading, writing and number with comprehensive research
  4. Shared pedagogy across cluster – Learn, Create and Share
  5. Affordable infrastructure



by tabitharoder at April 09, 2014 12:03 AM

April 08, 2014

Tabitha Roder


After years of volunteering for One Laptop Per Child and Sugarlabs (I started mid 2008), it is very exciting to share with you that there are now New Zealand schools using the “One Laptop Per Child” XO laptops in both English and Maori. There are more than two million XO laptops distributed around the world, with over five thousand in the Pacific, and over seven thousand in Australia

A not-for-profit charitable trust, OLPC New Zealand has now been established in New Zealand to “to empower educators to lead and inspire children to learn through innovative use of affordable technology”. 

XO Laptop New Zealand Empowering Kids Learning

The first school to get them is Te Wharekura o Manaia. You can read all about it in the Hauraki Herald.  Based in the Coromandel, this is a bilingual school making the most of the opportunity to have laptops in Te Reo. When I visited this school I met some of the fabulous teachers and students who are using the XO laptops and saw just how much they had discovered in their first weeks.  

With over one hundred laptops now in the hands of kiwi kids, it is a good time for you to step forward if you want to be involved. There are lots of ways you can help, so contact the OLPC New Zealand trust to find out how. 


by tabitharoder at April 08, 2014 11:47 PM

Implementing an LMS

A couple of days ago I was asked for a few ideas on how to get started with writing an LMS implementation plan. I thought some readers here might be interested in what I wrote to the enquirer. The following is not a complete how to, but might help with those first conversations before the real planning starts. 


Identify your stakeholders

Obviously students, teachers, academic and administrative staff at your institution, and ICT staff, but stakeholders could also include (but are not limited to) – industry partners, parents, mentors, employers, standards bodies (your national qualifications authority or your industry governing bodies), prospective students, partner learning institutes, …

Considering your stakeholders, identify who should be in your project team and write up what you think their roles could be.



In your project plan list what is in-scope and what is excluded. 

  • Will the LMS take enrolment automatically from your student management system? Enrolment is one of the most important things to figure out and you shouldn’t underestimate how much work this might be.
  • Will your LMS pass grades out to an external records management system at your institution?
  • What customisation will your LMS site have have for your institution? Did you include marketing department in your stakeholder list?

Include in your plan what constraints there are and what assumptions you have made – e.g. financial constraints, time constraints, assumptions around IT support for staff and students…. is there wireless on campus for students to bring their own devices and can they connect, and Is investigating this something you list as in or out of scope?



Include in your plan some costings… servers and infrastructure, project management, external consultation, licenses if applicable, IT staff to setup the environment, trainers to teach the teachers/students how to use the LMS, designers if you are going to create course material for the teachers (though I wouldn’t! I would get specialists to help the teachers do this as a better long term investment).



You will need a communication plan. Decide how you will communicate the arrival of the learning management system to stakeholders, and how it will impact on them. Communicate the changes they can expect, the training that will be available, and the support they can access. 


Think about it as more than just setting up a website

Make sure you plan includes setting up a pilot before building your production environment, getting stakeholder feedback to ensure when put into production your LMS works in a way that meets your teaching and learning needs.

Have a testing environment for trying things out before they are put into production.


Supporting your LMS implementation

You will need documentation of the test, pilot and production environments.

You will need teacher and student guides to using your LMS (tailored to your institution). Face to face training, training videos, and other training resources and activities are all options that you should explore within the context of your institution. 

You will need IT support – phone, face to face, and email support for teachers and students, and potentially for other stakeholders.  


The future

Have a backup and recovery strategy.

Plan for future feature upgrades and decide if this will this be on request ad hoc, or at planned times such as six monthly or yearly.

Plan for maintenance, bugs, and security patching. You might have one day a month or quarter that is publicised as scheduled maintenance day, so as to reduce the impact of downtime for your students and staff. 



Decide how will you evaluate the project at the end – e.g. did it meet budget and time and quality expectations? Decide how you will measure quality – e.g. surveying students and staff and other stakeholders during pilot and after going into production, perhaps looking at academic achievement if improving this is a goal?

Be prepared to do something about it if the evaluation reveals areas your learning management system (or how it is used) can be improved. 



by tabitharoder at April 08, 2014 10:19 PM

April 03, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Unleash Kids Presentation from SCALE12x

James and I had a great time at SCALE, the Southern California Linux Expo!  We met so many incredible and interesting people, from the head of Business Development with Canonical (think Ubuntu) to fulltime parents interested in technology-driven education.  (Not to mention the dozens of kids who stopped by to play with the XO laptops at the booth.)

James and I were delighted to be accepted as speakers on the education track.  We gave a presentation highlighting our work in Haiti.  The presentation highlights two “Computer Club” deployments.  One is located at Odevich School in Ferrier, a town in the mountains about 45 minutes by car from Port-au-Prince.  The other is hosted by our friends at Hope for Haiti’s Children at Tit Place Cazeau, in the heart of Port-au-Prince just a few miles from the airport.

We were happy with the turnout, and it led to some exciting connections with teachers in the area.  We were able to capture the presentation on video, which you’re welcome to check out below.  Because of some technical difficulties, the video may jump ahead a few seconds every 10 minutes or so.

<iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="482" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/tbNgEH_EnW0?feature=oembed" width="642"></iframe>

by curt at April 03, 2014 09:36 PM

Sugar Labs Argentina

Que hay de nuevo en Sugar 0.100 y Sugar 0.102

Para nuestra charla mensual con docentes, organizada por Claudia Urrea, preparé dos videos, para mostrar que hay de nuevo en las últimas versiones de Sugar.

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by Gonzalo Odiard (noreply@blogger.com) at April 03, 2014 01:01 PM

Concurso de fondos de pantalla de Sugarlabs

SugarLabs invita a participar del concurso para crear fondos de pantalla para la próxima version de Sugar.

Ahora que en Sugar se puede cambiar el fondo de pantalla, sería genial poder acompañarlo con una colección del mejor arte hecho por nuestros usuarios. Creemos que es una forma de estimular las capacidades artísticas e involucrar a los niños en el proyecto de forma creativa.

Se pueden crear las imágenes con cualquier actividad, Pintar, Grabar, TortugArte, e inclusive con otros programas. El concurso comienza el 1ro de Abril y termina el 31 de Mayo.

Los invitamos a difundirlo para que participen la mayor cantidad de niños posible.

by Gonzalo Odiard (noreply@blogger.com) at April 03, 2014 12:58 PM

April 01, 2014

Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

Sugar Digest 2014-04-01

Sugar Digest

1. Daniel Narvaez just released Sugar 0.101.6 (unstable). See 0.102/Notes for detailed notes on changes since Sugar 0.100. The tarfiles are available at [1], [2],
[3] and new test builds are being prepared (keep an eye on 0.102/Testing). We’ve entered Feature Freeze (which had been extended by three weeks to enable us to land a few more features). Time to chase down bugs. Tip-of-the-hat to Gonzalo Odiard, Martin Abente, and Manuel Quiñones, who put so much effort into getting the last few features over the hump. Also, an extraordinary number of new features were contributed by our Google Code-in students: special kudos to Emil Dudev, Ignacio Rodriguez, and Sam Parkinson. Finally, it was really nice to see so many first-time contributors.

2. Gonzalo has made some videos demonstrating the new features in both Sugar 100 and Sugar 102.

3. We are reviewing Google Summer of Code applications. We had 35 applicants this year. We’ll know in a few weeks how many slots we get from Google.

4. I traveled to Colombia a few weeks ago with Claudia Urrea to visit a wonderful ANSPE project in Chia being run by Aura Mora. Saw some old friends (Sebastian Silva, Laura Vargas, and Sandra Barragán) and made many new friends. The highlights for me were the two Turtle Art workshops: one at the National University in Bogota and the other with the children in Chia.

5. Claudia and Erik Blankinship joined me on a panel discussion at LibrePlanet 2014. The panel, which will be available online, was “No more mouse: saving elementary education”.

:The lack of a mouse and the presence of “the mouse” are having a detrimental impact on global elementary education. The rush to adopt tablets is putting passive tools of consumption into the hands of young learners at a time in their development when “making” is paramount. The “Disneyification” of media further erodes the opportunity for personal expression by young learners. In this panel we will characterize these threats and discuss strategies for combating them.

In the community

6. Sugar Camp #3 - Paris, hosted by Bastien Guerry, will be held from 12-13 April in Carrefour Numérique – Cité des Sciences.

7. Claudia will be hosting a Learning Chat on Wednesday, 2 April, at 10AM EST, 15 GMT. The guest speaker will be Gonzalo. Please join us at irc.freenode.net #sugar-meeting. (These meetings will be held regularly on the first Wednesday of each month.)

8. The Sugar Background Image Contest has begun.

Tech Talk

9. I wrote a new activity while I was in Colombia: Word Cloud is a simple activity for generating word clouds from text.

10. Another new activity worth mentioning is Flappy by Alan Aguiar. Enjoy. (I cannot get past the first gate.)

Sugar Labs

11. Please visit our planet.

by Walter Bender at April 01, 2014 10:24 PM

March 28, 2014

ICT4D Views from the Field

Honoring International Women’s Day, Internet Society Features Chuuk Women’s Council

Reposted from The Internet Society Community Grants Blog:

Inspiring Change: Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council

Guest Contributor: KiKi Stinnett, President of Chuuk Women’s Council


The Chuuk Women’s Council is a 31-year-old community based organization on the Pacific island of Chuuk. It serves as the umbrella organization for 64 different women’s organizations Chuuk State Wide, Federated States of Micronesia, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts.


Kiki Stinnett, President of the Chuuk’s Women’s Council, writes about the installation of an Computer Learning Lab, something that was made possible through the work of Professor Laura Hosman from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an Internet Society Community Grant.




My name is Kiki Stinnett and I’m the President of the Chuuk Women’s Council, a registered NGO in the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Thirty-one years ago my mother and a group of local women started the CWC. They were mostly nurses and looking for a way to empower women in our community and promote healthier lifestyles.  While I decided to pursue a career in business, I still grew up influences by the CWC and over time it became a part of me.

When my mother passed away in 2009 I was elected President and have served the Chuuk Women’s Council in this capacity since her passing.

As an Islander I’ve always felt that being connected and staying connected with our culture and communities is important. Chuuk is a small island where women have a big voice and the ability to be heard on a wide range of issues.  We have a role to play in our part in the world which is very important.

Finding affordable Internet or even a computer in Chuuk isn’t easy. Many people who don’t live on the capital island of Weno don’t even have electricity, let alone a computer. In the CWC offices, for example, we initially had only 1 computer and it was such a precious commodity only a few designated people were allowed to use it.


So when Laura Hosman approached us about building a computer lab I knew it would be a perfect fit within our organization, with our core staff, and enhance the work we are doing.

We installed the laptops in our sewing room. In the morning we sew and in the afternoon it’s our computer lab.  We don’t charge for the use of the computers or the access to the internet.   Anyone can come in and use one of the laptops and the Internet.


It’s been amazing to see the reaction. We have girls as young as 8 coming in to do their homework.  It’s a real change for them because many of our schools don’t even have computers and those that do are usually not connected to the internet.

I’m really excited to see these young girls and visitors do things like reports, research, and learn online.  I mean, instead of spending their time watching boxing or movies on TV they’re now doing something that they consider cool and it’s also applicable to their education.

I really feel that with enough exposure to the Internet and computers these girls could easily be inspired to go on towards being engineers or scientists.

But they aren’t the only ones. One of the oldest women who comes to our center to use our computer and internet is in her 50s.  Many of these young girls and older women can only communicate with their off island children and relatives through Facebook and our center provides them the means to keep up with their loved ones.


It’s also invaluable when we give health education classes. Imagine seeing a heart actually pumping blood instead of looking at still pictures of it in a book. It’s changed our world.

We also want to set up an online shop for all the crafts that women make for our gift shop.  All the proceeds for those sales will go to funding many of the programs we run through the center.

As mentioned earlier, the computers and the internet also help us keep in touch with friends and family who live in other parts of the world.  That is so important to us as many of our family members live in the United States. It’s amazing to be able to hear from them and let them know about our lives in the Islands.

We’re also very excited to announce that we recently received a grant from the Government of Japan to expand the CWC Facility to include a second floor. This addition will provide another 2,600 sq. feet of space and will mean we will soon have a full time, dedicated computer lab for people to use any time they want.

Internet access and computers in the CWC are opening doors for our entire community and we’re so excited to see where this will take us.

We’re a small Island in Micronesia and because of the Internet we now know that there are people out there who are thinking about us.

What’s Next

The story of connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council isn’t over yet.  They’re currently looking to building a “Train the Trainer” program to improve the skills of those who are using the computer lab.  If you’d like to help you can contact the Women’s Council via their website or email them at cwcfiinchuuk@yahoo.com

by ljhosman at March 28, 2014 01:02 AM

March 24, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

The Future of Higher Education

We were asked this week in my Higher Education in the Digital Age class to consider the question "What will the university of the future look like?" and to address the role technology will play in changing the relationship between producers and consumers in higher education.  We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just considering what future universities will look like, however, as if we are only passive observers who are not part of the very society and the very historical processes that will determine what they are to become.

I've become a huge fan of Cathy Davidson since first being exposed to her work in the readings for our class. In a blog post only a few days back, Dr. Davidson asks the question, What If the Goal of Higher Education Was to Make World Changers? The title of a blog from the University of Texas's History program, "Designing History's Future", conveys the same idea, and as the post titled Duke21C’s Field Notes illustrates, there is a sharing of ideas going on between Texas and North Carolina. We should not consider the question of what future universities will become without simulateously considering what they should become, and what role we can and should play in making them become what we want them to be.

Our readings and viewings this past week made it amply clear that big changes are already underway in higher education, but these changes are often contradictory and their futher development could lead to very different futures.  Frontline's, "College, Inc", showed us a world of rapidly growing for profit colleges backed by powerful Wall Street lobbyists able to setup rules that enable them to get rich on Federally backed student loans and avoid the consequences when the poor and working class recipients of these loans are unable to pay them back. Continued hegemony by the neoliberal ideology behind this explosive growth in for profit schools will in short order lay waste to the very society on which it insatiably feeds (in the words of the late environmentalist Edward Abbey, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell").

Steven Johnson's TED Talk, Where Do Good Ideas Come From?, points us toward a very different and hopeful future. "An idea is a network", he says, and to create an optimal environment for good ideas we need to spend time "connecting" rather than "protecting" them. He ends with the statement, "chance favors the connected mind." This was definitely my favorite assigned "reading" of the week, and one I will think about and re-watch again and again.

Returning to the work of Cathy Davidson, I've continued reading a chapter a week of Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies, the collaborative, creative commons licensed "text book" she and a class of graduate students put together during a semester course at Duke called 21st Century Literacies: Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities. The book closely parallels the topics we are studying in class (coincidence?  I think not, but rather the clear result of connected thinking ;-)  It is a throughly enjoyable read.  I'm inspired by the way it effectively puts into practice the approach that Steven Johnson is talking about, and points us toward a future in which we can work together to solve the deep challenges that confront us.

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at March 24, 2014 12:48 AM

March 23, 2014

OLPC News - Independent Blog

Join Us on Educational Technology Debate

If you are looking for cutting edge commentary and deep analysis of one laptop per child movements around the world, or really, any and all uses of technology in education, please direct your attention to:

Educational Technology Debate


That's where everyone is now. Join us there. Thanks...


by Wayan Vota at March 23, 2014 09:25 PM

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

Wiring up: SEMOA dLEAP Project

Received this posting from the a local volunteer who is responsible for the physical wiring up of the  deployment site. dLEAP project is one of the coming many little deployments in "setting fires" that came about from basecamp@Malacca. A team will be visiting Malaysia in Easter for more followup. We will also implement the mLC (Mobile Learning Chest). This will flip the OLPC model a little :-)

Personally I am obsessed  to keep the OLPC heartbeats alive and strong. We are on a OLPC 2.0 journey track. XO4All

A gotong royong  effort with volunteers from another organisation .... to lay the physical wiring.

"Here's the setup diagram and some rationale behind the design:
- Avoid mains voltage cabling (primarily wooden buildings)
- Centralized power conditioning (rural power swings 190V-265V)
- Remote & simplified management
- Able to cover large areas (deployment site is 1 acre+)
The TP-Link switch (SG3424P) provides power over the network cable so the access points (DAP2553) are wall mounted with just the network cable. The access points are clustered so configuring one configures the rest. Right now, the wireless covers about 400sqm and supports about 130 simultaneous device connections - far more than the poor DSL connection can manage. Centralized UPS provides voltage conditioning and battery backup for School server and network.
I've saved the config files for everything so if another deployment uses the same equip, the setup is about 10 minutes"  Eugene Khoo

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at March 23, 2014 04:36 AM

March 22, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

A Satisfied Student

When I enrolled in the Doctor of Arts program in Community College Education at George Mason University, I hoped to organically combine formal study with the practical work I do in the classroom each day.  Midway through my second course in the program, I have not been disappointed.

The course I am taking this semester, titled Higher Education in the Digital Age, is proving to be just as relevant to my work as a classroom teacher in Arlington Public Schools as was last semester's course,  The Community College.

Last semester I wrote a final paper, Dual Enrollment in a High School Career and Technical Center as a Strategy to Address the Achievement Gap, that gave me the background I needed to make a post in a local community forum, Oppose Institutional Racism in the APS Budget Survey, which helped kick off a community effort to protect educational opportunity for adult immigrant members of our community. This effort appears to have been successful, and I have no doubt that my GMU study made me a more effective participant.

This semester we are looking into the future of higher education in the 21st century, and in particular the impact of educational games, flipped classrooms, MOOCs, Open Educational Resources, and other current technological innovations on education. This study motived me to start using Khan Academy with my students this year, which in turn led me to receive an invitation for a Google sponsored program to encourage female students to study computer programming using Khan Academy's new Intro to JS: Drawing and Animation course.

In addition to the Khan Academy programming course, I have also been making extensive use of the JavaScript and jQuery course materials on Codeacademy. Both of these resources are of the highest quality, and represent the effective use of online, interactive tools to enhance student learning.

In my current course at GMU, I am studying the broader context in which the new educational resources I am using in my classroom reside. This combination of theory and practice helps me make better use of both.

I am definitely and satisfied student with my GMU graduate program thus far.

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at March 22, 2014 05:51 PM

March 21, 2014

One Laptop per Child

The OLPC project is alive and well in The Queen City.

Making Digital Literacy a Reality for Everyone

Queens’ Knight School of Communication takes another step toward making Charlotte a model city for digital literacy

WHO:  The James L. Knight School of Communication is launching a digital literacy initiative at Ashley Park Elementary School, a school within the Project L.I.F.T. corridor. Project L.I.F.T. is a non-profit organization that transforms the way students who traditionally perform poorly in school are educated, focusing on nine schools within Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).


WHAT:  The Knight School has partnered with CMS,  One Laptop per Child, Mobile Beacon and EveryoneOn to clear away digital literacy obstacles for Ashley Park Elementary families and assist parents who cannot keep pace with the technological literacy required of their children. The Knight School will assess families’ technology needs; Mobile Beacon is donating 100 modems and is providing free in-home Internet access for the remainder of the school year to participating families; and One Laptop per Child has already provided students with computers. The initiative aligns with the Knight School’s overarching mission—to raise the digital media literacy rate of the city to improve the lives of Charlotteans—and the launch day will be celebrated by a Mayoral Proclamation.


WHY: The focus on Ashley Park Elementary follows the Knight School’s Digital Media Literacy (DML) Index, the first tool of its kind to produce a comprehensive view of DML competency across a municipality—in this case, the city of Charlotte. The community surrounding Ashley Park scored the lowest on the Knight School’s Charlotte area index; a deeper look at the data revealed the neighborhood has the lowest Internet use, contains the highest percentage of adults without a high school degree and has the highest percentage of households with an annual income less than $40,000.


WHERE:  Ashley Park Elementary School (Media Center)

2401 Belfast Drive, Charlotte


WHEN:  The Second Annual Digital Media Literacy Day, an initiative launched in 2013 by the Knight School

Friday, March 21, 2014, 9-10 a.m. and 4-5 p.m


  • Remarks by Dean Eric Freedman of the Knight School on the significance and importance of the initiative
  • Students and parents becoming more digitally literate – receiving lessons on how to use their computers, some who will be using computers for the first time


The mission of the James L. Knight School of Communication is to prepare consumers and creators of communication messages to become engaged citizens, advocates and leaders in the communities they serve. The Knight School offers a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Journalism and Digital Media, a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Communication, and a Master of Arts in Communication. Alumni thrive in such areas as journalism, media industries, advertising, public and community relations, law, human resources, sports enterprise, corporate communication, government and education.


Queens University of Charlotte is a private, co-ed, Presbyterian-affiliated comprehensive university with a commitment to both liberal arts and professional studies. Located in the heart of historic Charlotte, Queens serves approximately 2,400 undergraduate and graduate students through its College of Arts and Sciences, McColl School of Business, Wayland H. Cato, Jr. School of Education, James L. Knight School of Communication and Andrew Blair College of Health which features the Presbyterian School of Nursing.


Mobile Beacon provides fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband services exclusively to educational and nonprofit organizations across the United States. Mobile Beacon was created by a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is one of the largest national educational broadband service (EBS) providers in the country. Through an agreement with Clearwire, Mobile Beacon provides high-speed data services and mobile Internet access on the CLEAR 4G network. For more information, visit www.mobilebeacon.org.


EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet, computers, and free digital literacy accessible to all unconnected Americans. EveryoneOn aims to leverage the power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans—regardless of age, race, geography, income or education level. For more information, visit www.everyoneon.org.



One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression. In partnership with the public and private sectors and non-governmental organizations and supported by comprehensive implementation and pedagogical services, OLPC seeks to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power connected laptop that empowers individual learning and growth. Fore more information, visit www.laptop.org.

by mariana at March 21, 2014 01:50 PM

March 19, 2014


It's alive!

Given the recent excitement of dead/alive discussions about OLPC and olpc, I've put together a short set of questions to help assess where the "organization" is. By organization, I don't mean a company or an institution, but the organization in general. The questions are about mission, vision, strengths, and so on.

Here's the survey.


Don't peek into the results spreadsheet until you've taken a shot at the questions yourself. This will keep your responses objective. Above all, be sincere and descriptive in your responses.

Responses spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkOT_vj7z2NcdFJN<wbr></wbr>UnBzS2dIbHBXQTJDdVZoR29HSkE#<wbr></wbr>gid=0

Let's see what picture emerges.

by sverma at March 19, 2014 04:00 PM

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Cazeau Project in Review

The other day, Adam and I spoke with the teachers from Cazeau about how classes are going there. This is their sixth week with this group, which means they’re midway through the new lesson guide, and so far, so good. With half the course behind us, it’s a good time to take a look at everything that came together to make this happen.


Step 1: Get a good group to work with. 

You’ll notice that every step of the process is, in the end, a combination of both social and technical engineering. Luckily, we had people on our side with the range of skills we needed.

First off, none of this would have happened without our experienced, enthusiastic partners, Hope for Haiti’s Children. Special thanks to Ken Bever, who orchestrated it all (and bonus, can successfully navigate Haitian traffic jams to do it), and Lisa Hendrick, who first reached out to us.

Ken meets with local teachers, principals, and directors about the project.

Ken meets with local teachers, principals, and directors about the project.

All the Haitians behind this project are the true reason for its success. Thanks to them and our Haitian trainers, Junior and Jeanide, for welcoming us to their country and making the learning happen.

Student portrait of a teacher as a hero wielding his secret weapon, the XO laptop.

Student portrait of a teacher as a hero wielding his secret weapon, the XO laptop.

Finally, our crack team of volunteers… Adam Holt, Tim Moody, George Hunt, Curt Thompson, and his wife Chi worked under the beating sun and long into the night to get electrons flowing and signals broadcasting.

Tim, Curt, and Adam discussing where to install  from a good vantage point: the roof

Tim, Curt, and Adam up on the roof to get a better vantage point.


Step 2: Get to know the place and people

One of the first things I did when I got to Haiti, a month before training even started, was visit the site accompanied by Junior and Jeanide. There are lots of questions to answer when you’re attempting something like this. Things like “What happens if the electricity cuts out?” and “Will the wireless signal reach from the school to the church?” but also “What does the principal of the school think of this program?” and “Will we be working with kids from the school, or just from the orphanage?” Visiting early was a way to get a head start on finding the answers.

I ended up climbing onto the roof twice to get information about these batteries...Adam wanted the exact model numbers.

I took photos of the electrical set-up to give our team a better idea of what to prepare for.


Step 3: Get ready

The week before the big launch, six teachers attended training sessions with me, Junior, and Jeanide. Teaching computers is about so much more than the correct button to press.

Even the teachers sometimes get stumped on our Haiti map quiz.

Even the teachers sometimes get stumped on our Haiti map quiz.

This group caught on to the basics quickly and then impressed me with creative cartoons, flowcharts, and pictures. They even started getting ahead of us – one teacher asked me if instead of connecting the computers one to another, they could all connect to a central computer. “What you just described is a server,” I told him. “We’ll  be getting it here next week.”


Step 4: Get set

“Getting it here” is actually a pretty complicated process, of course. First, the pieces flew down with our tech team. These guys don’t waste time – their first hours in Haiti were spent surveying the site.

The kids are accustomed to working on homework right on this landing - we knew it would be important for the wireless connection to be strong there.

The kids are used to doing their homework on the landing, so we made sure the connection would be strong there.

The job was made harder by the fact that we were technically dealing with two locations. The school and orphanage are right next to each other, but the directors didn’t want students crossing into the orphanage side. So we adapted and ended up installing two different access points, one for each place.

George stringing cable over the wall.

George stringing cable over the wall.

Access point installed in the main school room.

Access point installed in the main school room.

I should also mention that the team put together software customized for our Haiti course, so another task was spending a few hours updating all the computers with it.

Chi and Sora testing laptops. That stack in the back is all the ones we have left to do.

Chi and Sora testing laptops. That stack in the back is all the ones left to do.



The first day of class, we divided the kids into teams and had a competition to see which one could take the best photos.

Off to take photos.

Off to take photos.

Teacher guiding the mouse.

Teacher guiding the mouse.

Picking out the best photo.

Picking out the best photo.

Listening to photo presentations.

Listening to photo presentations.

Team with the most votes gets a prize.

Team with the most votes gets a prize.


Show’s not over.

Our work doesn’t end when we leave the location. For one thing, after Cazeau, the team visited three more schools in three days, installing solar power in one and a server at another. But also because even after they got home, they continue to tackle issues like wireless connection difficulties that are so complex they can only be resolved after a stream of emails between smart people all around the world. And, of course, in our monthly conversations with the teachers, they report on their own progress and give us inspiration for new improvements that will make things easier for them and more fun for their students.

It’s been great to be a part of this work and watch the pieces come together. Seeing the kids smiling, sharing, and learning makes all the work worth it.

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by Sora Edwards-Thro at March 19, 2014 05:11 AM

March 18, 2014

Chris Ball

A Robot for Timo

Here at FlightCar Engineering we’re a very small team, and one of us — Timo Zimmermann — works remotely from Heidelberg, Germany. Timo’s an expert in the web framework we use, Django, and is awesome to work with: mixing together good humour, an enjoyment of teaching and learning, and deep technical expertise.

One day a link to Double Robotics got passed around our internal chat room — it’s an unexpected use of Segway technology, putting an iPad on top of a mobile robot and letting a remote participant drive the robot around while video chatting. We keep a video chat with Timo open while at work, so we were pretty interested in this.

There wouldn’t be much point in FlightCar buying one of these robots; our local developers fit around a single desk. Still, it would be useful to be able to video chat with Timo and have him be able to choose which of us to “look” at, as well as being able to join in with office conversations in general. Could we come up with something much simpler that still has most of the advantages of the Double robot in our situation?

I have a little electronics experience (from my time at One Laptop Per Child, as well as a previous fun personal project) and recently received a Kickstarter backer RFduino. Alex Fringes and I decided to go ahead and build a basic, stable/unmoving telepresence device as a present for Timo. Here’s what we did:

Parts list

$140 Bescor MP-101 pan head with power supply and remote control
$68 RFduino “teaser kit” + prototyping shield + single AAA battery shield
$29 Rosco 8″ Snake Arm
$13 Rotolight Male 1/4″ to 1/4″ adapter
$15 Grifiti Nootle iPad mini Tripod Mount

Total: $265 USD

I’m not counting the cost of the iPad (the Double Robotics robot costs $2500 and doesn’t include an iPad either), or the tripod we’re putting the Bescor pan head on top of (I had a monopod already, and basic tripods are very cheap), but everything else we used is listed above. Here’s the final result:

How it works

The pan head is easy to control programmatically. It has a 7-pin port on the back, and four of the pins correspond directly to up/down/left/right — to move in a direction, you just apply voltage to that pin until you want to stop. This is a perfect match for an Arduino-style microcontroller; Arduino is a hobbyist electronics platform that makes it easy to cheaply prototype new hardware creations, by giving you I/O pins you can attach wires to and a simple programming interface. Local electronics hacker and Tiny Museum-cofounder Steve Pomeroy helped out by determining the pinout and soldering between the remote control port’s pins and our RFduino’s prototyping board, and Alex set to work writing the code that would run on the RFduino and iPads. We ended up with an architecture like this:

So, to expand on the diagram: Timo moves his iPhone, the orientation is sensed and passed on to our local iPad via the nodejs bridge (which exists just to proxy through NAT), which converts it into a single letter “r”, “l”, “u”, “d”, or “s” (for stop) and then the RFduino reads a character at a time over Bluetooth Low Energy and sends a voltage pulse to the appropriate pin. We chose iPhone orientation sensing as the control mechanism at Timo’s end, but you could also use explicit direction buttons, or even something like face detection.

We decided to hide the fact that we were building this from Timo and introduced it to him as a surprise, coincidentally on Valentine’s Day. We love you Timo!

Finally, we’ve put all of the code we wrote — for the RFduino, the nodejs bridge, and the local and remote iOS apps — under an open source license on GitHub, so we’ve shared everything we know about how to build these devices. We’d be very happy if other people can help improve the features we’ve started on and find a cheaper way to build more of these!

(By the way, we’re hiring for a Lead Front End Engineer in Cambridge, MA at the moment!)

by cjb at March 18, 2014 01:52 AM

March 17, 2014

OLPC News - Independent Blog

Shutting down OLPC News

Resumen en español al final del artículo

Today we're announcing that we have decided to shut down OLPC News. That means we'll stop publishing new content but we won't take the site offline.

In retrospective this is something that I should have done six months ago when Wayan first brought this up. Or at the very least I should have simply used my Happy New Year from OLPC News post to do so because reading through it now it actually says almost everything I'd want to say in a goodbye post.

Writing up my South America experiences in Wayan's kitchen in August of 2010

So rather than repeat myself, my next thought was to take you on a quick trip down memory lane into how I got started on this rollercoaster ride with OLPC News and OLPC 7 ½ years ago. However 100 words in I realized that I was about to really repeat myself because I wrote all that up 2 ½ years ago when I formally took over the site and announced the Post-Wayan Era.

As such all that really remains to be said here is to thank all those who made OLPC happen (else, we would have had nothing to write about) and everyone who contributed to, commented (and yes, that also includes you Mephisto), shared, and read OLPC News and for making the past 7 years here such an amazing experience.

Looking at Google Analytics shows that we've had more than 2.2 million unique visitors and over 7.3 million pageviews since the site was launched. Including Wayan's Goodbye One Laptop per Child, OLPC Association's reply to it, and this final piece we'll have published 1842 articles which received a total of more than 16,000 comments. Aside of all these numbers I think it's fair to say that OLPC News has had a significant impact on the discussions around OLPC and within the wider ICT for Education (ICT4E) community (though I'm well aware that there's a range of opinions on whether that impact was positive or negative;-).

As for myself: What I wrote in that Happy New Year post back on December 31 still very much applies:

The core challenge that drives me remains figuring out how to integrate information and communication technologies in education in developing countries.

So while I will definitely remain part of the olpc community, I'll also continue to explore other approaches to improve learning with the support of technology. Given how much I enjoy writing you also shouldn't be surprised to stumble across the occasional post by yours truly on one or another ICT4E outlet. Especially since I strongly believe that the larger ICT4E world can still learn a lot from the aggregated experiences around OLPC and thereby avoid what Alan Kay once called "re-inventing the flat tire".

If you want to keep in touch please feel free to e-mail me at christoph@derndorfer.eu, keep an eye out for the occasional post on my personal blog or simply follow me on Google+ or Twitter.

Resumen en español: Hoy estamos anunciando que hemos decidido cerrar OLPC News.

En retrospectiva esto es algo que debería haber hecho hace seis meses, cuando Wayan por primera vez lo sugirió. O por lo menos debería haber simplemente usado mi Feliz Año Nuevo de OLPC NEWS articulo para hacerlo ya que lo leo ahora realmente dice casi todo lo que me gustaría decir en un post de despedida.

Así que en lugar de repetir a mí mismo mi siguiente pensamiento fue que le llevará en un viaje rápido como me inicié en este viaje con OLPC News y OLPC hace 7 años y medio. Sin embargo despues de 100 palabras me di cuenta de que yo estaba a punto de realmente repetirme porque escribí todo esto hace 2 años y medio cuando tomé formalmente el sitio y anuncié la era post-Wayan.

Como todo lo que realmente aún no se ha dicho aquí es como dar las gracias a todos los que hizieron posible a OLPC (sino habríamos tenido nada que escribir) y todos que contribuyeron, comentaron (y sí, eso incluye también a ti Mephisto;-), compartieron y leyeron OLPC News y para hacer los últimos 7 años aquí una experiencia increíble.

Google Analytics muestra que hemos tenido más de 2,2 millones de visitantes únicos y más de 7,3 millones de páginas vistas desde que se lanzó el sitio. Incluyendo los dos posts de Wayan de la semana pasada y esta pieza final habremos publicado 1.842 artículos que han recibido un total de más de 16.000 comentarios. Aparte de todos estos números creo que es justo decir que OLPC News ha tenido un impacto significativo en las discusiones en torno a OLPC y dentro de la comunidad más amplia de las TIC para la Educación (ICT4E) (aunque estoy muy consciente de que hay una gama de opiniones acerca de si ese impacto ha sido positivo o negativo;-)

En cuanto a mí: Lo que escribí en ese mensaje Feliz Año Nuevo de nuevo el 31 de diciembre todavía es muy válido:

El reto principal que me impulsa sigue siendo encontrar la manera de integrar las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación en la educación en los países en desarrollo.

Así, mientras que sin duda seguir siendo parte de la comunidad olpc, yo también voy a seguir explorar otros enfoques para mejorar el aprendizaje con el apoyo de la tecnología. Teniendo en cuenta lo mucho que me gusta escribir también no debe sorprenderse de tropezar con un mensaje mio en una o en otra publicacion sobre ICT4E. Sobre todo porque creo firmemente que el mundo ICT4E todavía puede aprender mucho de las experiencias globales alrededor OLPC y así evitar lo que Alan Kay una vez llamó "volver a inventar la rueda pinchada".

Si desea mantenerse en contacto por favor no dude en enviarme un correo electrónico a christoph@derndorfer.eu, mantener un ojo hacia fuera para el puesto ocassional en mi blog personal o simplemente seguirme en Google+ o Twitter.

by Christoph Derndorfer at March 17, 2014 10:05 PM

Hands of Charity XO Project | Kenya

The Real Learning Revolution

The Kenyan government will in the near future provide laptops to primary school students. Are the schools ready and able to absorb this opportunity?

Limuru TrainingGovernments are good at big top down initiatives, but the grass roots implementation needs people on the ground to be successful.  Kenya is rich in small entrepreneurial businesses, especially in the technology sector. Our non-profit’s technology in education initiatives have been received with great enthusiasm by schools and teachers still waiting for technology to arrive.  We have been implementing education programs in Kenya for 4 years, and have now joined a consortium of like minded organizations

Small Solutions and our Kenyan colleagues of the OLPC Kenya Alliance, just initiated 9 new programs introducing laptops to teachers and children from ages 4 – 12 to public schools in the Kiamba, Nyeri and Laikipia. Most children and teachers had never used a computer. With just a few hours of instruction, they were all able to successfully navigate the laptops and use many activities.   The teachers were more excited than the children. There were broad smiles as both teachers and students delved into the laptop learning activities. Several of the children after one hour with the laptops, said that these computers could help them expand their minds and knowledge. Pretty amazing statement.

This intervention at the grassroots works. The role of integrators and innovators is to use technology to accelerate learning and connect kids to knowledge and their peers worldwide.

It takes teams, like ours, ready to support the teachers.   We are one of many small organizations and NGOs working to improve schools in Kenya.  We believe that the government should consider working with groups like ours who can demonstrate proven successful programs and will be there in the long run.

The digital revolution in education is not a revolution if it only provides the same curriculum in a digital format. The challenge is to change the way that students think and learn. We are counting on them to solve enormous new problems that the 20th century civilization created.  We, the current responsible leadership, don’t have the time to solve them. The best we can do is to prepare this generation of children with the knowledge and tools to meet their future.

The Kenya OLPC Alliance is already on the path. Member schools have more than 3 years using laptops.  Our goals are to train others, build outreach teams, and innovation programs at regional hub school sites.  Our trainers are drawn from the talented pool of young Kenyan entrepreneurs, and technocrats.  These young adults know well the perils of Kenya education, and care about providing a better future for children.

Sandra Thaxter

Small Solutions Big Ideas and OLPC Kenya Alliance

http://olpckenyalliance.com   Sandra@smallsolutionsbigideas.org





by smallsolutionsbigideas at March 17, 2014 05:45 PM

March 14, 2014

Nancie Severs

I'm in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia! — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Where I stayed
<divclass> Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel

I can hardly believe it myself but I'm in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia! I've come to KL for the OLPC Base Camp Summit November 16-18 in Melaka (Malacca) Malaysia. We are all volunteers (and all financing our own trips. Some of us are meeting early (November 14) in KL to visit a rural school with XOs, ahead of the formal "Summit."

I had never been to Malaysia and so I planned two extra days to take a look around. I'm treating myself to the Renaissance KL because this hotel has the best resort pool area and fitness club in KL, and with my Marritott Rewards status, I have the Club Room meals included too. I booked through Agoda at a great rate, much better than those on the Marriott booking site. Tip: Always check prices for hotel properties on the alternative booking sites as well the home site. The hotel is great, from the very cool rain shower in the room, to the Club Room food, the pool and fitness club, and all of the hotel staff. I will not want to leave.

I had asked the Club Room "butler" to see if I could join a tour to the Batu Caves. The tour brochure says 2 person minimum to book and I am solo today. I got to join 3 lovely Emirates Flight Attendants for the 3 hour van excursion. This was a short and fairly easy excursion. I recommend it!

The Batu Caves is a series of Hindu Temples actively in use, built into lush green monoliths (mountains). The cave openings are at the top of many steps, I think more than 275. I climbed almost all of them but stopped before I got to the very top. When we arrived, we had a heavy rain-shower. We bought umbrellas &amp; continued on.:)

There are lots of monkeys around. The monkeys are smart and if they think you have any food at all, they will grab your bag or take the food right out of your hand. This is not cute &amp; it is best to avoid antagonizing the primates. Because if you get scratched or bitten by one, I promise you that the rabies shots will not be fun.

I enjoyed my new young friends, Celeste, Caterina, and Christina. I wasn't able to capture the true beauty of the light coming into the cave, while the sun shone and the rain fell simultaneously in a photo. But I will treasure the memory of that, and of this special day.

On my second day in KL, I took the modern Rapid Transit Underground Train to the old/restored Central Market. But the highlight of my day and evening was meeting with my friends Dr. Wai Wai Lee and Dr. Soo, at their KL clinics, and again this evening at my hotel. I had met Dr's Lee and Soo in Bangkok at the Thai Red Cross. We have a common interest in the snake anti-venom projects. Wai Wai purchases anti-venom to save the lives of animals she treats. The dogs she saves that are bitten by snakes are usually street dogs. These are the ones living by the rivers &amp; other places where there may be snakes. In addition to her busy private practice, Wai Wai is very active in saving street dogs and cats, and also in spaying and neutering these neglected animals.
Dr. Soo is a general practice medical doctor and Dr. Lee and Dr. Soo have each established their own clinics. I am so very impressed by their dedication, long hours and hard work, helping their patients and clients. With office hours 7 days a week, 10 hours a day, and also juggling the demands as parents of young children at home, I would like to borrow some of their energy!

Dr. Lee and Dr. Soo are very interested in Cambodia PRIDE's snake clinic project saving lives in rural Cambodia, and they made a generous donation for our work. 100% of every dollar donated to Cambodia PRIDE goes directlt to support its programs and every dollar changes lives. Thank you Dr. Lee and Dr. Soo for your incredible generosity!

Tomorrow our OLPC events begin with a trip to visit a rural Farm school that has some XO laptops. I am looking forward to it!

March 14, 2014 09:40 PM

March 12, 2014

One Laptop per Child

OLPC concentrating on its core values: education

OLPC’s mission to empower the world’s children through education is far from over. OLPC is thriving and making more inroads at bringing education to those who can’t easily access it. OLPC recently formed a strategic alliance with the Zamora Teran family through many of their enterprises and their philanthropic foundation, the “Fundación Zamora Teran to deliver XO laptops not only to Central and South America, but also to Africa.

Aside from distributing more laptops in several schools in Costa Rica, Uruguay is receiving its first 50k units of the XO-4 Touch (running Android) in a few weeks’ time. In addition, the XO Tablet is currently available directly through governments and NGOs, as well as in Europe and Canada and through all major retail outlets in the United States including Walmart, Amazon, Toys ‘R Us among the others.

OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values – education. As an example, we’ve partnered with the Smithsonian Museum to bring feature-rich, interactive and more targeted content to our young learners.

We have more exciting things planned in the horizon including the implementation of very large scale projects in several regions of the world, so be sure to stay tuned.

by mariana at March 12, 2014 02:29 PM

OLPC News - Independent Blog

News Flash: OLPC Association Lives On


While the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, the Boston branch of our favorite laptop project is dead, the OLPC Association, the Miami-based group focused on XO sales, jumped to life yesterday and pronounced its viability.

Here is Giulia D'Amico, Vice President of Business Development, on their present and future:

OLPC's mission to empower the world's children through education is far from over. OLPC is thriving and making more inroads at bringing education to those who can't easily access it. OLPC recently formed a strategic alliance with the Zamora Teran family through many of their enterprises and their philanthropic foundation, the "Fundación Zamora Teran to deliver XO laptops not only to Central and South America, but also to Africa.

Aside from distributing more laptops in several schools in Costa Rica, Uruguay is receiving its first 50k units of the XO-4 Touch (running Android) in a few weeks' time. In addition, the XO Tablet is currently available directly through governments and NGOs, as well as in Europe and Canada and through all major retail outlets in the United States including Walmart, Amazon, Toys 'R Us among the others.

OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values - education. As an example, we've partnered with the Smithsonian Museum to bring feature-rich, interactive and more targeted content to our young learners.

We have more exciting things planned in the horizon including the implementation of very large scale projects in several regions of the world, so be sure to stay tuned.

For those following along at home, the XO Tablet is interesting, I like it for the US market, but I don't see it as a developing world education solution.

by Wayan Vota at March 12, 2014 01:27 PM

March 10, 2014

OLPC News - Independent Blog

Goodbye One Laptop per Child


Here is a question for you: 8 years on, would you recommend anyone start a new deployment with XO-1 laptops?

With the hardware now long past its life expectancy, spare parts hard to find, and zero support from the One Laptop Per Child organization, its time to face reality. The XO-1 laptop is history. Sadly, so is Sugar. Once the flagship of OLPC's creativity in redrawing the human-computer interaction, few are coding for it and new XO variants are mostly Android/Gnome+Fedora dual boots.

Finally, OLPC Boston is completely gone. No staff, no consultants, not even a physical office. Nicholas Negroponte long ago moved onto the global literacy X-Prize project.

That's not to say the OLPC idea is dead. OLPC Miami is still servicing the major deployments in Uruguay, Peru, and Rwanda, and has licensed commercial rights to the brand to Sakar/Vivitar, which introduced an XO Tablet for American children.

Yet let us be honest with ourselves. The great excitement, energy, and enthusiasm that brought us together is gone. OLPC is dead. In its place, is the reality that technology is a force in education, and we all need to be vigilant about when, where, and how it's used.

So take a moment to mourn the loss of OLPC, and then join us for the larger Educational Technology Debate on where all ICT4Edu efforts are going.

PS: A hearty shout-out to Mike Lee, Christoph Derndorfer, Brian Berry, Yama Ploskonka, Jon Camfield, and all the rest who made this journey the ride of a lifetime. Thanks, and see you on the next roller coaster.

by Wayan Vota at March 10, 2014 08:15 AM

Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

Sugar Digest 2014-03-09

Sugar Digest

1. Wow. We’ve surpassed 10 million downloads from activities.sugarlabs.org

2. Daniel Narvaez just released Sugar 0.101.4 (unstable). See 0.102/Notes for detailed notes on changes since Sugar 0.100. We’ve entered Feature Freeze. Time to chase down bugs.

3. In preparing the release notes, it was really nice to see how many contributors we have. It was also remarkable to see how many commits were made by Gonzalo Odiard. Kudos.

4. Google Summer of Code applications can be submitted beginning Monday, 10 March. Applications close on 21 March. See How to participate.

In the community

5. Sugar Camp #3 – Paris, hosted by Bastien Guerry, will be held from 12-13 April in Carrefour Numérique – Cité des Sciences.

Sugar Labs

6. Please visit our planet.

by Walter Bender at March 10, 2014 12:07 AM

March 09, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve been told to post a photo of a woman who inspires me. I met Miguelina in Ascension, a small village for Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The other women warned me about … Continue reading

by Sora at March 09, 2014 08:55 AM

March 05, 2014

OLPC News - Independent Blog

A PhD Thesis About OLPC Asks: What are we doing? What are we bringing?

My name is Lars Bo Andersen and I have spent the last five years studying OLPC and, in particular, one small project at a school in Nigeria (which I call Akila's school after one of the students).

I have written a PhD thesis about OLPC, Akila and the school which I defended at Aarhus University in Denmark on the 27th of February:

There is, amongst others, a chapter describing the theories and debates around OLPC, there is one investigating how the initiative rose to fame and there are several more specific investigations of the laptops at Akila's school (e.g. chapters 5 and 6).

In this post I would like to share some general thoughts with the OLPC News community and, if possible, have them debated in the comments.

Let me give away my position from the start: I was/am highly enthusiastic about the opportunities of new technology for learning (I have benefited from these my whole life). But studying OLPC and the project at Akila's school has convinced me that we need to fundamentally re-conceptualise what it is we do when bringing laptops, tablets, internet, etc. into impoverished settings.

What OLPC projects do, I argue, is not to bring in laptops, but to reconfigure already existing networks of relations between children, teachers, hardware, software, pedagogy, parents, poverty and so forth.

But my argument is not only that we should re-conceptualise what we do, but also what we bring. What is it, really, that we are working so hard to deploy/implement/sustain?

I argue that XO laptops (or tablets) too are networks of relations. Not objects, not tools, but networks of relations.

The various XOs are, in the strongest (ontological) meaning of the word, sitting on each their respective network within which several actors are busy deploying each their own variant of the XO. I have described these many criss-cross deployments as a development encounter.

At Akila's school, for instance, the different deployments running through the network make the XOs suffer from a multiple laptop disorder. The laptops have several different identities and logics, some of which are even mutually exclusive and in friction.

The point is that not only is Akila's laptop different from itself, it is also different from Negroponte's laptop, or the ones in Peru and Uruguay.

What laptops are and what they can do is the outcome of dispersed negotiation (in the network).

In fact, we readers of OLPC News are part of this negotiation. When I claim that laptops are networks, some of you may write (or, at least, think to yourself): "nonsense, that is not what they are; they are tools with which to learn; they are X, no, wait, they are X and Y, but, in either case, they are not networks".

This is not just your opinion, or mine, this is in very specific ways something we are working to realise in praxis.

In this outlook, the rational, modern world of stable identities (XO as formally described) causing well known effects (trojan horses, mega change, literacy, empowerment, digital inclusion, learning French in Paris...) has turned trickster.

The purpose, impact and logic of laptops are evasive and emergent - not beyond control and not within control.

Even Negroponte, when claiming that laptops (or tablets) are for helicopter deployments, must accept that it is not really for him to decide - he is not alone in the network. Or, that is, he may make helicopter deployments in Ethiopia, but not at Akila's school, in Uruguay and elsewhere.

The world is acting back at Negroponte just like the Nigerian teachers are acting back at the Sugar philosophy.

We (as in all of us working with OLPC projects around the world) invest ourselves in the network, we add to the laptop, and so too does children, parents, NGOs, Quanta, solar panels, satellites and everyone else.

Quanta adds assembly lines, some of you write activities, and I add a story about Akila to supplement Negropontes stories from Cambodia, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

By the way: how can satellites add to laptops? Well, the satellite-isp-company-network adds a rather substantial invoice to Akila's laptop each month in order for the laptop to bridge the digital divide.

So, what does this mean? That everything is relative and unpredictable?

No, but it is a call to attention that 'XO' is simply the name we give large heterogeneous ensembles (Sugar+Quanta+AMD+Plastic+Scratch+Akila+Teacher+Papert+Batteries....) in which the specific components differ from deployment to deployment.

I have tried to re-think (by way of many others) what it is that we do and what it is that we bring.

A good question to the community, besides from general comments, is, then, what do you think we do and what, really, are we bringing?

by Guest Writer at March 05, 2014 10:39 PM

One Laptop per Child


Miami, FL – March 4, 2014 – Righteous Pictures, a film and new media production company founded by Miaminative, Michael Pertnoy, will be bringing its documentary, WEB, to Miami International Film Festival, presented and produced by Miami Dade College, this March.  The film, which has been described as “engaging, informative and provocative*,” follows Peruvian families living in remote villages in the Amazon Jungle and Andes Mountains as their children experience the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program, gaining access to the Internet for the first time. 

  “From the beginning, we wanted to make a film that explores both the positive impact and negative consequences that may arise from the spread of technology to the furthest corners of the globe,” said WEB Producer Michael Pertnoy. “The OLPC program became the lens through which we were able to tell this story in real-time as it unfolded on the ground.”

  One Laptop Per Child, the world-renowned project to provide a modern education to children through a connected computing device, launched the project in Peru in 2007. The program, which is run by the Ministry of Education, has deployed around 900,000 XO laptops in Spanish and local indigenous languages.

“OLPC project in Peru was able to connect communities from the Amazonian to the Jungle regions,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, its CEO. “Empowering them with connected solar powered devices in their native languages, both kids and adults are exposed to learning that otherwise would not have happened.”

The film plays on Saturday, March 8th at 4pm at the Regal Theater on Alton Road in South Beach and again the following Saturday, March 15th at 1:45pm at the Paragon Theater in Coconut Grove.  Tickets can be purchased directly from the Miami International Film Festival website.

Web The Film: As children in some of the most remote parts of the world connect to the Internet for the first time, Web considers both the benefits and complications that arise from digital connections. Alongside the poignant and sometimes humorous local stories, the film includes interviews with leading thinkers on the Internet including Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte for an insightful look at our times.

Righteous Pictures is a film and new media production company that produces social issue films and public engagement campaigns to serve as platforms for dialogue and catalysts for change around the most critical issues of our time. We are dedicated to producing and disseminating content across media platforms to inspire, inform, entertain, and ultimately change the way the viewer sees the world. 

One Laptop per Child (OLPC at http://www.laptop.org) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression. In partnership with the public and private sectors and non- governmental organizations and supported by comprehensive implementation and pedagogical services, OLPC seeks to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power connected device that empowers individual learning and growth.

*Haute Lifestyle:  http://bit.ly/1fQKU4F

by mariana at March 05, 2014 06:52 PM

March 04, 2014

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

8 Process Steps to start the Malaysia dLEAP deployment

The dLEAP lauch was on Feb 22, 2014. A day earlier preparation was needed before to get things started.

Pictures tells a thousand words on what we did to get the deployment off the ground on the day itself. Feb 22, 2014 is a day to remember :-)

Deployment Step 1: Personalization of Sugar on XO 

Deployment Step 2: Login into Schoolserver via wireless AP 

Deployment Step 3: Check if all XO are connected to SchoolServer

Deployment Step 4: Registering the XO on the Schoolserver 

Deployment Step 5: Checking if registered and isolating the registered XO 

Deployment Step 6: Roll call using the Schoolserver Master XO 

Deployment Step 7: Let the fun begin, observe the children and what they do! 

Deployment Step 8: Check how the AP is performing and any complaints from children 

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at March 04, 2014 05:05 AM

March 03, 2014

Chris Ball

More technical talks

Since my blog post arguing that Technical talks should be recorded, I’ve continued to record talks – here are the new recordings since that post, mostly from the Django Boston meetup group:

My award for “best anecdote” goes to Adam Marcus’s talk, which taught me that if you ask 100 Mechanical Turk workers to toss a coin and tell you whether it’s heads or tails, you’ll get approximately 70 heads. Consistently. This either means that everyone’s tossing biased/unfair coins, or (and this is the right answer) that you can’t trust the average Turk worker to actually perform a task that takes a couple of seconds. (Adam Marcus goes on to describe a hierarchy where you start out giving deterministic tasks to multiple workers as cross-checks against each other, and then over time you build relationships with and promote individual workers whose prior output has been proven trustworthy.)

by cjb at March 03, 2014 02:08 AM

March 02, 2014

Nancie Severs

My Favorite Bangkok Toddler Activities — Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

I had been following the BKKKids Facebook Page (from the USA) for months now. I have been recommending toddler appropriate Activities to my kids in Bangkok, for my 2 year old grandson. I found the Saturday story times at the Neilson Hays Library, very convenient for them, and I have seen great advice for nappy rashes etc.; I have learned where to find a good children’s dentist, hair-cutteries, kids furniture, or particular toys. And I have seen a successful emergency blood drive to collect an unusual blood type for a “BKKkids Mom.”

When I finally got to Bangkok to visit my grandson, I planned to try out some of the BKKkids resourceful suggestions firsthand! I’ll write about our favorite 3 excursions here.

Terran was 26-27 months when I visited &amp; my kids were living in the Silom Rd JTC area. Terr’s parents are very busy working folks but Terr is lucky to have a wonderful nanny, “Z” and I was lucky to have her too! We first checked out the National Science Museum branch at Chamchuri Square.

It’s located on the fourth floor of Chamchuri Square, on Rama IV not far from the Thai RedCross &amp; Snake Farm. Chanchuri Square is a relatively small shopping mall at Chulalongkorn University. The Chula bookstores are located there and you’ll find a good selection of children’s books in English - bargain tables too. The mall is pram friendly and has child friendly eatery options too. The museum is contemporary. It is inviting and not large and has simple hands-on exhibits demonstrating principles surrounding probability, magnetism, and physical forces, among many others. There is also a skeleton and fossil exhibit, including a small mock excavation pit. The Lego display had elaborate models constructed by local students and was great fun to look at. Best of all for a 2 year old, is the play area for kids. It had a puppet theatre, giant lego style building blocks, lots of educational toys, floor space, tables and chairs, computers. Best of all, this clean air conditioned educational playground is free to all. It’s open Tuesday - Sunday, 9:30 AM to 4:00PM.

Terr and Z and I got there early, found a nice place for breakfast and headed up to the Science Museum play space. We had to distract Terran to get him to leave, several hours later, when it was past lunch and nap time.

We visited in November, before the protests reached this area. So do check first and avoid Chulalongkorn University if it is an active protest site.

One Saturday, Z took us to the Bangkok Farmers Market and we liked it so much that I let BKKKids know about it. I was astonished to find this modern all organic Farmer's Market with so many creative "cottage industry" vendors. The tasting opportunities were fun and you are sure to find a healthy tasty lunch there, along with goodies to take home.

It's held once a month on the last Saturday of the month at K Village Sukhumvit Soi 26 in the mall with the Villa Market. On the morning we were there, there were gardening and cheese-making lectures, lots of healthy organic food, and some yummy sweets too. There were ponies for petting and pony rides, and a great little playground for the kids, complete with bouncy houses for the energetic ones!

My hands down favorite activity with Terran was our outing to the “Turtle Mountain Temple.” I found this quiet garden oasis with turtles to feed, listed as a Hidden Gem on the BKKkids website. We tried to follow the instructions from the website to get there. That was an interesting adventure but a challenge with a two year old. I’ll describe our efforts to find the Wat and then, I’ll make an easier suggestion for how to find this wonderful and unusual utopia in Bangkok.

Here’s the link with the info on the website: http://www.bkkkids.com/activities/wat-p rayoon-turtle-mountain/

Z, Terran and I took the commuter Riverboat from Saphon Taksin to the Memorial Bridge stop. We did not bring the stroller because we thought it too difficult to take on the boats. The instruction to walk across that huge bridge was really daunting with a toddler &amp; probably unsafe. I speak a little Thai and asked where we could get a cross river boat. I understood that there was a ferry across the river to Wat Galanyah. We walked along the river and passed signs that said we were at the Bangkok Flower Market. It was late morning and not very active but we did see lots of fruit and vegetable stalls and larger warehouses too. After about ten minutes and more inquiries, we found a restaurant with a dock and got the boat. But Wat Galanyah was not the Wat with the turtles. I had seen the photo of the white Ayuthia style Stupa at “Wat Prayoon” on the BKKkids website and looked up river for that. We needed to walk another 10 minutes (longer with a 2 year old and no pram,) back towards the Memorial Bridge to find the riverfront entrance to Wat Prohm. If you say Wat Prohm, people will understand you.

To my surprise, we walked along the river on a Bangkok Bike Path. I have never seen a riverfront bike path in Bangkok and wow, this is a beauty. It’s on the Thon Buri side of the river and I know it goes from the Memorial Bridge to Wat Galanyah, where we walked. I do not know where it starts or ends, or how long it is, but I intend to find out on my next trip to Thailand, when I don’t have a pramless two year old along.

Finally, from the riverfront, we entered Wat Prohm, and walked past its school. We found a vendor for water and juice etc. And across from the Stupa, we found the entrance to the “Turtle Mountain” Garden. There was a donation table where we bought a bowl of sliced bananas for the turtles, and some fish food for the koi.

Oh what an enchanting garden spot. Like a true botanic garden, there are signs identifying the more unusual plants. The stone mountain is exquisite with its spirit houses and Buddha figures. The moat surrounds the mountain and the garden paths allow you to walk around the entire island. And the turtles! They are big, beautiful substantial creatures. Terran was a little afraid at first but you can see from the photos that he soon fed the turtles himself. The turtles eat the skewered bananas. Don’t use the fish food unless you want to feed the pigeons.:)

We sat entranced for at least an hour. It was quite the memorable adventure to get there; a commuter boat, a walk through the Bangkok Flower Market, a cross river boat, and a riverfront bike path. But we found a utopic oasis in Bangkok, like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. How would I go again, if I am taking kids? Starting on the Bangkok side of Maa Nahm Chao Praya I would take the riverboat to the Memorial Bridge and then get a taxi to take me across the bridge to Wat Prohm. Tell the driver that the Wat is on the right side, at the bottom of the bridge. Turn right into the parking lot by the white Stupa. Simple. Ask your driver to meet you in the parking lot at a designated time, for a ride back to public transportation or home. (It’s not easy to get a taxi near the Wat.) From Thon Buri, take a taxi to the base of the Memorial Bridge and turn left into the Wat Prohm driveway/parking lot.

Now I’m home in snow-covered New Hampshire USA, missing my little boy and remembering my Bangkok adventures. To become part of the BKKkids FB community, “Like” their page here:
https://www.facebook.com/BKK.Kids and go to the BKKkids website here:
Thank You BKK KIds! What a terrific resource you are and a wonderful community we have become!

March 02, 2014 03:00 AM

March 01, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Asking the Right Questions

“So, how are classes going?” “Tout bagay anfom, wi, Sora.” “Everything’s fine, Sora.” That’s always the response when I’m talking to the teachers on the phone from the US. The further away I am, the less I know about what’s … Continue reading

by Sora at March 01, 2014 06:19 PM

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

dLEAP Malaysia deployment preparation videos

Videos that capture the initial hour of preparation a day before the actual deployment launch. The children are involved in the process and not just a passive recipient of the XO.

1st video immediately after the schoolserver installation

Children as agent of change .... Malaysian kids unleased

Help and be helped video
Children as volunteers video

Accessing the XSCE 5 and its resources video.

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at March 01, 2014 03:28 PM

Eduvolunterism & my OLPC Schoolserver Journey

I became a OLPC volunteer to explore the schoolserver setup to support OLPC Asia first  XO laptop deployment in Sichuan. Installing and testing was a challenge over the years  as I was a eduvolunteer with no formal technical training -only initiative and a little self-taught knowledge. Nevertheless I did have an interest in tinkering, extending what I do professionally to empower people who are disadvantaged. That was in the days where connectivity was basic dialup modem and Bulletin Board System (BBS) 

Time flies  and we are now in 2014. There is internet, broadband and wireless communication. The technology for server is moving away from the big-iron power hungry computer to mobile devices that can serve  online/offline internet resources.

My recent adventure was to test the XSCE which was deployed in Malaysia. It also run offline resources via Internet in the Box (IIAB). This new journey started from basecamp2013@Malacca when I installed the XSCE 0.4 for testing with basecampers. Running on a XO 1.75 with a 8G SD card and I had  1T IIAB from Adam Holt of Unleash Kids. It worked but  was slow since the server was powered from a SD card as part of my experimentation.

With the release of XSCE 5 in 2014 I made another attempt to install and test its functionality during Chinese New Year (Year of the Horse). Its new installation horsepower was visible. I left it overnight to glow in the dark for testing.

When the Malaysia deployment launch schedule was confirmed for Feb 22, 2014 I was blessed with a just in time (JIT) mobile Zotec PC with 4G of ram  from OLPC Asia. It cost HK$2,000. On testing I was pleased with the XSCE5+IIAB  performance - everything load and run faster! 

The Malaysian OLPC 2.0 journey pack was ready and it was time to get it into the wild.

I booked my last minute flight ticket and travelled solo  -:(  to Malaysia  for the 1st full deployment in a rural area equipped with schoolserver.  It was a plug&play experience. The excitement was visible when  it works the first-time when plugged into the site network. With the connectivity,  I could see children searching local maps via the IIAB map resources. Some were googling their football team or pictures of the film "Zombie". Others were on the offline School Wikipedia!

On Feb 22, 2014 with all the XOs newly flashed for the launch, the children had to key in their names and a long  password to connect to the AP (we want the children to learn alphabets). As the event unfold I could see the XOs popping up one by one in the neighbourhood screen. To check if all 38 XOs were connected we made the children to count :-) what they see on their screen. 

Registration was done systematically. Registered XO were left on the floor for the children to continue their their play. With the Master XO we  logged  into moodle Learning Management System and did our final roll-call!

Now it is working in the wild with 38 registered XO and many happy children. The existing network will be upgraded and maintained by local volunteers. This community/village will be the first OLPC deployment in Malaysia. I was happy being able to keep  a promise - returning to deploy the XOs to the "crying child" and his friends. I remember this particular child attachment to the XO when we took it away after a brief pre-deployment visit trial session!

I am now back in Hong Kong after this "Touch & Go" deployment launch. On my Facebook I wrote:

"Nice to think that the children you met thousands miles away are getting access to to the XO and internet when they return from school to their hostel in a rural area. I have that visual image in my mind . The analytic will be something for the future"

Let's see. The Malaysian OLPC 2.0 journey has just started

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at March 01, 2014 11:59 AM

February 28, 2014

OLPC France (translated)

A counterpart of Wikipedia for children: Vikidia to open in English

Vikidia is the equivalent of Wikipedia for children: an online encyclopedic project, for 8-13 year-old readers, open to contributors of any age. It aims both to offer a suitable corpus of knowledge for children and to let some of them, as well as teenagers them be involved in building it. It was launched in November 2006 in French, then in Spanish, Italian, Russian and now English

Homepage of Vikidia EN
Homepage of Vikidia EN

Such wikis have proven their sustainability and relevance, the two biggest ones this model being Vikidia in French and WikiKids.nl in Dutch, with respectively 16000 and 14000 articles. This post of a retired teacher that was involved in the Freinet movement insist on the need for a living documentary resource that fit well to children.

It was first posted on 05/2010:  La documentation et Vikidia. It also available in Spanish: Vikidia y la documentación

More than 80 years ago, while school failure already was an issue, teachers became aware of the shortcomings of lectures requiring all pupils in a class to work on the same assignment at the same time, without taking into account either of their individual pace, or their personal interests that could stimulate their excitement to work.

On the other hand, the disciplines partitioning, each one being handled in separate textbooks, did not allowed to link together every different knowledge and then arouse an unpredictable boost to other aspects of the subject, not only the how, the why the how much, but also the sight on what it once was and what it is now elsewhere, as well as traces in our language, sometimes artistic, and even openings to some literary or artistic works.

These teachers who wanted to modernize school imagined to create cooperatively documentary sheets that each child could study at its discretion. Some brought information, usually illustrated, other brought incentives to observation or (safe) experimentations. Other sheet would suggest diverse extensions of one subject. Among these various documentary sheets, spread on a table, the children chose, exchanged documents, and when sharing what they had learned by a short lecture to the class, they memorized with enthusiasm much more knowledge than with a good old style lesson.

This documentation was fuelled by the contributions of many classes, through surveys and multiple searches. For example, a child telling the comings and goings of swallows in their nest, built under the roof of his home, would give rise to the desire of others, according to their taste and not a a mandatory task, to find out what this nest is there for and how brood can hatch chicks compare nests of various birds, their different ways of eating, to question the migration of swallows and other birds, ask Alsatian friends about storks ( »Alsace is a region of France known among other things for its numerous storks »), study if the birds are the only animals to breed by laying eggs, etc… This would possibly add a new documentary sheet out of these research to existing ones.

Another example: on the elephant had been created multiple files or sheets from different sources, featuring its description, its size, its weight, but also its feeding, the use of his trunk, his tusks (including including the use of ivory), its group life in the bush, its domestication as a beast of burden in Asia and even its use in war by Hannibal (with extract of the literature on this episode). We knew less than today about his cousin the mammoth and we still ignored the ravages of poaching jeopardizing its African species.

The use of this material was simple, provided teachers ensured strict classification and storage after use. The main problem for a large collection was in terms of editing and updating the content. This led to abandon the documentary sheets to concentrate on a brochures (called « working library »), whose management was easier then, but was confronted much later to the general difficulties of the publishing sector.

Computers make it possible presently to classify and retrieve many documents, but does not magically solve all issues. Standing before the flood of images and information, sometimes bad, young people need benchmarks and answers to their questions that the curriculum does not always provide in a non daunting way. Hence the importance of a free online encyclopedia that can be freely accessed, going from one article to another without having to handle multiple printed volumes.

This is what Vikidia successfully brings, the encyclopedia for 8-13 old children. This age range corresponds to the beginning of mastering reasoning and reading and stops at the threshold of adolescence who have other needs and other documentary resources. However, the refusal of infantilizing young reader allows Vikidia be used by anyone, regardless of age, eager to find simple explanations of a topic that he doesn’t known yet. The intent is not just to respond with a simple definition, but offer different tracks, closely related to the subject without getting partitioned in a school discipline, because ties are obvious, for example, between the bee (insect), honey (food), beekeeping (breeding), pollination (botany), the danger of some pesticides (ecology). And these openings are easy to find by clicking on an internal link or one of the categories of the subject. In the wiki spirit, everyone can make contributions, including young people who can ask questions and propose, if possible in a group, the results of their research and investigations on the topic of their interest. Everything is reviewed by competent adults familiar with the needs and capacities of 8-13 years to make an encyclopedia that really fit them.

This is what Vikidia achieves for over 3 years and it deserves to be widely known and recognized by all those who are interested in education.

May this resource join the OLPC core activities be is online or offline for the benefits of the laptop users !

by admin at February 28, 2014 03:51 PM

February 27, 2014

Haiti Dreams!

Unleash Kids!

I recently returned from the Detroit area where my son was meeting up with a really great prospective Haiti volunteer for Unleash Kids! Nathan Riddle was also there, a courageous individual I’d met previously, providing the lifeline of spare parts to the global OLPC community. It is always interesting to meet the various people who are drawn to volunteer work and this was no exception!

New volunteers will follow in the steps of January’s large group, who worked small miracles nurturing “atelye” computer clubs in about seven different Haitian schools and orphanages. Curt Thompson and his wife Chiharu were among these unstoppable volunteers. Watch this interview with Curt and discover his thoughts on what brought him on this journey:

<iframe class="youtube-player" frameborder="0" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vnJwWLDBIX0?version=3&amp;rel=1&amp;fs=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;wmode=transparent" type="text/html" width="640"></iframe>

Chiharu (also a professional photographer) took many photos and videos during their stay in Haiti, and the Haitian kids certainly do not disappoint:

<iframe class="youtube-player" frameborder="0" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Gj_r9_nQB5s?version=3&amp;rel=1&amp;fs=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;wmode=transparent" type="text/html" width="640"></iframe>

Can Haitians drive us to answer what kind of “atelye” (Haitian Creole word for “workshop”) belongs in each of our own neighborhoods?

by buildingaschool at February 27, 2014 05:29 PM

February 26, 2014

Nancie Severs

Bangkok Hotels & Shopping & Eating — Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Where I stayed
Anantara Bangkok Sathorn

I stayed at the beautiful Anantara Bangkok Sathorn Hotel for 2 weeks this trip. This is the longest that I have been in Bangkok consecutively and I really liked the 6 star comforts at the Anantara. When I arrived in late October, the hotel was had a low occupancy rate and was very quiet. Then the flooding hit Bangkok in earnest. This hotel is in a safe area and will be one of the last to flood. I moved Noah, Aor and baby Terran into a gorgeous, spacious and bright 2 bedroom apartment here for the first week because of the threat of flooding, particularly as described in the media. We all enjoyed the beautiful and quiet pool and modern gym! A big plus is the free wireless, internet tv in the rooms and use of the computers in the business center.

Each day, more Thai families affected by flooding moved in, until the hotel was at 110% occupancy! The lobby became more crowded and the driveway and parking was jammed with cars that guests were protecting from the flooding in other areas of Bangkok. I heard stories of waist high water in homes and chest high water in the road and feel very sad for the Bangkok residents who have experienced the flooding. I must say that the Anantara manged the crowd very well. They added staff and were always available, pleasant, friendly, and attentive.

The location works fine once you figure it out. Taxis are always available, the BRT steps are at the driveway, and is10 Baht and 1 stop to the BTS at Chong Nonsi, and the convenient City Viva Mall (small) with the terrific western style Villa Supermarket is just a 3 minute walk away.

I loved staying here and would do so again. But because the occupancy rate is now so high, that the room price has increased. I have my last 3 nights in Bangkok booked there as I prepare for the long journey home, and look forward to returning to this very lovely hotel.

Some good eats:
Best food best selection for all palates: Siam Paragon Food Hall and Gourmet Supermarket:

On a Sunday afternoon, my son took me to Indigo, a fine French restaurant / bistro on a Soi off Convent Rd near Sala Daeng in Bangkok last week. The dinner menu is quite expensive, not by western standards, but in Bangkok. But Indigo has 2 set prix fixe menus at lunchtime. For 350 BT + service and tax (about $15 US.) you can choose and entree and appetizer or dessert. My kids had a steak and I had a beautiful sea bass dish. Everyhting was delicious, and the atmosphere of the old elegance in a wooden Bangkok shop house is lovely. We had a baby and stroller with us, and were welcomed, and he slept through our lovely lunch! Tablecloths and Cloth napkins in Bangkok? Unusual Elegance! (2013-14 update this is still a good recommendation!)

Old Standby: Fuji Restaurant, an upscale Japanese food chain restaurant can be found in most shopping malls. It has a huge menu and I always find many good choices there. The set menus come with entrees and noodles, soup and salad. The garlic fried rice and sauteed mushrooms are very tasty also. Although I eat picky vegetarian and cooked fish, my kids tell me that they like the steak set, and the sushi too. I go to Fuji often!

Near the Anantara Hotel - City Viva Wine Bar &amp; Crepes
We had several good meals at The Wine Bar (2013 it's CLOSED) at the City Viva on Naradiwat just near the Citty Villa Supermarket and the Anantara. While the service was spotty, good sometimes and not as good others, the pizza and pasta dishes are excellent. I liked the fettecini with wild mushrooms in a light cream sauce, And the pasta with sea bass that was in a very light tomato sauce. The restaurant was out of bread last night, they said because of the nahm dtuam, the flooding. Upstairs on the 3rd floor of the City Viva small mall, is a Creperie with a few meal crepes on the menu and an extensive dessert crepe menu. Fresh made french crepes like in Paris! Best

Window Shopping: Siam Paragon and Gaysorn
Best Selection of Things for Baby: Paragon Department Store
Best Overall Shopping Experience: MBK
Best Shopping for Technology: Pantip
Best Fashion Shopping: Platinum Center in Pratunam near Pantip
Best Hand Wrought Stainless Contemporary Designs: Kun Sri Tong's booth near the BTS and Riverboat dock at "Saphon Taksin" BTS stop.

PS: (For Robin D added 7/2012) I re-ordered the photos today to show
you the Best Stainless Gifts: Sri Tong's beautiful bowls and platters
are identical to those sold at Simon Pearce. Sri Tong has a booth on the
street by the BTS and Riverboat dock at Saphon Takson. You can usually
find her after 11:00 AM. 2013- If you miss Sri Tong, there is a nice
shop at Asiatique with a good selection. BUT Sri Tong's is from her own
factory...and it's my first choice! Please tell her I sent you! Need a
wedding gift? Perfect.

Several weeks after my stay at the Anantara, I returned to Bangkok from Vietnam and Cambodia. You can click on the trips link to the right and check my Vung Vieng Village OLPC XO Laptop Project Journal to follow my adventures there.

Upon my return I booked the new Novatel on Silom Rd (near to the Holiday Inn, Jewelry Trade Center and my son's house and factory,) through Agoda. Those who read my blog entries know that I am rarely critical. I would not stay at the Novatel Silom in this location again. While it is a new hotel and very clean, tThe room design is not even adequate fro 1 person. The bathroom is downright weird as the toilet room door opens to completely block the tiny sink area. The shower will get the sink area floor wet if you are not careful, and it does not dry quickly. I use the pool when it is nice, to cool down on a hot day, but this pool overlooks the busy highway and is noisy with no umbrellas forshade. The staff was not particularly friendly, and while I chose the Novatel for location, its other patrons made me feel I was staying in a brothel. Oh well!

So I moved to the Courtyard Marriott to recover for a few days and became familiar with a neighborhood I did not previously know. The Courtyard Marriott was very comfortable and standard to what we expect from my favorite western brand hotel! Unlike the Novatel, my room was spacious and tthe bathroom was fine. The pool was pleasant and the fitness center was well appointed and stocked with fresh towels and infused water. The staff went above and beyond to greet the guests personally and help with any need. While I did not love the restaurant, this Bangkok hotel, around the corner from The Four Seasons Hotel was a 5 star experience for a 4 star price.

It's located walking distance (or use the hotel tuk tuk) to the Rachadamri BTS station, and also is a short walk to Soi Lang Suan by the Chitlom BTS and The Central Department Store. Soi Lang Suan is lovely with its green trees. You will find a large Starbucks there, other restaurants and a good Chang Massage shop also. From here, I am traveling to Sukhothai and after that to Khon Kaen. I left a bag at the Courtyard and will retrieve it when I return to Bangkok next week.

And now, I am back in Bangkok from my trip to the Central Heartland of Thailand. I am back at the Anantara Sathorn for my last days here this trip. I booked a fw nights through Agoda. The rates have fallen to well under $100 per night and most of the Thai families affected by the flooding appear to have left. I have really enjoyed staying here!

Be sure to check out the miscellaneous photos of Bangkok that I have included here!

February 26, 2014 02:36 AM

February 25, 2014

OLE Nepal

The Wise Man in the Training

The narrow training hall in the KP Plaza Hotel, crammed with 24 teachers, one school supervisor and four OLE Nepal staff, resembled the crowded fish market in the heart of Kathmandu. Actually, it was not exactly a hall, but a balcony turned into a hall by hanging curtains along the three open sides. The cold [...]

by Sunil Pokhrel at February 25, 2014 07:36 AM

February 24, 2014

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

Unleashed Indigenous Kids: Malaysian Style?

Even for smaller deployments we have to deal with the reality of achieving 1:1 and to meet all the core missions of OLPC. I witnessed this first hand in the dLEAP (digital Learning & Education Asli Project) deployment when I returned to launch with local partners, and to kickstart the schoolserver infrastructure. All the younger children had the symbolic procedure of their name written on the XO. All XOs were registered with the XSCE 5 registration procedure. For older children we had to make the decision that they will share the remainder XO available - 2 children to 1 XO.

What pleased me most is the spirit of the older children helping to deployed and to take charge of some logistic for deployment preparation. Kids were organised to flash, charge and taught skills to manage some future  technical expertise support. I found myself teaching the children about the schoolserver concept, details of account management to unix command to a few kids who showed leadership and initiatives.

I am proud of children accomplishments and hope they drive the project forward for months to come. 

In a new pre-deployment visit we left a few XOs to the children and went on a visit to see/bath baby elephant. Coming back hours later they were still engaged. Yes, we left the "crank" to them and let them organised themselves. Peeping into the  images on the XOs we found new younger visitors. Their "V" sign gesture is indeed heartwarming.

Why should we believe in the children? If they can trek/live in the jungle as their playground, I am sure taking care of themselves with modern technology is much easier. With digital technology we must empower them with new knowledge,skills and attitude. The process is the critical message and I hope adults understand the importance of setting the right environment for change by children for children.

 As I reflect on the 3 days of handson deployment I ask: " how can we can engage children with their own deployment and if we can rethink deployment to avoid tethering children indirectly"

by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at February 24, 2014 12:24 PM

Sayamindu Dasgupta

Programming with Maps

One of my core guiding principles while designing data-centered toolkits based on Scratch has been to connect to interests and passions of the learners (this comes from the design principles of Scratch, and can be traced back to the principle of “personal resonance”, outlined by Papert in Mindstorms). One of the most promising and richest areas to connect to personal interests through data seems to be maps and geo-data. Maps make it possible to engage in a vast range of creative expression, starting from story-telling to science experiments, from map/geo-data based games (Geoguessr!) to interactive virtual tours of one’s neighborhood.

Over the last year, I have been developing a research prototype for what I call MapScratch — a visual programming toolkit on top of Scratch that makes it possible to program with maps and geographical data. As with my other projects, this toolkit also tries to be closely coupled with the larger Scratch ecosystem, with the end goal of having entry-points for as many interests as possible. If this goal is met, a map enthusiast (who is a novice programmer) will be able dive into programming with maps with equal ease as an experienced Scratch game maker, who wants to add maps to her latest game. Here’s a video from an early prototype (you may need to watch it in fullscreen HD to read the text on the programming blocks):

<iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="337" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/78182369?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe>

Map Scratch is still in development, and there are still a couple of thorny design and technical problems to sort out, but I hope to have it out for everyone by the end of this year. From the early feedback that I’ve gotten from users, this promises to be a lot of fun.

by sayamindu at February 24, 2014 06:36 AM

February 23, 2014

Mike Fletcher

Raspberry Pi BCM Window Needs Love

So as part of getting a PyOpenGL demo running on the Raspberry Pi I wrote a trivial subset of the Broadcom graphics interface api in ctypes.  There's an (abandoned? not very recent, anyway) full wrapper in Cython, but even getting that compiled just took too long for me working on the Pi (far longer than writing a ctypes wrapper).

The little wrapper module needs work to be usable, but I don't really have the interest needed to do what needs to make it truly useful.  What really seems to be needed is to take the 5 or 6 functions in the bcm library that actually relate to GL context creation/updating/destroying and an X library binding and make a simple tool that lets you overlay a bcm GL context on a given window in X.

When the X window moves/is resized/is hidden/etc the bcm window should be moved/resized/hidden.  That would let people actually play with PyOpenGL in realistic Raspberry Pi environment (i.e. the default desktop running X windows) without really caring what GUI environment they are in. It would also let them use standard X mouse/keyboard handling from whatever environment they are using (pygame, wx, qt, raw X, whatever).  I wasn't able to get pyqt running on my pi (it was apparently built for the wrong python), I did get Pygame running, but pygame itself doesn't AFAICS give you access to the window geometry (position on screen, shown/hidden state), and if we have to go down to X for it anyway, might as well make it generic.

That's not going to create a seamless GUI experience (the overlay will, for instance, show up in front of windows that should overlap it) but it might make it reasonable to get some basic OpenGL(ES2) running on the platform easily. If someone is interested, give me a shout and I'll push my little wrapper up.

by Mike C. Fletcher (mcfletch@vrplumber.com) at February 23, 2014 07:52 AM

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Can We Teach Students How Not to Multitask?

This week in my Higher Education in the Digital Age class we read, listened to, and watched several articles, blogs, interviews, and presentations on the topic of multitasking. We were asked to respond to this information in the following writing prompt:

What are the most compelling arguments for and against multitasking? How does technology change our ability and/or inclination to multitask? What are the implications for higher education?

The case against media multitasking was laid out most clearly by Clifford Nass, the recently deceased professor of communication at Stanford University who studied the effects of media multitasking on information processing ability.  His published paper is available here. In an interview with Science Friday's Ira Flatow, titled The Myth of Multitasking, he said that,

"The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They're basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking."

Professor Nass's words resonated with me. I've found myself talking a lot lately with both my students and my colleagues about how to handle the ubiquitous smart phones that almost all of my students have and by which many of them seem to be perpetually distracted. The task of learning mathematics requires sustained focus on a single activity.  Having unrelated media available only distracts students and limits their ability to learn.

Nothing in our readings contradicted Professor Nass.  Instead, there were several arguments in favor of using 21st century media like smart phones to access and share information. In "Once Sideshows, Colleges' Mobile Apps Move to Center Stage", Megan O'Neil describes how Georgetown, Duke, and other universities are integrating smart phone apps into their business operations, doing things like having students register for classes and soon pay their bills from their phones.  Other articles reported on how teachers are using social media, with Pearson's "Social Media for Teaching and Learning" reporting on how faculty used social media at home, in professional communication, and in their classrooms. Non of these publications claimed that increased media multitasking helped students learn more or learn better.

My sense as a classroom teacher is that to help students navigate the multimedia bombardment in which they are now immersed, we will have to find ways to teach them how to limit their multitasking when the task at hand requires it in order to achieve the focus needed for sustained concentration of thought. Self awareness of how media multitasking effects a student's learning may very well become a critical tool for student success.  Teaching students how not to multitask may be the real skill necessary for achieving in the 21st century.

University of Washington Professor David M. Levy is working on this very idea.  The Chronical of Higher Education article, Your Distracted, This Professor Can Help, describes how Professor Levy runs a class called "Information and Contemplation" that specifically focuses on teaching students how to still their mind and focus their attention as a way to gain mastery over the distractions caused by media multitasking.

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at February 23, 2014 06:11 AM


Coffee table books

Coffee. I'm a fan! I have a coffee table at home as well, although my kids use it to stage their Lego handiwork, so it's hardly used as a coffee table. Whether you have a coffee table or not, here are three versions of a coffee table book that we produced for various community summits. These books were given away as raffle prizes, but these are also for anyone to purchase. The pricing is at cost, as determined by Blurb, the press that produces the paper copies. Pick a softcover version, or a hardcover with a dust jacket. We are happy to share these with you - with gratitude to an incredible project, the fantastical world of children around the world and the wonderful community that makes it all happen. Get one for yourself, or give one as a "Thank you" gift to those who have helped on this journey. Enjoy!

by sverma at February 23, 2014 03:23 AM

February 22, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Unleash Kids @ SCALE

Curt and I will be headed to the Southern California Linux Expo in Los Angeles tomorrow for a talk on our most recent exploits in Haiti. Some of the key points:

Hope to see you there!


UK poster

by James at February 22, 2014 07:30 AM

February 21, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Off-the-Grid: “Suitcase Solar” Solutions for Power in Haiti

The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of how we solved a common infrastructure problem for rural schools in Haiti.  Hopefully, this page will provide useful guidelines which could be used all over the world in any context where electricity is necessary but not readily available.  I’ll start with a few of the concerns our “Suitcase Solar” power system was meant to address: Cost, Portability, Security, Reliability, and Usability.

What does the solar system consist of?
In general a solar system will need the following… (You can find a list of the actual parts we used below.)

  • Solar Panel
  • Charge Controller
  • Deep-Cycle Battery (Gel (zero-maintenance) or Flooded (longer-lasting))
  • Wire
  • Connectors
  • Clamps (It is a good idea to clamp the wires to the solar panel or panel frame to relieve stress on the soldered connections at the panel)
  • Voltmeter / Multimeter
  • Inverter, if you need it (Our XO Laptops do not need an inverter as they can charge from DC)

The cost of a solar power system puts it out of reach for many schools, especially in the rural areas where these systems are most needed.  As such, we solicited donations and/or self-funded these projects.  Since Haiti is an island nation, the cost of materials are often inflated.  It made sense to us to buy whatever we could in the United States and bring it along.  The panel, charge controller, wires, and connectors were bought in the United States, mostly from amazon.com.  We bought the battery in Haiti, in Port-au-Prince, at a large store called “MSC Plus.”  Shipping batteries seems to carry extra fees as the battery contains dangerous chemicals, so it is probably best to buy your batteries at your destination when possible.

Our deployment teams tend to be small, sometimes just a single person with an extremely small budget.  What we basically needed was a whole solar power solution that could be brought to the deployment in one trip on a motorcycle.  We found portable “rollout” solar panels that made this possible.  The battery is heavy and the solar panel is large, but you can fit this whole system in one large backpack.

While I found Haiti to be pretty safe, security is a major concern of the local population.  Solar panels are pretty precious, so there is always a chance that they will be stolen if left out, especially overnight.  This is another place where the rollout solar panel has a great advantage.  It can be rolled out in the morning, and then rolled up and locked away at night when it won’t be useful anyway.  Theft of the battery and charge controller is also a concern.  In some cases, these elements can be kept in a locked room indoors with wires run permanently to the panel on the roof with quick-release connectors.  Ideally the quick-release connectors would be color-coded or numbers to prevent accidentally switching the positive and negative feeds and potentially ruining the battery.

Reliable parts are expensive, but it is far more expensive if you have to return to your deployment to fix or replace something.  In our experience, it is critically important to get a charge controller that is robust enough to handle more load than you plan on drawing.  The other parts we have found fairly reliable.  You can find links to the products we used (or similar products) at the bottom of this page.

Some team of local staff, volunteers, students or other people should be trained in how to hook up all the equipment.  As I mentioned before, I think color-coding is a good solution to ensure positive and negative leads are not crossed.  Be sure to test thoroughly and find any potential issues and train for them.  In our case, the charge controller needs to be set manually for Battery Type and Charging Mode.  There is a chart in the manual which specifies which Battery Type to use for Gel-type batteries or Flooded batteries.  For Charging Mode we set it to “Always On,” which disabled a built-in timer function.  All of this is set with one button, tapping it to select the function, holding it to get to “edit mode,” and then tapping again to change the selected setting.  When you find the selection you want, you have to touch nothing, after several seconds, the setting will be saved.  Figuring this out took some time and we put stars next to the relevant settings in the manual which we left with the local staff.  Furthermore, each time you tap that button, it toggles the output of the charge controller on and off.  We went over this several times with the local staff, basically saying that if you’re getting no output, just tap this button once and measure again.  The single-button toggled output is a big enough issue that I will be looking for another charge controller for future deployments.

Our Setup at Ferrier School

Below is the list of parts we used, with notes, and with links for purchasing the same or similar products.

Solar PanelUNISOLAR PVL 136 Watt 24V Panel (~$200)
Note that if using a 12V battery, you’ll need a charge controller that can handle the 24V to 12V conversion.  Even though the panel supposedly outputs at 24V, we measured over 40V of output in full sun directly from the panel to the multimeter.  This likely overloaded the first charge controller we used (as well as a spare unit), requiring a second visit to install a “beefier” model.
Unfortunately, these panels are can be hard to find, but can often be found on eBay.
Currently, a third-party is selling them at amazon.com for about $200:

Charge ControllerMPPT Tracer1210RN (~$80)
The thing to look out for here is the single button.
Tapping the button will change cycle through “settings” display AS WELL AS toggle the output (powering your device(s)) ON and OFF.  This can be very confusing because once you’ve gone through and set the battery type, and set the mode to “always on,” you have a 50% chance of measuring no voltage at the output leads.  The LEDs will all look lit up and correct, causing more confusion.  If you’re not seeing any voltage, tap the button and remeasure.  It’s probably a good idea to read the manual beforehand, and print and leave on behind for whoever will maintain the system, highlighting the correct settings.
The part we used is available from Amazon for about $80 (and has been updated to a MPPT Tracer1215RN):  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008KWPGS6?tag=s601000020-20

Deep-Cycle Battery: (~$250 USD in Port-au-Prince Haiti from MSC Plus)
We decided on a “Flooded” battery since the local staff had experience with flooded batteries and this style of battery lasts longer.  We also left a gallon of distilled water and a battery water tester at the school.  From what I was told, if maintained, Flooded batteries last longer, but if not maintained, they will lose their ability to hold charge after several months.  If you aren’t sure that the locals can and will maintain the battery, you should probably go with the Gel type.  The Gel type was also slightly more expensive for the same amp-hours, about $280 vs $250.

Flooded type Trojan J150 (similar to what we used): http://www.amazon.com/Trojan-J150-150AH-Flooded-Battery/dp/B009M7AXI6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1392846680&sr=8-4&keywords=trojan+battery

Gel type: VMAX MR127 http://www.amazon.com/VMAXTANKS-VMAX-MR127-Ebbtide-trolling/dp/B0087FQLDU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1392847026&sr=8-2&keywords=trojan+battery+gel+12v

 Battery Hydrometer (for Flooded Batteries): (~$15-30) Available from amazon.com (will update with link)

Useful Peripheries…
12-Guage Wire:
Be sure to get enough, as in, it’s best to get a good deal more than you think you’ll need.

Wire Connectors, Multi Tool Stripper, Cutter & Crimper:
Neiko 175 Pieces Solderless Wire Terminal & Connection with Wire Stripper Crimper Tool
This kit has most of what you’re likely to need.  If you plan to do a complicated setup, you may need extra connectors.

Multimeter: ($20 – $200)
The higher the accuracy the higher the cost.  If you will do multiple deployments or if accurate measurements are a priority, it’s probably worth getting a good, reliable model.


More Accuratehttp://www.amazon.com/Fluke-117-Electricians-True-Multimeter/dp/B000O3LUEI/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1392848199&sr=8-9&keywords=multimeter

Putting it all together

Ferrier hopeful solar setup 

These parts combine into a cheap and simple yet flexible and highly practical classroom solar system. For this project, we spent less than $600 on equipment (other main expenses being time to setup and the costs of transportation. Follow our blog for more stories of success and failure in our off-the-grid deployments.

by curt at February 21, 2014 10:02 PM

February 20, 2014

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Teaching in the 21st Century

Here is this week's blog prompt for Higher Education in the Digital Age:

Is the role of educators changing in the 21st century? If so, how? Is the role of the university changing in the 21st century? If so, how? What role does technology play? How does this connect to learning?


There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes "the practice of freedom," the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.  -- Richard Shaull

The struggle between the two kinds of education described by Richard Shaull in the quote above is not a new one.  Because of the power that any entrenched system of social relations has to reproduce itself, education as the practice of conformity continues to be the norm. It will continue to be so, as long as the social relations responsible for the present system continue to exist.

Where there is oppression, however, there will be resistance. Efforts toward education as the practice of freedom go back at least as far as the progressive education movement, which began in the late 19th century. During the 1930's, at a high point in the struggle for working class democracy, the largest longitudinal educational study of its kind was conducted -- the Eight-Year Study of thirty high schools given the opportunity to experiment with progressive approaches to pedagogy and assessment of student learning. The study demonstrated the efficacy of humanizing educational approaches in high school as they related to student success in college. This study could have been part of a broader effort for educational reform, but only in the context the struggle for democracy in general. Unfortunately, WWII and then the right wing backlash of the McCarthy era buried this research away for over half a century.

The technological revolution offers tools and possibilities to the movement for democracy that have never before existed. Nothing illustrates this better than Field Notes for 21st Century Literacy, a collaboratively produced educational resource created in an intentionally democratic, non-hierarchical classroom. Like the free software movement from which it draws inspiration, Field Notes offers a glimpse of the possibility of a society of freely associated producers.

Ultimately, whether the role of educators and universities in the 21st century is changing or not will depend more on campaign finance reform, the voting rights struggle, and the struggle for openness in government than it will on the existence of any particular technology, though information technology does offer the democratic movement a powerful tool with which to potentially impact each of these other struggles.

by jelkner (noreply@blogger.com) at February 20, 2014 07:28 PM

OLE Nepal

Chandi Devi: Voluntourist Ventures into the Field

The day I had been eagerly awaiting has finally arrived. My first visit to a school with our laptop program, Chandi Devi Primary School. I met with Roshan, my fellow software developer and friend from OLE Nepal, at Lagankhel bus stop at 8 am on a sunny Sunday morning to set off for Dukuchaap, one [...]

by martasd at February 20, 2014 06:32 AM

February 19, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Trip in Review: Part 3

After all the hassle of getting there and getting set up, what happens? Here’s some samples of the kids’ work. The best is yet to come! This trip, we introduced a lot of new tools and it’s going to be … Continue reading

by Sora at February 19, 2014 05:42 AM

Trip in Review: Part 2

A large amount of your time in Haiti ends up getting spent going from place to place, and I covered those street photos in the last post. Here are some glimpses of what we do when we finally reach our … Continue reading

by Sora at February 19, 2014 05:12 AM

Trip in Review

Looking back through photos is a good way to get rid of my left-my-heart-in-Haiti blues…and prepare for my presentation with the Kiwanis club of Mercury 64…and give the Kiwanis club of Oyster Point and other supporters a peek at pictures … Continue reading

by Sora at February 19, 2014 05:04 AM

February 18, 2014

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

Orang Asli children deployment in Malaysia

The OLPC 2.0 journey continues ....

Will be returning to Malaysia this week (since basecamp2013 pre-deployment visit) for deployment launch this weekend. The children are indigenous children of Malaysia (Orang Asli).

 The schoolsever (XSCE 5) final testing before going into the wild :-)


by T.K. Kang (noreply@blogger.com) at February 18, 2014 04:27 PM

Nepal: Captured in the Himalayas

Dukuchaap: Voluntourist Ventures into the Field

The day I had been eagerly awaiting has finally arrived. My first visit to a school with our laptop program, Chandi Devi Primary School. I met with Roshan, my fellow software developer and friend from OLE, at Lagankhel bus stop at 8 am on a sunny Sunday morning to set off for Dukuchaap, one of the nearest deployments just south of Kathmandu. As I had expected, our journey soon turned into a bumpy ride on an unpaved road. Traveling through Nakhkhu, Sainbu, and Bungamati, we arrived to Dukuchaap shortly after 10:00 am. At the bus stop, we met with an English teacher from Chandi Devi, who guided us through a steep winding path to the top of a hill, where children were just about to start the first school day of the week. Yes, you read that correctly. Here in Nepal, a week has six working days with Saturday being the only holiday of the week.

Chandi Devi is a modest school, but what it lacks in resources it compensates with teacher dedication. But more about that later. The school has been using laptops with E-Paath and E-Pustakalaya since November 2012, so it is already a well-established deployment by now. I exchanged a few English words with the head teacher Sitaram Khadka, who we proceeded to follow to the “laptop classroom”, a room specifically designated for classes using laptops. It was time for the first class of the day for grade 3, Math. 22 curious faces were peeking at me as I entered the classroom along with Roshan and the teacher. With the help of one of the students, the teacher distributed the laptops to each kid. Then, in unison, the class pressed their laptops' power buttons to start the systems and familiar Sugar kid icon appeared in the middle of the screens. The topic of the lesson was: odd and even numbers.

It becomes immediately obvious to me that Sitaram is an experienced teacher. Before turning to technology he first explains the concepts using everyday objects from the classroom- windows, tables, chairs. Everyone is paying attention (except the girl closest to me who is wondering what this strange foreigner is doing in her class). Objects around the room don't scale, however, so after a few minutes it's time for the laptops to join the show. Students click on E-Paath's logo on the home screen and open the corresponding Math activity. The activity starts off by showing various one-digit numbers, which the students need to identify as either odd or even. Most of them are getting it by now. I notice that the ingenious designers of the activity randomized the numbers that show up, so that the children cannot copy from one another. Subtle, but quite important for effective learning I would say. At the end, the teacher asks the first three students who finish the activity to come to the front of the classroom to receive a small price such as a pencil or eraser. Each also gets an applause.

Before the lunch break, Roshan and I got an opportunity for comparison when we were invited to sit in a English non-laptop class. This time it is grade 4 with total of 17 students in attendance. We squeeze into a cold and gloomy room with barely enough space for everyone. Today, we were all learning the phrase “it looks like a … .” As the teacher is not particularly artistically gifted, the objects he draws on the whiteboard require a good deal of imagination. He goes on to recite the phrase of the day and the students repeat in parallel: “it looks like a shoe.” After a few examples, students are assigned to work on exercises from their textbook, all of which involve writing down the by now very familiar phrase, again varying the object according to the picture portrayed in the book. As each student finishes her exercise, the teacher individually checks each sentence she wrote down. Needless to say, this is a very time-consuming part of the class leaving students who finished early bored with nothing to do, but stare into empty space giggling at me occasionally. I must admit that even I am getting bored as the class drags on. Before the end, a few minutes are left for the teacher to introduce a few more vocabulary terms. Again, students practice by reciting them back at the teacher. I leave the class with very mixed feelings- I see very clearly the difference laptops can make in the classroom, but, unfortunately, each grade gets to use them only for one hour per day.

After lunch, Roshan and I sit down with Sitaram to hear his perspective on the program. Sitaram makes an impression of a teacher unusually dedicated to the school and his students. He explains that with little support from the government, he and his colleagues have recently decided to take a cut from their salary in order to hire an additional teacher the school had desperately needed. Roshan and I are moved as he details the lack of support their school is coping with.

Naturally, I am very curious to ask Sitaram what thinks about the laptop program at Chandi Devi. He says that OLE laptops with E-Paath make it easier for him to teach students and that he sees the students benefiting from the program. This is not only his subjective opinion or a polite answer to the folks from OLE- also the numbers show an improvement in student's learning. He mentions that students' exam scores have increased and the school dropout rate went down since the laptop program was introduced in the school. Later on, another teacher voices the same opinion and confirming Sitaram's words about students' performance. On the flip side, I am somewhat disappointed to learn that students do not have any opportunities to play and experiment with the laptops outside of regular laptop classes due to schedule constraints of both students and teachers. They could be using them to learn more in areas they are most interested in by playing with activities they choose themselves. Instead, laptops sit idle in the charging rack during the rest of the time- an unfortunate consequence of life reality in Nepalese villages.

On the brighter side, this visit has really reassured me that laptops can truly improve the effectiveness of learning when accompanied by a well-trained educator. One teacher in a class of 22 simply cannot create the kind of personalized learning environment for every student the way a laptop can. With the right activities, each student can work at her own pace. In this way, the teacher does not need to decide between slowing down the brighter students by catering to those work more slowly, or advancing too quickly through the material for everyone to understand. In the English class without laptops, I observed the teacher spend a considerable amount of time checking each students' answers to the exercises he assigned. With a laptop, all this time can be reduced to a few milliseconds it takes the processor to decide whether the answer the student provided was correct. In such an environment, the teacher can then focus her attention to those who need more guidance, while others keep advancing to following exercises.

Besides a more personalized learning, I also spotted that students who already finished their exercise were occasionally helping those behind. It was the manifestation of the one of the core ideas of the One Laptop Per Child project: there is not only one teacher in a classroom- anyone can be a teacher. As the teacher does not scale, the students themselves take an initiative to teach one another. Such collaborative atmosphere is much easier to accomplish when a student can clearly see the progress of those next to her on the screen than when trying to identify scribbles in another's exercise book in a dark room with windows shut.

In a nutshell, witnessing the impact laptops at Chandi Devi reinforced my conviction that OLE project is making a real difference in Nepalese schools where both material and human resources are scarce. I am very much looking forward to visiting other schools in more remote areas of the country learning more lessons about OLE program's influence on day-to-day learning as it unfolds in “a laptop classroom.”

by Martin Dluhoš at February 18, 2014 12:00 AM

February 17, 2014

OLPC School Server | George Hunt

Current Monitor Progress Report — 2/16/2014

11110335924_08f672ee7f_zAt the OLPC summit in late October 2013, I gave a demonstration of an Arduino based current monitor.  At the time, I was more excited about the schoolserver on the trimslice which was streaming Internet In A Box to a portable LED battery powered projector.

Arduino with Battery Monitor  Shield (trimslice in background)

Arduino with Battery Monitor
Shield (trimslice in background)

But in retrospect, I’m thinking that the battery monitor, which I also was demonstrating at the Summit, is more needed in the developing world.

My Surface Mount Arduino Including Current Monitor

My Surface Mount Arduino
Including Current Monitor

During the December holidays, I started thinking about the XOduino that Scott Ananian designed which had a total parts cost of $10 or so (surface mount parts are cheap).  I dreamed that if the battery monitor circuit could be added  to his design, for a total parts cost less than $20, the product could be sold for $60-90, at an attractive price point.  It was a learning experience to start from Scott’s circuit board design, using Cadsoft’s Eagle circuit board design tool, stripping off all the unwanted parts, an adding those needed for current monitoring.

It turns out, for me, that soldring the CPU (44 pins) was infinitely easier than resistor networks with only 8 pins.  I concluded that hand soldering was not really an option (I was thinking cottage industry in Haiti).

So I reset my thinking. At about the same time I noticed that Amazon had Arduino Leonardo knock offs available for $13 (see knockoff Leonardo). Of course I ordered 2. And I discovered that they would be shipped from Hong Kong, and would arrive in a month. But if these boards turn out to function adequately,  the standard Arduino, with a shield, composed with through hole parts, seems like a better solution.

Through hole design

Through hole design

On Feb 13, I submitted a through hole design to the printed circuit fabrication shop I like (oshpark.com). This company gives about 15 day turn around on 3 boards for $30. The plated through holes make it so much easier to put together a functioning prototype. Otherwise I have to solder on both sides of the board at the critical pads where current must transfer from one side to the other (really hard underneath connectors).

The schematic for this Arduino Shield: current_monitor_v2. The design documentation from which I drew inspiration can be found in this application note.
Many battery experts believe that the life of lead acid batteries can be greatly extended by using very short pulses of high current. This circuit, called a “desulfator” is inspired by this reference at http://fucimin.altervista.org/desulf/desulfator.pdf. I am just about to have a circuit board built for this circuit:  battery-nurse as a companion for the Arduino shield mentioned in the previous paragraph.

by George Hunt at February 17, 2014 08:47 PM

School Server Realities

During a nine day visit to Haiti Jan 20-29, the difficulties of providing power, and the realities of my poor planning and judgement, hit home.  When I visited Haiti in March, and Sept, I  installed two school servers with 12 volt lead acid batteries supplying the energy during the frequent power outages.

Silar's Orphanage

Silar’s Orphanage

During my January visit, I discovered that both batteries were completely discharged.  This is a condition which can lead to battery failure within a few months. In March, at Silar’s, I installed a 15 Amp charger. At Mission of Hope, there was a charger available, which I agreed to, which turns out to be a 1.2 Amp intelligent charger manufactured by Black and Decker.

The Chargers

15 Amp Smart Charger

15 Amp Smart Charger

When I arrived at Silar’s the power was on, and the charger capable of  charging at a 15 Amp rate, was only providing 8 Amps.  This indicates that the chemical activity of the lead plates has already been degraded, and may require special charging to recover.

It turns out that when we asked a kid at Silar’s orphanage to log the power start/stop times, the average on-time of the city grid is 1-2 hour per day, with a gap of two days with no power at all.

1.2 amp smart charger Totally inadequate!

1.2 amp smart charger
Totally inadequate!

At Mission Of Hope International, it was my poor judgement, which created the problem. I did not insist on the purchase of an adequate charger to accompany the newly installed battery back in September, when we installed the battery.  The 1.2 Amp charging rate  of the charger is completely inadequate for supplying a school server which is drawing .5 Amps on a continuous basis. With the battery completely discharged, it would take 230 hours to reach full charge, assuming that the power was on full time, and that the charger actually worked. Neither are true.

There may be solutions at both Silar’s, and at Mission of Hope.  We probably should install some solar panels and a charge controller at Silar’s.  The total charge capacity at Silar’s is 2700 Watt Hours. If we use half of that, 1350 watt Hours are necessary.  With a seven hour day, a 200 watt panel would just barely be adequate. I’ve never seen 100 watts from a 100 Watt panel. And Silar wants to have some power for light in the evening.

At Mission of Hope, I contributed $200 towards the purchase of a 10Amp charger from a local (Home Depot like) supplier. The local administrator purchased a 20 Amp charger for $100.  He was not able to confirm that the charger that he bought was “smart”, and would not overcharge (and thereby destroy) the battery. Time will tell!

Both of these deployments emphasized for me how useful it will be to have a battery monitor (see http://schoolserver.wordpress.com/power/a-battery-tender-for-the-school-server/).

by George Hunt at February 17, 2014 01:18 AM

Raspberry Pi As an OLPC Classroom Projector

When I was a high school teacher, I used films from the County education department to make the geography books I was teaching more concrete, and sometimes just to babysit the class, when I was overworked, or nearing the end of a school year.

I believe similar motivations would motivate teachers in the developing world, if there was available  a turnkey solution, and a means for acquiring appropriate Audio Visual materials. The Raspberry Pi, integrated with the school server,  can fulfill this need. What would it take?

11110287615_a1e1c02846_zAt the OLPC Summit, in late October, 2013, I demonstrated a battery powered Raspberry Pi projector, receiving Khan academy video over wifi from a Trimslice school server. The Khan academy videos were contained in the Internet In a Box, which is a collection of free material on the 1 Terabyte hard drive in the Trimslice.

The picnic basket contained the Raspberry Pi with a tiny wifi USB dongle, the sealed lead acid battery, and the 20 watt LED projector (the horizontal package sticking up above the wire basket), and all the wires coiled up that connected everything.

This $300 projector creates a 1024×800 image that has pretty good definition, but really requires a fairly dark room to be seen by a large number of students.  My experience is that often the classrooms in Haiti are naturally pretty dark, but if they do happen to have large windows that let in a lot of light, there usually are no curtains handy. It’s a problem that would need some attention.  But the $400 for the projector, and the $300 for the schoolserver would be the primary stumbling block — not even mentioning the lack of enough power to charge the batteries.

by George Hunt at February 17, 2014 12:46 AM