August 19, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Unleash Kids Workshop: Bringing A Story To Life

Today we launched the first of what I hope will be many monthly workshops over at our Delmas28 location. A total of four of our most experienced teachers – Fefe, Dyna, Jeanide, and Ruben – worked with a group of 18 students to help them produce a story using Scratch.

As you might have gathered from the number of teachers needed, this activity is more advanced than the stuff we typically do to introduce the kids to the computers. Scratch is a programming language developed for kids by MIT. You click and drag on blocks to give the commands. With the ability to manipulate appearance, sound, and interactions between objects, you can make games, animations, and basically anything you’re willing to put your mind to make happen.

Students getting started

Students getting started

Our theme for the day was “a time when something hurt me.” I came up with it the day my phone got stolen – I was messing around on Scratch to prepare for the workshop, I needed the story to tell, and that was the first thing that popped into my head.

One of the older orphanage boys, Peterson, had been watching me program the thief’s gaze and movements towards my cell phone. I asked him to tell me his own story about a time when something hurt him. He immediately launched into an account of a time he got into an argument with his father. “Wait, wait,” I found myself saying. “Go over it more slowly. Who were the participants? What did your father do, and how did you react?”

Once we had all the characters in place, we typed out the dialogue for each one, tweaking the timing for each one to make sure the text was on screen long enough for someone to read. We drew two pictures of Peterson’s birth certificate – one whole, and one torn in half – and had it switch from one to the other at the story’s climax.

There’s a satisfaction to reducing something painful to its bare elements. By programming, you get some measure of control over the situation. I was a little nervous about choosing something so heavy as a topic for a kids’ workshop, but it turns out they were ready for it. Most stories are about someone in trouble, after all, and adults can be wrong when they assume kids crave Disneyfied happy endings. Kids have a strong sense of right and wrong – ever try to cross over the lines of a hopscotch game? They understand that bad things can happen to good people, and they want to know why.

Physical punishment is part of Haitian culture, and quite a few kids told us about a time when their parents beat them even though they didn’t feel they deserved it. We also had several tales about dogs on the street stealing meat or biting people. Others wrote about pets that died, fights with friends, and motorcycle accidents.

Our job was to bring each and every story to life. We started out by asking the students to fill out a simple form, listing characters, actions, objects, and reactions. Then, they had to find or draw a picture for each one, along with a background.

Deciding which commands to select.

Deciding which commands to select.

It was the students’ first time using the computers, so they needed a lot of help and encouragement. One boy wanted to write about his cell phone being stolen, but he couldn’t find a phone in the list of preloaded images. I showed him the option for drawing one, but he seemed a bit daunted. The guy next to him had a picture of a person and a picture of a bicycle, but he couldn’t make the guy sit on the bike because they were facing opposite ways. I told him to play around with the rotate and flip options until it looked right. The girl next to him had chosen all of her images already, but she needed a belt in her father’s hand as the finishing touch, and refused to try to draw one.

It was extremely rewarding to watch them all figure it out. When the boy with the cell phone called me back over, I saw he had drawn not just one but two phones, and also added a laptop. “I had all that stuff sitting with me on the bench while I was studying, and then I fell asleep,” he explained. I helped him program a thief to come in and swipe one of the phones. Watching the finished product, he shook his head and commented, “Hey, at least he didn’t take my laptop and the other cell phone.”

His friend with the bicycle had finally gotten all the pieces facing the right way. He showed me a second drawing he had made, with the guy falling over the bike. “I want the bike to move for a little bit, and then I want it to change to the accident.” I showed him the Movement category and asked him to choose which ones would work.We tried a couple, but kept on having problems because the “person” object wasn’t turning at the same time as the “bike” object. Eventually, we made it easy on ourselves by just combining them into one object that moved with one set of commands.

The girl next to him was busy typing out some text. She’d found a “repeat” block and set things up so that the belt moved up and down three times while her father said, “I told you not go to outside.” She may not have been comfortable with drawing at first, but she was creative enough to do something much more complicated – animation.

Presenting the final product

Presenting the final product

There were some mishaps. Everyone laughed when one girl forgot to program a Coke bottle. On the screen, her character moves over to another character and says, “Here is the Coke” but the Coke bottle itself stays behind in the corner. Not everyone got a chance to finish their story. They took longer to adapt to the computers than they’d bargained for, so we ran out of time. The teachers themselves were sometimes confused on which commands to choose. They hadn’t had much time to practice with Scratch, and each story needed something different. I liked the simplicity of “character, action, object, reaction” for these stories, but it might be better to constrain things even more. Have everyone write about transportation, for example, so everyone’s using the same set of movement commands to program everything, whether they’re talking about a plane, train, or ship.

The good news is, next week we get to try again – this same group will be back for the next three Saturdays to do some more work with Scratch. And then next month, we’ll start another workshop, on a new topic. Can’t wait to see what people come up with.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at August 19, 2014 10:29 PM

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Last Full Day

Can’t quite believe it, but tomorrow my plane takes off and I head off to college. I think one of the things I’ll miss most about Haiti is how many choices I have – about where I want to go, … Continue reading

by Sora at August 19, 2014 04:36 PM

Unleash Kids Workshop: Bring A Story To Life

Today we launched the first of what I hope will be many monthly workshops over at our Delmas28 location. A total of four of our most experienced teachers – Fefe, Dyna, Jeanide, and Ruben – worked with a group of … Continue reading

by Sora at August 19, 2014 04:28 PM

August 18, 2014

Nancie Severs

I Need a “Rest” Coach! — Lebanon, NH


Lebanon, NH

I am half serious when I say I have 9 lives & have only used 3 or 4 of them. I have had remarkable recoveries from adverse effects of medication & from illness before. I have complete confidence that I will recover completely from this challenge also.

But all of you who know me know that I keep myself incredibly busy. I pack lots into each day, and with the exception of savasana in my regular yoga practice, and nighttime sleep, I rarely “just rest.” That, I am not very good at!

I felt ill for about a week after my last chemo and then my energy mostly returned. What have I been doing these 2 “good” weeks? Matt & Lauren were in town and brought darling Maya over for a visit. Maribel and I went to the Look Good Feel Better class sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I spent a relaxing morning with my friend Karen, catching up on her Village2Village work, (Uganda) and hearing about her “daughter” Angella who is back in the Upper Valley for camp again this summer, thanks to the generosity of the Manning family and the Aloha Foundation. Annie and I visited a very unusual garden on the Hanover Garden Club summer tour. And we went to the Norwich Farmers Market too. I took several lovely walks with friends; thanks Lynn, Bruria, & Marty. I went to 3 Yoga classes at AHA. Noi brought over delicious Pad Thai that fed us and 6 friends one night; thank you Noi! Sukhbir, a local “personal chef” cooked vegetarian Indian food and I have nutritious dal and veggies in the freezer for post chemo meals. Mark and I saw North Country Opera’s production of La Traviata, and I saw 3 great films, Slingshot, Ida, and The 100 Foot Journey. I did some XO laptop support and OLPC community work, and I kept up with my household chores.

Wow, are you tired just reading that? I think I need a coach to teach me how to rest. This week, my “daughter” Megan shared a FB photo of a doctor’s prescription to read for pleasure 1 hour in the AM, 1 hour in the evening, and PRN each day. Apropos!

I have said in the past that “my health is non-negotiable.” There is ample evidence that the chemo, radiation, more chemo protocol my treatment team and I have chosen is just right for my cancer. We WILL obliterate it! But it is clear that the 6 + months of treatment will be tough. The surgery wounds from my hysterectomy had to heal. Extra rest & sleep, moderate exercise and dark chocolate Morano Gelato helped me to heal easily from that. Similarly, the chemo and radiation will both cause cellular changes and damage healthy tissue while killing cancer cells. While these “wounds” are different than the surgery wounds, the need for the body to repair itself and heal is similar.

I recently read: “Repairs demand rest. No wonder cancer patients are tired. The fact is, survivors rest. It is a major mistake to carry on at the same frantic pace to which you were accustomed when you were supposedly healthy. Feeling tired is normal for anyone with an illness.” From: Cancer 50 Essential Things to Do by Greg Anderson (Thank you Zinna for that book.)

I am scheduled for Chemo again this week. Aaron is coming from San Francisco to see what it is all about and to bring me home from Boston when I can travel. Mark and I are both looking forward to his visit!
I do feel like these are my last days of summer. There is a nip in the air, a few of the trees have started to turn red and the lovely fall evening light has set in.

I intend to fully recover. Since my top priority is to “get well” and that involves getting “sicker” first, I will prioritize my naps, sleep & wellness activities (think yoga, massage, & outings with family and friends). I will be practicing saying “no” now so that I can say Yes! later. I hope that all of you, “my coaches" will, help me.

August 18, 2014 04:34 PM

August 17, 2014

Fargo to Sudan XO

Tissue Paper Reforms: Coding for Kindergartners | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Tissue Paper Reforms: Coding for Kindergartners | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.

Larry Cuban’s post provides a really nice, concise history of Logo and coding efforts.  As he notes at the end, the Papert effort can be inspiring and instructional, as it has been for our Sugar Labs effort, but we also hit a wall and have suspended the program, as Cuban would expect . : )


by kab13 at August 17, 2014 01:55 AM

August 15, 2014

Hands of Charity XO Project | Kenya

Kids Engaged in Real Life Problems: THE ANIMALS

animalsART@21

THE RHINO AND THE ELEPHANT BEFORE THE JUNGLE KING. LION THE KING

Lion King: Hi my maiden the Hare.

The Hare: I’m here to speak on behalf of the Elephant, the reason why I should speak on his behalf, is the fear due to threats of poachers who are really against its family due to the tusks the posses as part of its body part. Therefore our lords, what he needs is final decision to be made against poachers. Thank you.

The Elephant: It’s a fact, our lords. We need your intervention as a king of the Jungle family.

The Monkey: My lords, if you see me I look like a human being but I’m not because I do not poach. Ooh— my lords I stand here to speak on behalf of the rhino who is mostly endangered because of his precious horns, he was almost killed yester night but I only scared poachers who had guns and running after him. So our lords, let us have an alternative to save the rhinoceros species. Thanks our lords.

The Rhino: Our life is in danger, our lords, please take legal action to conserve our Jungle territory.

Lion the King: Ooh— my Jungle family I have had your cry and I promise to alert my security personnel to enforce law and order. Not only that, but I will by 12:00 noon after today, direct my armed forces to shoot to kill. Thank you and God bless you all.

Marketplace Center Bungoma Kids Hands of Charity & Bonaventure Masika Instructor.


by smallsolutionsbigideas at August 15, 2014 06:27 PM

ICT4D Views from the Field

ICT4D Hardware Challenges White Paper published

Reposted from ICTWorks by Inveneo

What Are the Industry’s Top ICT Hardware Challenges?

Published on: Aug 11 2014 by Danielle Schulkin

 

You are in a minority. Yes, you.

I single you out because, as you read this article online (perhaps on a phone or a tablet or even a MacBook Pro), you are part of the 40% of the world’s total population that has access to the Internet.

Unfortunately most Internet communication technologies are made for people who are already plugged in with their Android, Mac, and Tablet. This hardware is designed for communities with advanced electrical and connectivity infrastructures and aimed at end-users who are well versed on Internet communication technology. But when the same hardware is implemented in developing world locations where such infrastructure is limited, it often fails.

So what accounts for this recurring failure?

In the following white paper, “Emerging Markets: Top ICT Hardware Challenges”, Dr. Laura Hosman presents the top five ICT hardware challenges in emerging markets. These rankings are based on a series of technology salons, in-depth interviews, and macro-level online surveys of experts, practitioners, academics, and end-users of ICT4D. The paper exposes the challenges and needs of developing communities for their ICT hardware. By addressing these needs with new designs, ICT designers and manufacturers will be better able to reach the 60% of the world’s population who remain unconnected.

A short overview of the top five challenges from the paper:

  1. Electricity/Power/Energy: Extremely low power and long battery life; robust handling of electrical spikes, swings, dips, blackouts, and brownouts; and—ideally—at 12-volts DC to be solar-power ready
  2. Cost: Balance must be found between the lowest cost and solid, reliable, functional technology
  3. Environment-Related Issues: Reliability/ruggedness/durability are all of paramount importance (resistance to water, humidity, dust, dirt, and extreme heat); no moving parts recommended; screens are hard to repair and difficult to read in direct sunlight
  4. Connectivity: Essential to the usefulness of just about any device in any location; is what creates value for entire ICT4D ecosystem: the more connected, the more valuable the network. Main method advocated was WiFi
  5. Maintenance & Support: The best technology needs no support. Transportation for repair, maintenance, and support is expensive. Sourcing spare parts is a challenge. Technology that cannot be locally maintained, supported, and repaired is not sustainable.

The focus on those who are already connected ignores scores of people who are just beginning to go online. By optimizing hardware for developing world locations, ICT designers can expand their reach to new markets while at the same time increase quality of life for millions of people around the world.

The paper was published by Inveneo, written by Dr. Laura Hosman, and directed by Inveneo director Bruce Baikie. The following infographic was created by Eric Zan. Check out his website at http://www.ericzan.info

Hardware Challenges Infograph

 

 


by ljhosman at August 15, 2014 06:09 PM

Tabitha Roder

Moodlemoot New Zealand 1-3 October 2014

It’s time to register (and propose a talk!) for Moodlemoot NZ 2014. This year we will be enjoying sunny Nelson as the hosting venue is Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. Block out Wednesday 1st to Friday 3rd October 2014.

The first day is workshops, with four offerings:

  • Moodle Foundation for newer users
  • Moodle Administration
  • Mobile Moodle
  • Moodle in Government

There will be the usual three tracks: technical, general and teaching.

Martin Dougiamas (founder of Moodle) will share “Moodle from the horses mouth” and Dave Sturrock (NMIT) will also keynote.

The usual fun and frivolity can be expected at the conference dinner.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

by tabitharoder at August 15, 2014 05:01 AM

August 12, 2014

Ghana Together

Project(s) Update

A little more than half a year has gone by. What about those projects Western Heritage Home and Ghana Together so bravely launched in January this year? <o:p></o:p>

...many ups and downs, BUT two projects---the new Mobile Library Van and the Children’s Computing Lab---were dedicated just last week.<o:p></o:p>


Community Leaders at the Dedication Ceremony held in the Community Center for the Children's Computing Lab and the Mobile Library Van
 
 
Thanks to the support of Mr. James Baidoe, the Municipal Chief Executive, and the District Assembly, WHH (under the leadership of James Kainyiah), has been given a room in the centrally located Community Center for both the Children’s Computing Lab and the Leif Pederson Internet Café for adults.
 
One Laptop Per Child Computing Lab, just for kids. Mostly boys in this photo, but we'll work on getting the girls involved, too.! The Leif Pederson Internet Café (for adults) has also been moved to this location, and can be seen in the background

Peter, who learned OLPCs when he was living at the WHH Children's Home (now a high school student) is the part-time "teacher" during his school break. Here he uses a projector to demonstrate the many educational activities geared to young children

The Mobile Library Van is getting limited use during the school break, but will deliver books to area schools when school resumes on Sept 9. The van will deliver books to area schools, especially to the "P4" students (our 4th grade) when students typically transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."
The schools have few to no textbooks or libraries so this is a crucial service to improve literacy.
 

Mr. Baidoe handing the keys to the Library Van to Librarian Gadiel Eyison, Acting Director of the Axim Public Library

 

WOW!!! It's absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!
 
"Mr. Gad" starts her up!! Luckily he has been riding motorcycles for some time, since the library used an ordinary motorcycle for a couple of years before it died and now has been replaced with this van. He looks happy!!


This effort creates a centrally-located “Learning Center” linking the public library, the children’s library nook/story hour space, the children’s computing lab, and the adult internet café...more reliable electricity/internet signals, serves business community as well, and just more efficient.

<o:p> </o:p>
One of our scholarship students from the Apowosika Village School speaks her thanks before the crowd on behalf of her fellow students from the Axim Primary Schools
 
Children can hear a good story! Check out book! Use a computer! Take the book home and show off reading skills to Mom and Dad! Brag about computer skills to their siblings! Who cares if it’s a mile or two walk???  <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> 
Students joining in a prayer of thanksgiving to close the dedication ceremony
</o:p>

We extend our heartfelt thanks to those who helped us create the Children's Computing Lab. All of the OLPCS have been donated over the years (if you have one, you know who to contact!!). Thank you,

Thanks

---to those who donated funds to create the lab (paint, tables, electrical connections, etc.)

---to the original creators of the OLPCs who mostly donated their time and incredible technical expertise and continue to do so

---to those who have donated children's books (some 5,000 now)

---to Ebby who helps us ship books

---to folks in Ghana who deliver the books from the port to Axim

---to Librarian Mercy Ackah whose leadership in Axim really launched this project. Mercy is now directing the Takoradi Library, of which the Axim Library is a branch.

---to the devoted, creative, energetic leaders of Western Heritage Home who have ideas and when helped, get them DONE!!!

 
NOTE: we thank Evans Arloo, Western Heritage Home Manager, for the photos
 
---------------------------------------

Meanwhile, due to the ebola outbreak, our Ghana Together team has postponed our travel Axim. We hoped to enjoy the Kundum Festival, review projects, and help launch the new school year, but we'll save that for next time.<o:p></o:p>

Our friends in Axim are well aware of the threat and are taking what steps they can, given limited resources. The Ghana Ministry of Health has declared a “Red Alert” and is disseminating information.
 
Axim leaders are setting up information sessions at this same Community Center. They are finding every hand washing station they can and making sure they are operable. Pastors and other leaders are informing the people about the disease and specific hygienic practices.

We feel helpless here in the US, but we are with them in spirit and in our prayers.


For more info see ghanatogether.org. Click on "News" to see earlier news updates.

by Ghana Together (noreply@blogger.com) at August 12, 2014 11:34 PM

August 09, 2014

OLPC SF

In-person, online or both?

We are getting ready to set up the annual community summit (2014 will be the sixth such summit) and we've made a significant change to the way we organize it. This year, we will be running an online and an in-person event. The summit will be held October 17 to 19, 2014. You can either be here with us in-person, or be online and attend! Let us know what your thinking is at this time, so we can organize accordingly.

Take the poll and help us plan!

by sverma at August 09, 2014 10:33 PM

OLPC San Francisco Community Summit 2014

OLPC San Francisco Community Summit 2014

from October 17 to 19, 2014

in San Francisco, California, USA

and online worldwide!

 

 

Mark your calendar!

This will be a online-and-offline event with opportunities to attend and present both online from the comfort fo your home, or in person in San Francisco. More details coming soon.

by sverma at August 09, 2014 10:22 PM

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Doing It All

I talked a little bit about the work in Lascahobas while we were doing it, but now that it’s done it’s worth taking a look back at just how much went in to the site.

First, a lot of preparation is needed to get materials ready before they’re sent down to Haiti, so that installation is as simple as possible upon arrival. Some physics students at Randolph-Macon took on the task of building and testing out the rollable solar set-up. Meanwhile, our schoolserver team figured out how to run the network directly off the batteries being charged by two other panels.

Testing out the solar set-up.

Testing out the solar set-up.

The solar team at Randolph-Macon. Shuyan, Conner, Dan.

The solar team at Randolph-Macon. Shuyan, Conner, Dan.

Our first full day in Hinche was then dedicated to getting that solar system in place – we knew we couldn’t do anything without a source of electricity. Shuyan worked on the portable, rollable system, and a team of professionals from DigitalKap came in to install the other two panels securely and permanently.

Setting up the charge controller

Shuyan setting up the charge controller

Discussing where to put the solar panels

Discussing where to put the solar panels

It ended up being a really long day. The DigitalKap guys promised a secure install, and of course “security” means different things to different people. Bernadette, the school director, wanted them to cover the panels with metal flaps. Ultimately, they came up with a solution that satisfied everyone, welding on a brace to make everything more secure. Of course, that meant taking down the panels, going into town, and finding a welder. So, the job wasn’t finished until really late that night, around 9 or 10: they had to run a light-bulb off a generator in order to be able to see to set up the final pieces. The important thing, though, is that Bernadette feels the panels are protected. It’s her school, and our goal is to minimize the worries we cause her as much as we can.

Discussing options with Bernadette

Discussing options with Bernadette on the roof

Hoisting up the solar panels

Hoisting up the solar panels

The welded brace.

The welded brace.

Other security measures had to be taken as well. Since the rollable solar panel has to be put out and taken down every day, Bernadette recommended hiring a guy to build a tower and install a door to give easy access.

Constructing a tower

Constructing a tower

In the computer room itself, another guy put in a shelf for the network equipment and charge controller.

We constructed a shelf to keep the boxes with blinking lights out of the reach of kids.

We constructed a shelf to keep the boxes with blinking lights out of the reach of kids.

On Day 2, we leaped into our job of fixing laptops. The grand total, I’m proud to announce, was 126. That means they had their data collected, were unlocked, had their date updated, had their firmware upgraded, and had HaitiOS installed. 55 more laptops are in various stages of disrepair – hopefully some can be salvaged at a later date, or at least used for spare parts.

One big obstacle was electricity: the city power comes on at night, but other times there’s no real guarantee you’ll have it. In order to work on the laptops, we needed to be able to turn them on, so we had to get creative. For tasks like collecting data, unlocking, and changing the date, we switched out dead batteries for some that we’d charged ahead of time, doing the job, and then taking those good batteries back out to use in the next set of machines. Basically, we had a bunch of batteries and laptops going back and forth, working in pairs to get those stacks of unfinished machines lower and lower. For tasks that take longer or require a power source, like upgrading firmware and installing HaitiOS, we carried the laptops back to the rectory where we were sleeping and stayed up until 11 or midnight finishing the process.

Shuyan and Herodion helping to transort laptops

Shuyan and Herodion bringing laptops back

On top of all that, we also wanted to make sure the local teachers understood how to use all the fun toys we were working so hard to bring them. Every morning started out with a training session in the XO laptops. We also went over the solar system and the Internet set-up, and we invited kids to attend on the last few days for some trial classes.

Meeting to review the Haiti Course Guide

Meeting to review the Haiti Course Guide

As you can probably gather by now, none of this could have happened without a fantastic team and a lot of careful planning. Plus, support from Ben Burrell’s church back at home in Virginia, which was really needed to make everything possible.

In addition to the work at Bernadette’s AFAL school, we also visited another school in the area that received laptops and fixed a total of 65 machines there. Unfortunately, this school isn’t as lucky as Bernadette’s – they don’t have a relationship with a church back in the States that provides funding to make things happen. Working with Bernadette’s school and Ben’s church has made me realize just how essential it is to have a source of funding: so teachers can get paid for the extra work they’re doing in the computer classes, so electricity can flow, so an Internet connection can happen.

So grateful for what we’ve been able to accomplish in Lascahobas thanks to everyone’s efforts. We’ll keep moving forward as much as we can with every one of our locations, but I know this school will go farther than many others thanks to all it’s able to receive.

The "other school"

The “other school”

by Sora Edwards-Thro at August 09, 2014 09:21 AM

Delmas28 Launch

We just got done launching our second project with Ken Bever and Hope for Haiti’s Children at the College Chrétien de Delmas. This school has 580 students, from pre-K all the way up to the last year of high school, and nursing students also use the space to meet. Now, it’s also home to 25 XO laptops and our Internet-in-a-Box system.

Jeanide, Fefe, and I ran training together, and now Fefe’s going to be responsible for keeping the program going. Fefe already has three months of experience giving the XO course in Cazeau, so I know everything’s going to be in good hands. Jean Tirard, director of the school and church, is really excited about this new opportunity, and I am, too.

Laptop "seminar" participants

Laptop “seminar” participants

Jeanide goes over the parts of the computer.

Jeanide goes over the parts of the computer.

The fact that the school includes a wider range of ages means it’s easy to find apprentices – teenagers between 14 and 17 years old who really have a passion for technology. Around the world, the best programs are the ones that give these young enthusiasts the chance to mess around and inspire others. Resources like Internet-in-a-Box can also be useful for professionals like these nursing students who want to do research. Overall, I think the laptops are going to be used really heavily here, in a wide variety of ways, and I’m looking forward on hearing about the results.

It’s always a pleasure to work with Hope for Haiti’s Children. They support local directors like Jean Tirard with the resources they need, but also give them the freedom they need to get things done. I know from experience it’s a tough balancing act, and I’m always impressed when organizations manage to get it right.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at August 09, 2014 09:10 AM

August 08, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Anyway

When you’ve just stepped off a taptap and suddenly you don’t feel your phone in your pocket anymore, your first reaction is confusion. You know exactly what happened, but you don’t want to believe it. You’re trying to decide what … Continue reading

by Sora at August 08, 2014 12:55 PM

Doing It All

I talked a little bit about the work in Lascahobas while we were doing it, but now that it’s done it’s worth taking a look back at just how much went in to the site. First, a lot of preparation … Continue reading

by Sora at August 08, 2014 12:34 PM

August 07, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Worth It

Originally published on Project Rive blog

More than halfway through our time here in Lascahobas, and the question that keeps running through my head has to do with value. We’re doing a lot of work here: installing network and solar systems, conducting training seminars, repairing large quantities of machines. I don’t mind that we’re not being paid for it, but I do wonder how much we should be paid. How much are all of these things worth to the people they’re supposed to be helping?

First of all, allow me to complain about the condition of the computers. The first thing Jeanide decided to do with them once we’d gotten the sack open was clean everything with a damp rag – these things were pretty filthy. Okay, maybe the kids were scared of using water to wash them. But the computers are damaged in other ways as well. Smashed screens, missing antenna, keys peeled off from keyboards, cracked batteries. Not all of them are that bad, of course, but these are definitely the worst cases I’ve ever seen.

One school's storage center.

One school’s storage center.

I know in a way this is a good sign. There’s such a thing as a computer that’s too clean, and I’m glad these machines aren’t suffering from that. They’ve clearly been used. And I love how the kids make the laptops their own by adding personal touches like writing their name on the front and drawing little pictures on the keyboard.But in the end, you have to start wondering how much the students really respected the computers when they return them in this kind of state.

No excuses because they’re kids. If I’m working for a group called Unleash Kids, that means I have a basic belief in people’s ability to look after the things they value, no matter what their age. And don’t tell me this is because they’re Haitian or because they’re poor. People tell me my ideas about taking care of things are very American. Not many people here own nice stuff, so apparently it’s a foreign concept to maintain something that costs a lot. Except, I’m not buying that. Most Haitians I know dress better than me – shining their shoes, keeping their white dresses spotless for church. And when people depend on something for a living, like their motorcycle, they take pride in making it look as good as possible.

So you begin to wonder why some people don’t have the same attitude about their computers. Maybe we’ve all got messed-up concepts about the value of technology in general, actually. Every time we put the laptops on display at a tech fair, people come up and ask, “Oh, are these the $100 laptops?” That’s what they remember about them. The price point.

But again, it’s not price that’s important. It’s value, and value only happens when someone puts in the time to make it. The other day, while I was carrying computers down the road to the school, a kid called out, “If there’s one that’s not good, just give it to me!” Then he realized that a broken machine would be useless, and added, “If you want to fix it first, then give me, that’s OK too.” It’s easy to see the problem when we’re talking about whether something’s broken or fixed. But there are so many other opportunities that you miss unless somebody ensures that they happen.

Even when you take out the fancy machines and we’re just talking about teachers standing in front of blackboards, it can be hard to make people see and respect value. I just helped translate a long conversation the other day about teacher salaries. We were asking Bernadette why parents can’t chip in a little bit to pay for their students to attend her school.

Bernadette responded that it’s not exactly an issue of money. It’s not like the parents have absolutely nothing, and it’s not like they aren’t grateful enough for the education their kids are receiving to be willing to pay for it. She’s tried to collect fees before – she had one of her teachers stand in front of the gate on the first day of school so that no one could get past unless they’d paid. But that didn’t work, because no one has the money on hand to pay everything up-front.

Saving money is hard here. Bernadette tries to advise parents to dedicate one chick at the beginning so that once it’s a chicken at the end of the school year they’ll have funds to cover all the kids in the house. But ultimately Bernadette doesn’t have the ability to both educate the parents in smart finances and the children in how to read and write, so she chooses to let the kids attend for free, and Ben’s church raises money to keep everything running.

The school down the road, L’Ecole Mixte Classic, also received laptops from One Laptop Per Child. When we went there to talk to the director, he emphasized that it’s impossible to teach computers if there’s no money to pay the teachers – his term for this is “encouragement.” In all of my reports so far on old One Laptop Per Child projects I complain about how they didn’t bother trying to find local support. But training local teachers means paying local teachers, and it can be really hard to identify whether you’ve got someone competent in each school. So, OLPC decided to just pay a “consultant” to travel between the schools in an area, conducting classes at each one and getting compensated more per week than most of those teachers make in a whole month. But taking the school out of the equation has other consequences, of course. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of who you can trust. Who’s become valuable to you because of the time and energy they’ve given to the community.

Contract for the local guy who OLPC employed

Contract for the local guy who OLPC employed

After all this talking, Jeanide and I go to the corner store to get a drink. There are two ways to buy drinks in Haiti: glass bottles that you return, or plastic that you throw away. The glass ones are cheaper, since you’re only paying for the liquid inside. That night at dinner, the priest we’re staying with explains to his friend another reason why glass is better. When you buy the plastic bottle along with the drink it contains, the government receives some tax money. The money is supposed to go to education, but everyone knows the government teachers are overpaid and don’t even show up to work if the school is far away enough from the inspector’s office.

Computers are a tool for carrying information, just like a bottle carries liquid. And you often see trucks loaded up with boxes of bottles, just like I’m getting used to peering into school storage rooms and seeing boxes of computers. I’m glad we’re going the “glass bottle” route and reusing old machines, instead of the “plastic bottle” route of letting time and money go to waste. But it’s still not enough. I guess what I mean is, that famous quote: “Education isn’t the filling of a vessel. It’s the lighting of a fire.” It’s not just a “you get out what you put in” sort of thing: at some point, someone has to be inspired to go even further than we expected with all of this. Only then will any of this actually become worth it.

by ruben at August 07, 2014 11:44 PM

August 06, 2014

One Laptop per Child

Zambia’s Twabuka Community School Receives Donated Laptop Computers

Reposted from original

Award-winning US travel writer Candyce H. Stapen (gfvac.com) recently visited Wilderness Safaris’ Toka Leya Camp from 15-17 June, not only to enjoy Zambia’s renowned hospitality, but also to donate 11 new computers.

The laptops from One Laptop per Child (OLPC) are powered by their own individual solar panels, which eliminates the immediate need of providing electricity for the school. The computers’ programmes are also able to operate without Internet access when necessary, although Internet access is a plus.

“I am delighted to be working with Travel Sommelier who helped plan our wonderful trip to Zambia and with Children in the Wilderness (CITW) to bring One Laptop per Child (OLPC) computers to rural schools in Africa. The project, Henny’s Kids, is named for my mother, Henrietta, who was an elementary school teacher”, says Candyce H. Stapen. “She would have been extremely proud to see how quickly the children learned how to use their new laptops and she would have been delighted to provide access to reading material and to a whole new world of educational opportunities.”

One Laptop per Child Zambia

According to Dr. Sue Snyman, Programme Director for CITW, one of the main priority needs previously identified by the School PTA and village headmen was access to computers. Toka Leya’s GM, Petros Guwa, and Dr. Snyman work closely with the school in terms of community development projects and meet with the PTA on a regular basis. “The teachers are extremely enthusiastic and proactive and we will be working with them an ongoing basis to ensure the correct assistance and training is received. Ideally we are hoping to grow this project so that the school has the required number of laptops to ensure maximum benefits to both the children and teachers”, Snyman added.

OLPC is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 with the goal of transforming education by providing every child with access to a connected laptop computer, the XO laptop. Connected laptops provide a cost-effective way to create learning environments that facilitate the greatest possible development of all children. OLPC is driven by a firm belief that laptops have a unique ability to leverage children’s innate curiosity and desire to learn, to develop critical thinking skills, and to foster a lifelong love of learning.

A laptop and solar panel, plus shipping fees, cost USD350. Donations of any amount are welcome. To assist us with achieving the next minimum directed order of 100 laptops, please contact Candyce (donate@hennyskids.com), Sue (sues@wilderness.co.za), or send a check or money order in U.S. dollars made out to One Laptop per Child for any amount. Please mail your donation to: Henny’s Kids, P.O.B. 42673, Washington, D.C. 20015-9998, USA.

by mariana at August 06, 2014 03:29 PM

MoneyGram, OLPC donate 250 tablets to students in SA

Thursday 31 July 2014 | 18:13 CET | News


MB-OLPC-20140730_025 The MoneyGram Foundation and the One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC) have donated 250 tablets to students in South Africa’s Masibambane Junior Primary School in Orange Farm. The MoneyGram Foundation’s grant facilitates the initiation of the OLPC pilot program and provides access to technology to the Masibambane School as a way to support and supplement its existing curriculum. This XO tablet-based program is intended to combat social exclusion and to encourage individual empowerment amongst student users. The XO tablet that the OLPC Masibambane Learning Environment program is centered on was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and features a 7.5-inch optical multi-touch display screen. It is loaded with an array of e-learning software that both enables and tracks each child’s educational progress.MB-OLPC-20140730_026 MB-OLPC-20140730_022MB-OLPC-20140730_030

MB-OLPC-20140730_033

by mariana at August 06, 2014 12:25 AM

August 01, 2014

Nancie Severs

2nd Chemo Treatment - Done! — Boston, MA


Boston, MA

Here's my update:
I am becoming a Boston regular. I even bought a commuter pack of bus tickets at the Dartmouth Coach, our bus between Lebanon, NH and Boston.

Because I developed a pretty significant rash 6 days after the first chemo infusion, I was scheduled for allergy skin testing last week at the Brigham Allergy clinic. I was exposed to a histamine (positive control) saline(negative control), and the two chemo drugs I need - carboplatin and taxol. There were three carboplatin &amp; taxol skin tests. On two of the 15 minute readings, I had positive bump reactions but without the itching and red flare I felt with the histamine. The taxol bumps subsided overnight. The carboplatin bump got angrier.

In the morning I called my allergist and sent photos. Phone cameras and emails can be so helpful. As I predicted and consistent with the delayed reaction, the rash at 6 days, I had a delayed reaction. We know it was the carboplatin.

Once again, I am so fortunate to be a patient at The Dana Farber-Brigham &amp; Womens Cancer Center (DF-BWCC). Dr Maria Castells is a world expert and pioneered an allergy desensitization procedure for safely receiving medicine one needs when there is a likelihood of an allergic reaction. Not many places in the USA have the capability to do this. I don’t know what happens at hospitals that don’t have this expertise. Perhaps the drug protocol for the patient is changed. But we know that I need the carboplatin to kill the type of cancer I have. Thank you Dr. Castells for making it possible for me to get the best first line therapy that I need!

The procedure is highly specialized. The full prescribed dose of the drug required is titrated and given in low &amp; slowly increasing doses over a long period of time, to prevent the IgE antibodies that stimulate an allergic reaction from acting against the offending drug. Translated, today’s chemo infusion, and the ones to follow will each take about 10 hours. That does not include time before and after, getting labs and waiting as the drug is prepared, and completing the administrative tasks. It’s a long day, but as the patient, so far, it’s an easy day. I’m sitting in a reclining chair that has seat heater and massage button. I have my own nurse. Debbie is taking careful care of me. She also brings me goodies like food and tea.

The outpatient infusion suite has curtains between the 6 patient areas I can see. While I have a bright and private area with windows and a view, it’s good that I came by myself today as I would chatter with family and friends and likely disturb the other patients. This is a good opportunity for me to limit stimulation and have a quiet restful day. Mark is heading down to stay in the hotel with me, just in case I get stomach sick. When I think I can manage the car trip home, we’ll leave then.

I am very grateful to all of the physicians and staff at Dana Farber. I am in the BEST place for treatment for my specific cancer and for my individual needs!

Boston Upbeat Summer Update
I stayed at my friend’s house in Coolidge Corner again for last week’s allergy appointments. I fully explored and tasted Coolidge Corner. It’s a wonderful walkable neighborhood. I’m a picky eater (vegetarian &amp; fish) and there is no shortage of restaurants, fast food, &amp; yogurt shops that please me. Trader Joes is right there and there is a Whole Foods at the St Mary’s T stop about 5 or 6 blocks back towards town.

My hair began to fall out as was predicted. I have a couple of comfortable fabric hats, &amp; of course, plenty of baseball caps. For the fabric hats, I had an artistic idea of accessorizing them with costume jewelry. I had so much fun. I went down to 20th Century, a great shop with vintage reasonably priced costume jewelry, and found a pin to use as a “hat pin,” and a couple of beads and pearl strands to wrap onto the hat. Jane (who works there) had a good eye and I had fun! 20th Century is on Charles Street on the same side as Starbucks. Check out the photos and visit them next time you are in the neighborhood.

When I left I went to Supercuts around the corner on Cambridge Street. I thought it time to get my head shaved. Adriana preferred to give me a really short cut and we hoped it would last for a few days. It was really cute and I can look forward to when it grows back and is short in “Tillie model” style.

I had the short haircut for 24 hours. It was time for a shave. When my nephew Houman (&amp; Ellen) lived here, Houman raved about the Lebanon Barber Shop. He loved the traditional “no appointment” format where customers come in and sit and chat about town with each other until their turn. He had told me that Micah, the owner is such a nice guy. And that he has never had a better haircut from anyone. So on Wednesday morning I went to the Lebanon Barber Shop and sat down to wait my turn. Micah gently shaved my head. We snapped the selfies I wanted with my Iphone. And when I went to pay for my haircut, Micah would not let me pay. He is a class act. Please patronize him and spread the word.

I have had good energy as long as I don’t do too much and get myself really tired. So far, I’m not too good at resting yet. That’s still a goal. But I’m doing a really good job so far of fitting my treatment into my life rather than making the cancer my life. This week, I went kayaking at Eastman Pond with Jeri C., Annie S. and I went to the Hello Cafe at Cedar Circle Farm, walked down to the river and then picked organic blueberries for us to eat this winter! I went to 2 regular 1.5 hour AHA yoga classes backing off when need be. And Mark and I went to a movie at the college and out to dinner too.

On Monday, I returned to Boston for an appointment and for the Chemo infusion today. Yesterday I walked a lot and got plenty of exercise. Adele and I went to 16 Handles for yogurt and awesome toppings. And I stopped at Nordstrom’s Rack to pick up a summer sweater I needed. Today I am a couch potato just sitting for 10+ hours. Just think if I were flying to Bangkok, I would be almost 1/2 way there already.:)

One thing has changed. My blood counts while high enough to have chemo today, were low and nearing the level that would have prevented treatment. After today’s infusion they will likely be very low. Translated, this means that I am susceptible to colds and illness and if I get sick, I can be sick for a long while. My body no longer heals like it normally does. From now on, I will need to avoid crowds, handshakes and well meaning hugs &amp; kisses. Please don’t come to see me if you think you might be getting sick, or if you have a cold. You can all help with my wellness in this way.

Mark and I left the hospital well after 7:00 PM. I was able to sit with him at “Legal” and eat a baked potato. After dinner, I showed Mark the roses in the Boston public garden and we saw a little of the Shakespeare in the Park staying a safe distance from the crowds.

We came home the next morning. And after the trip, oh was I tired. I spent the entire afternoon sleeping.

Thank you all for your thoughtful cards emails and phone calls. It has made me feel very loved and I appreciate each of them and each of you!

Love,
Nancie

PS: I’ll post another update when I have something to share. Sometimes I post without sending an email alert. If you missed a post and would like to see it, just scroll down below the photo thumbnails and you can easily read the past entries.



August 01, 2014 02:32 AM

July 29, 2014

Fargo to Sudan XO

Inspire Innovation Lab founder passionate about engaging children, community in STEM education | INFORUM

Inspire Innovation Lab founder passionate about engaging children, community in STEM education | INFORUM.

Sugar Labs supports a smarter (computing) culture.  I think we should see if the innovation lab wants / needs some XOs.  Or maybe we can build Rich Rice’s XO kiosk.


by kab13 at July 29, 2014 06:41 PM

July 27, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Worth It

More than halfway through our time here in Lascahobas, and the question that keeps running through my head has to do with value. We’re doing a lot of work here: installing network and solar systems, conducting training seminars, repairing large quantities of machines. I don’t mind that we’re not being paid for it, but I do wonder how much we should be paid. How much are all of these things worth to the people they’re supposed to be helping?

First of all, allow me to complain about the condition of the computers. The first thing Jeanide decided to do with them once we’d gotten the sack open was clean everything with a damp rag – these things were pretty filthy. Okay, maybe the kids were scared of using water to wash them. But the computers are damaged in other ways as well. Smashed screens, missing antenna, keys peeled off from keyboards, cracked batteries. Not all of them are that bad, of course, but these are definitely the worst cases I’ve ever seen.

One school's storage center.

One school’s storage center.

I know in a way this is a good sign. There’s such a thing as a computer that’s too clean, and I’m glad these machines aren’t suffering from that. They’ve clearly been used. And I love how the kids make the laptops their own by adding personal touches like writing their name on the front and drawing little pictures on the keyboard.But in the end, you have to start wondering how much the students really respected the computers when they return them in this kind of state.

No excuses because they’re kids. If I’m working for a group called Unleash Kids, that means I have a basic belief in people’s ability to look after the things they value, no matter what their age. And don’t tell me this is because they’re Haitian or because they’re poor. People tell me my ideas about taking care of things are very American. Not many people here own nice stuff, so apparently it’s a foreign concept to maintain something that costs a lot. Except, I’m not buying that. Most Haitians I know dress better than me – shining their shoes, keeping their white dresses spotless for church. And when people depend on something for a living, like their motorcycle, they take pride in making it look as good as possible.

So you begin to wonder why some people don’t have the same attitude about their computers. Maybe we’ve all got messed-up concepts about the value of technology in general, actually. Every time we put the laptops on display at a tech fair, people come up and ask, “Oh, are these the $100 laptops?” That’s what they remember about them. The price point.

But again, it’s not price that’s important. It’s value, and value only happens when someone puts in the time to make it. The other day, while I was carrying computers down the road to the school, a kid called out, “If there’s one that’s not good, just give it to me!” Then he realized that a broken machine would be useless, and added, “If you want to fix it first, then give me, that’s OK too.” It’s easy to see the problem when we’re talking about whether something’s broken or fixed. But there are so many other opportunities that you miss unless somebody ensures that they happen.

Even when you take out the fancy machines and we’re just talking about teachers standing in front of blackboards, it can be hard to make people see and respect value. I just helped translate a long conversation the other day about teacher salaries. We were asking Bernadette why parents can’t chip in a little bit to pay for their students to attend her school.

Bernadette responded that it’s not exactly an issue of money. It’s not like the parents have absolutely nothing, and it’s not like they aren’t grateful enough for the education their kids are receiving to be willing to pay for it. She’s tried to collect fees before – she had one of her teachers stand in front of the gate on the first day of school so that no one could get past unless they’d paid. But that didn’t work, because no one has the money on hand to pay everything up-front.

Saving money is hard here. Bernadette tries to advise parents to dedicate one chick at the beginning so that once it’s a chicken at the end of the school year they’ll have funds to cover all the kids in the house. But ultimately Bernadette doesn’t have the ability to both educate the parents in smart finances and the children in how to read and write, so she chooses to let the kids attend for free, and Ben’s church raises money to keep everything running.

The school down the road, L’Ecole Mixte Classic, also received laptops from One Laptop Per Child. When we went there to talk to the director, he emphasized that it’s impossible to teach computers if there’s no money to pay the teachers – his term for this is “encouragement.” In all of my reports so far on old One Laptop Per Child projects I complain about how they didn’t bother trying to find local support. But training local teachers means paying local teachers, and it can be really hard to identify whether you’ve got someone competent in each school. So, OLPC decided to just pay a “consultant” to travel between the schools in an area, conducting classes at each one and getting compensated more per week than most of those teachers make in a whole month. But taking the school out of the equation has other consequences, of course. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of who you can trust. Who’s become valuable to you because of the time and energy they’ve given to the community.

Contract for the local guy who OLPC employed

Contract for the local guy who OLPC employed

After all this talking, Jeanide and I go to the corner store to get a drink. There are two ways to buy drinks in Haiti: glass bottles that you return, or plastic that you throw away. The glass ones are cheaper, since you’re only paying for the liquid inside. That night at dinner, the priest we’re staying with explains to his friend another reason why glass is better. When you buy the plastic bottle along with the drink it contains, the government receives some tax money. The money is supposed to go to education, but everyone knows the government teachers are overpaid and don’t even show up to work if the school is far away enough from the inspector’s office.

Computers are a tool for carrying information, just like a bottle carries liquid. And you often see trucks loaded up with boxes of bottles, just like I’m getting used to peering into school storage rooms and seeing boxes of computers. I’m glad we’re going the “glass bottle” route and reusing old machines, instead of the “plastic bottle” route of letting time and money go to waste. But it’s still not enough. I guess what I mean is, that famous quote: “Education isn’t the filling of a vessel. It’s the lighting of a fire.” It’s not just a “you get out what you put in” sort of thing: at some point, someone has to be inspired to go even further than we expected with all of this. Only then will any of this actually become worth it.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 27, 2014 09:18 AM

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Worth It

More than halfway through our time here in Lascahobas, and the question that keeps running through my head has to do with value. We’re doing a lot of work here: installing network and solar systems, conducting training seminars, repairing large … Continue reading

by Sora at July 27, 2014 03:54 AM

July 26, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Lascahobas: We Do It All

Writing this from Lascahobas, a market town in the Central department, where we’re working with a school that received laptops as part of the pilot program back in 2009. If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now how the story goes: the program started out well but then when key people weren’t paid they stopped coming and the computers ended up shoved in the school storage room.

Now, we’re stepping in to do things right the second time around. We’re doing the whole she-bang here: repairing laptops, installing a solar system, connecting a server with Internet-in-a-Box, and of course training teachers how to use everything.

From right to left: Jeanide, Sora, Shuyan, Herodion, and the school gatekeeper.  Solar panel stretched out at our feet.

From left to right: Jeanide, Sora, Shuyan, Herodion, and the school gatekeeper.

We need as many hands as possible to get all that stuff done, so we have a real crack team this time. First off, introductions. Ben Burrell, a computer science professor, is the one who invited us all down here. His church has built up a relationship over the years with AFAL, the local women’s group that runs the school. Shuyan, a student at his college, came down with him to set up some solar stuff. Finally, Jeanide, Ruben, and Herodion are here to help with repairs and training.

Birds'-eye view of Shuyan's set-up.

Birds’-eye view of Shuyan’s charging set-up.

Discussing where to put that super-long solar panel.

Discussing where to put that super-long solar panel.

The first day of work was dedicated to solar. A team of professionals from DigitalKap came in to put in the largest panels securely. Shuyan’s system can just be rolled up and stowed away when the sun goes down, but the other two panels needed to be mounted permanently. It ended up being a really long day. Bernadette, the local director, wasn’t satisfied with the initial frames. She’s had a lot of problems with theft in the past and wanted to make sure these guys did everything possible to make these panels impossible to take. So the team had to go off into town and find a welder to add some braces, which meant the final hook-up didn’t happen until after 9 that night. “I’ll always remember this day,” Ben told me, when we finally clambered into the truck to go home. Turns out even sitting around and “supervising” can be rough when the job takes so long to finish. But I guess we can’t complain, because everything’s running and those panels are as safe as they’ll ever be.

Bernadette, the school director, discusses her preferences.

Bernadette, the school director, discusses her preferences.

The team affixes the solar panel while Jeanide looks on.

The team affixes the solar panel while Jeanide looks on.

Working late into the night to finish the job.

After the solar work came the laptops. We don’t always have electricity to power the machines, so throughout this whole trip every task has one extra step to it: removing the dead battery, putting in one that we’ve been able to fully charge, turning on the machine to do whatever we need to do, and taking the good battery out again so we can use it in the next machine. It’s a frustrating necessity, but at least we’ve got this good-bad battery swap down to a rhythm by now, working in pairs to keep the stored electricity going back and forth between the machines we’re checking and the ones we’ve finished.

Bringing the machines out of the supply closet.

Bringing the machines out of the supply closet.[/caption

Wiping the dust off the laptops. Wiping the dust off the laptops.

Reviewing the updating process.

Reviewing the updating process.

All the work pays off when we get to do training and see students and teachers enjoying the refurbished machines. To wrap up, here are some of my favorite shots of them in action.

IMG_0420 (Medium)

IMG_0454 (Medium)

IMG_0460 (Medium)

Preparing computers for the first day of class.

Preparing computers for the first day of class.

Students getting some shots of sky and trees.

Students getting some shots of sky and trees.

Lots of photos being taken.

Lots of photos being taken.

IMG_0414 (Medium)

IMG_0421 (Medium)

IMG_0424 (Medium)

Stacking the finished machines.

Stacking the finished machines.

IMG_0477 (Medium)

 

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 26, 2014 09:16 AM

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Lascahobas: We Do It All

Writing this from Lascahobas, a market town in the Central department, where we’re working with a school that received laptops as part of the pilot program back in 2009. If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now how … Continue reading

by Sora at July 26, 2014 03:35 AM

July 25, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

A Message from Father Noe at St. Andre

Hello my friends from Saint Dunstan. Greetings! On Behalf of the teachers ,parents , the kids and myself I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support for the academic year 13 – 14....

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at July 25, 2014 02:24 AM

July 24, 2014

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Kenscoff, Special Report

Kenscoff is a town up in the mountains that you reach by following one winding road out of the rich Petionville suburb to the southeast of Port-au-Prince. In the mornings, the route gets clogged up by big white NGO vehicles – as Petionville fills up, many aid workers have been moving up here. Since Kenscoff is a market town, collecting the produce from small farming communities in the surrounding mountains, you also see big trucks loaded up with sacks.

Two things strike you the higher you get up the mountain: the cold, and the beauty. It’s chilly up here, perched up amongst clouds of mist that come rolling in and obscure the other special thing, the view. One of the most famous Haitian proverbs is “Behind mountains there are mountains.” I’ve known it for a long time, but somehow it doesn’t become real until you look out at the patchwork slopes spread before you, at the way the land is so ridiculously wrinkled, the people just tucked into its folds.

Ruben posts some shots on Facebook, of course, and Marie Holt, my ever-perceptive fellow Haiti lover, immediately comments, “Just be happy Sora that you do not have to farm this land as well. Beautiful though…” I see gorgeous gorges; she sees terrain that is steep and eroding much too fast. On another photo, of all the teachers bundled up in hoodies, she emails me, “Is this a joke?” Surely people should develop a resistance to the cold, over time. The temperature hovers around the 60s here, nothing too terrible even if the wind and damp can occasionally make it feel a little worse. But most of the people we’re training aren’t actually locals; Deb and John invited them up here to work in the school and they still go back down to the capital on weekends. Filling out Christelle’s profile page, I list “Bois D’Avril” as her current location at first, but she wants to put down Port-au-Prince. After spending three years there, she still doesn’t really live in Bois D’Avril.

IMGP0175 (Medium)

It goes back to the idea of newness – do you belong somewhere, or are you just visiting? If you’re a visitor then the sights are breathtaking and you’re going to have to slip on a jacket and sleep with a hot-water bottle on your toes. If you’re a local, you’ve got more important things to do than gape at the mountains, and you’re used to the cold. Or maybe beauty is just beauty, and cold is just cold, no matter how many mornings you’ve woken up to them. It’s an important question, trying to figure out whether it’s possible for people to adjust to new scenery and atmosphere, because it’s the same thing with technology in a way. Right now these computers are just marvelous machines. We’ve taught them the basics: blue words are a link. Ctrl+X enables you to cut text out, and then you can paste it somewhere else. But they’ll never really advance until these things become tools in their daily lives.

You won’t ever run out of mountains to cross – no training is ever complete. But as long as you take care of the first order of business, curing people of their fear of heights, giving them ownership of this new foreboding territory, things will be okay. My guess is that didn’t happen the first time the XO laptops were introduced to the schools in Kenscoff. Same story as always, it seems. Big launch, lots of machines. The president’s wife herself came down to kick things off. But the teachers themselves never received any training, so there was no one comfortable and confident enough to keep things going after the OLPC team left.

There are more schools here than in Thomazeau, which probably means more students receiving laptops. Ruben and I find 4 places: Meri Kenscoff (local community center), EFA Kenscoff (the state school), and two church primary schools where students are partly funded by the government. We turn up at each one and Ruben asks for “a little information.” It can be hard to find the directors now that the school’s closed for the summer – most of the time, people tell us that coming back in the morning would be better. We have training in the morning, so I ask Ruben if he can go by himself. He will probably be the one in charge of the training, so it’s important that he’s the one these directors shake hands with. Ruben smiles and shakes his head, and tells me about how one time when he was trying to recruit kids for a special camp, and he wasn’t able to find anybody until Adam, our Canadian boss, started going around with him. Once people saw the white guy, everyone wanted to sign up. It’s nice that I have a function here in Haiti. It’s frustrating that Ruben, who is a school director himself, can’t get the other guys interested in talking to him unless he drags me along.

The national school has cabinets like this one that are filled with laptops.

The national school has cabinets like this one that are filled with laptops.

Anyway, we eventually find someone responsible at two of the places: EFA Kenscoff and one of the church schools. At each, Ruben launches into a speech about how the initial program was “badly done” and our organization plans to do a better job by actually giving training. I’m glad he’s here to explain everything – by being honest that it’s One Laptop Per Child’s fault, the schools don’t feel like they’re to blame for what happened and are more willing to accept our help. One director whips out a pen and paper to take notes on everything. “So, you’re here to continue the program?” he asks. I look at Ruben and shrug. “If the program stopped, we’re here to restart it,” I say, trying to make it clear that we don’t mind that it’s stopped. Everyone involved is going to do a better job this time.

Except, everything’s harder the second time around. Walking around the city, I’ll often see a sign for a cyber-cafe, or a bank, or a school, and I’ll try to go inside but the inside won’t match the outside. The sign is a manti. A lie. Someone else has moved in, taken over, and didn’t bother painting over the original marker so that passerby like me won’t be confused.

"Same name, same school, another vision" the sign says

“Same name, same school, another vision” says this one sign we saw

Some of the magic’s gone: these are no longer shiny brand-new computers, they’re strange green and white things that have been sitting in the back room for a while. Still, I know it won’t be hard to get the excitement going. Computers have lights and sounds and look expensive, which will be enough to attract anyone’s attention. But I’m thinking of the bigger picture, of the original project and all the work that went into it: the hardware design, and all the code, and the visits from the president’s wife. All I can say is we’re lucky to have a community of volunteers who have stuck it out for years, who are committed to doing this thing right. They own these mountains, and they’re ready to guide these schools across them. We’re trying to get people to the point where the cold stops bothering them, so they can chart their own course.

Teachers bundled up for training.

Teachers bundled up for training.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 24, 2014 09:12 AM

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Kenscoff, Special Report

Kenscoff is a town up in the mountains that you reach by following one winding road out of the rich Petionville suburb to the southeast of Port-au-Prince. In the mornings, the route gets clogged up by big white NGO vehicles … Continue reading

by Sora at July 24, 2014 03:22 AM

July 18, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

The People, 1. Digicel, 0

Last week, I vented about Digicel blocking Skype and other VoIP applications, explaining how it’s not just that it’s inconvenient for me, but they shouldn’t be able to get away with what they’re doing.They don’t own the Internet. Luckily, the … Continue reading

by Sora at July 18, 2014 09:32 PM

More to See

The work continues here in Bois D’Avril. Every morning I have to pause for a moment on my way to the bathroom and just gape at the surrounding mountains. I wonder if the people here are as constantly struck by … Continue reading

by Sora at July 18, 2014 12:57 PM

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

More To See

The work continues here in Bois D’Avril. Every morning I have to pause for a moment on my way to the bathroom and just gape at the surrounding mountains. I wonder if the people here are as constantly struck by the beauty as I am – or if they’re too busy trying not to twist their ankle walking up the rocky road to look up and admire. Maybe the villagers feel the same way about technology. For me, it’s just something that wakes me up in the morning (cell phone alarm) and keeps me up at night (talking to other volunteers on Skype). But for them, it’s a new marvel.

Things are really too beautiful here.

Things are really too beautiful here.

Anyway, despite the distraction of the scenery training continues. Children have began participating in classes along with the teachers, which means the lesson sometimes has to pause for a moment while we help the younger ones find a menu option or something. Luckily, the teachers have started stepping in at those moments to assist with telling the kids where to click, and in the end I think that experience helping them can be valuable. Another thing that helps is seating the children in groups so that when you show one all the others follow. Still, we’re trying to structure the day now so teachers arrive an hour before and get some more advanced learning in before the kids arrive.

Ruben explains what we're about to do.

Ruben explains what we’re about to do.

Let's see if the students can do it on their own now.

Let’s see if the students can do it on their own now.

IMG_0195 (Medium)

We end the first day of training with a special treat: spaghetti.

We end the first day of training with a special treat: spaghetti for everyone!

Jeanide and Ruben are both from the city, so being up here is a new experience for them. I know Ruben’s enjoyed the chance to talk with a fellow school director about the difficulties of getting an institution up and running. They were joking the other day about how much of a pain getting registered is. Christelle said, “I don’t want Martelly to come down here and tell me what to do.”

Hot water bottles keep Ruben's bed nice and toasty.

Hot water bottles keep Ruben’s bed nice and toasty.

Jeanide’s been giving Christelle her own recommendations for the school, helping her prepare a list of guidelines to parents. And when the kids struggled with a basic geography game, she sat down after class and hand-drew a map of Haiti, labeling all the departments.

Jeanide traces the outline.

Jeanide traces the outline.

More help arrives as the teachers join in.

Teachers see what she’s doing and start helping out.

Meanwhile, I’m just trying to soak it all in. I’ve always been interested in spending more time in small, isolated villages like this here in Haiti. It’s a struggle to bring technology here – people lack experience and exposure to even basics like cell phones, and there’s certainly no electricity, and the young professionals we’d like to hire as teachers have already left for the city. But I think if we can get a computer program to work in a place like this, we can get it to work anywhere. Of course, Bois D’Avril has a few advantages the other schools don’t because of Deb and John’s generosity. Here, for example, the cycle’s been reversed – Deb and John provide the teachers with a living space, enabling them to leave their homes down in the capital to come help the community here. Otherwise, it would be insane for them to just move into a random village where they didn’t know anyone – these places are so tightly-knit that an outsider would have a lot of problems and worries.

Off on an adventure.

Off on an adventure.

Terraced farming on the slopes.

Terraced farming on the slopes.

See the scarecrow?

See the scarecrow?

These guys passed us on the road.

These guys passed us on the road.

Random house on a hill, all by itself.

Random house on a hill, all by itself.

Coming in to the village.

Coming in to the village.

I’ve still got a lot of learning to do about all the diverse places that make up this country. That’s one job that will never be done.

Patchwork countryside.

Patchwork countryside.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 18, 2014 09:11 AM

July 16, 2014

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Delmas 28 Launch

We just got done launching our second project with Ken Bever and Hope for Haiti’s Children at the College Chrétien de Delmas. This school has 580 students, from pre-K all the way up to the last year of high school, … Continue reading

by Sora at July 16, 2014 09:05 PM

Nancie Severs

Thank Goodness for Yoga! — Lebanon NH, NH


Lebanon NH, NH

I’m laughing at myself as I feel the sore inner thigh muscle I slightly pulled in Jill’s Wednesday AM yoga class this morning. We did a hamstring class that built up to Hanuman, the Monkey God pose, aka a split. I could not get near a split as a child and I was surprised at where my body went today. Pain is not always a bad thing. I came by this nagging thigh muscle very honestly. It makes me smile.

On Sunday, at day 6 following chemo, I developed a really angry rash. Because I have had life threatening reactions to medications in the past, two in particular which involved a rash, Mark &amp; I had to go to the DHMC ER. They told us what would be an emergency and sent us home. An excellent dermatology consult on Monday confirmed a drug rash likely secondary to chemo. I’ll be going to Boston for allergy testing next Monday to make sure we can safely treat me for my next scheduled chemo.

On Monday, my muscle aches subsided and I had more energy. I am optimistic that after future chemos, I can plan to lay low on days 3 through 6, knowing that both my blood counts and my energy level will rise after just a short period of discomfort.

I spent a couple of days this week working on coordination of care issues between Dana Farber &amp; DHMC. I had already had each record of my treatment sent to DHMC from DF. I am unimpressed with the cumbersome steps that my physicians must take to receive, locate, print, and then scan each file into my DHMC EMR. That’s not very “electronic” is it?

I’m getting all of my cancer treatment at DF BWCC. But I anticipated the need for urgent care when home, just as it happened on Sunday. The DHMC records still did not my correct diagnosis and the only way the doctors knew what chemo and other meds I had been exposed to, for the emergency evaluation, was because I had a copy of my DF records in hand. This is very frustrating!

Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Dr. Brooks, my long time PCP &amp; internist. I tried to share some constructive ideas to help figure out a system that will give us confidence when I require care, urgent or otherwise at DHMC while home. He promises to get the folks involved that can put a workable solution in place. I also set up a local standing lab order for the blood work I will regularly need for my DF doctors. The assistants at the DHMC 3 L lab were terrific and helped tremendously with that.

I’ve learned that I have to be willing to advocate for myself, even when doing so adds stress. It’s a good thing I practice yoga. Thank you Jill and "Hanuman" too.

July 16, 2014 08:46 PM

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

The Hills Are Alive

Today Ruben, Jeanide, and I headed up to Bois D’Avril, a small village in the mountains outside Port-au-Prince, near a town called Kenscoff. We’re staying with the Currelly’s, a Canadian couple who have been living here for thirty years. The local school here is receiving 10 laptops, and we’re also setting up Internet-in-a-Box. Shoutout to Nancie Severs, who was the first to realize this is a good home for our machines and got everyone together to make it happen.

Adam’s stayed here before and described it as a Swiss villa. I figured he was just exaggerating like always, but now that I’m here I certainly do feel a sudden urge to start belting out, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Up here at 6,000 feet, you get quite a view. Also, John and Deb have done their best over time to make things comfortable for visitors and the many animals who also live here.

This wouldn't be an Internet site without at least one cat picture.

This wouldn’t be an Internet site without at least one cat picture.

101 Dalmatians, minus 100

101 Dalmatians, minus 100

Jeanide meets Bony.

Jeanide meets Bony.

Check out the winding road on that mountain.

Check out the winding road on that mountain.

Another view of the compound.

Another view of the compound.

We’re also smack-dab in the middle of a cloudbank – at times, you can’t see any of the surrounding countryside because it’s blocked by fog. Less sun and a higher altitude also means the temperature’s below 70 here. That’s the coldest Jeanide and Ruben have ever been. I’ve been cracking up seeing them wandering around in bulky coats.

Ruben all bundled up.

Ruben all bundled up.

Fog rolling in.

Fog rolling in.

So far, we’ve just tinkered around with the server, walked around the village, met the directors and teachers, and given people a brief introduction to the XOs. Wait, I guess that was actually a lot of work after all.

Teachers getting familiar with the computers.

Teachers getting familiar with the computers.

Setting up the server.

Setting up the server.

Internet troubles are less frustrating when this is the view from your workstation.

Internet troubles are less frustrating when this is the view from your workstation.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 16, 2014 09:07 AM

Honduras: The Owen Project

The Magic Mountain

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Many new books have been written and old classics from that time, like Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, have been reissued. I read The Magic Mountain in college and loved the contrast between the magnificent Swiss mountain scenery and the rather twisted characters of the patients in the sanitarium where the novel takes place. We left today for an extended trip higher into the mountains west of Siguatepeque than we had ever been before. We left in two trucks early in the morning and, because of the almost nightly rain showers, our path took us into a thick carpet of mist cloaking the mountain tops and  half way into the valleys. I thought of Mann’s book and felt a child’s sense of adventure and expectation. In Honduras, unlike in  Mann’s fictional Switzerland, the magnificent mountain scenery is reflected in magnificent smiles on bright faces, faces full of innocent wonder and trust. There is a biblical theme that warns against the moral corruption of cities and praises the salutary effect of living in isolated, small groups, immersed in nature, constantly in the presence of eternity. This was reflected in the children, teachers and parents we met in the first school of the day. Set in a pine forest, this humble school building seemed to recognize the majesty of its surroundings, making no attempt to assert a human presence, nestled into a bed of pine needles, tranquil and resonant. In the pictures below I will try to convey how this tranquility is reflected in the children’s faces as they listened to our initial introductions and instructions. Such beautiful faces full of innocence and absolute trust. They made me want to be a better, more loving man. 

The second school was even higher up in the mountains, at the very edge of the coffee fields, just where the original cloud forest takes over on the steepest slopes. This shift from geometric regularity to chaotic, riotous growth is quite striking. Sally’s grandmother was a quilter and we have one of her pieces. We use it under our Christmas tree, where its many folds and different patterns reminded me of the Honduran countryside on our travels. At this school the children had gathered pine boughs and spread them all over the classroom floor and in the area outside the porch where they greeted us with a performance of folk dancing and song. The resinous scent of the fresh pine permeated the performance and our time teaching. Somehow everything – the dancing and singing, the parent’s faces full of pride and our own enthusiasm and commitment- seemed fresh and pure. The thick carpet of  needles in the surrounding grove of pines gave the school a mysterious, hushed atmosphere, as if a secret were being whispered, and if one were quiet enough, one could sense the presence of God.

 

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With care,

Mark


by mkeddal at July 16, 2014 12:59 AM

July 15, 2014

Honduras: The Owen Project

Glory

Today we decided to visit Santa Rosita, the very first school where we started the Owen Project four years ago. Marty Keil, her daughter Morgan Stautzenberger and Morgan’s friend Haley Short flew in Friday night and were ready to travel into the mountains on Saturday. It had rained heavily during the night so the mountain sides were shrouded in mist. The air was freshly-scrubbed,,clean and cool.We carried a stack of pizzas, two soccer balls and hearts full of expectation.The long drive on winding dirt roads brought back many pleasant memories, and the views from the mountain tops were every bit as memorable and breath-taking. There is a distinctive scent in the mountains, a combination of damp vegetation, decaying leaves and something mysteriously sweet, like rotting fruit. It seemed that the entire environment was a single living being with a peculiar aroma.

Our reception in Santa Rosita was warm and intimate. The children called out our names, remembering us all, embracing us as we departed our trucks. The original school was a dilapidated, mud and wattle shack and the new school , located farther up the hill, is a  wonderfully clean concrete block structure with glass windows, a metal roof and a separate bathroom under construction. We brought red bougainvillea given by Lynn Campaigne. Our Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has been very involved in supporting this construction. The hope is that Santa Rosita will become a model for other rural schools, including classrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and a septic system all in one.

Even more beautiful than the new buildings were the laughter and bright eyes of the students. When we first met them they were shy, incurious and skeptical about us and the XOs. Four years later they are secure, assertive and bursting with pride and curiosity. We were shown essays, projects, art exhibits and journals. Some of the older students now travel to a nearby town to continue their education.Sally and I almost felt like parents again, reconnecting with young people we have known for a number of years, sharing dreams and hopes together. The pizza was shared and then we played soccer. After being humiliated for an hour it started to mist and then rain gently. We looked up at the sun and saw a strange atmospheric phenomenon: there was a rainbow that surrounded the sun, making a complete circle of delicate colors, taking up half of the sky. This is called a “glory” and all of us were taken by how perfect that we saw this at that particular moment. I have come to recognize the presence of grace in the most unremarkable events of daily life. How much more impressive is this gratitude and sense of wonder when grace comes at perfect moments. May you find your own moments.

 

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With care,

Mark


by mkeddal at July 15, 2014 04:19 AM

Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

Back to School in Ansapit

Now that winter break is over and computers are getting charged faster, it’s time to add a new group of students to the course. Here are some shots of what happens the first day you put a laptop into someone’s hands. On the first day, kids learn the basics of using the mouse, keyboard, and camera.

Looking forward to seeing this new group advance!

This brave girl was the first to get up from her seat to take some more interesting pictures.

This brave girl was the first to get up from her seat to take pictures.

Getting lower = getting more creative closeups

Getting lower = getting more creative closeups

Jameson explains to the class how to do something.

Jameson explains to the class how to do something.

Often, students end up learning from fellow students as much as from teachers.

Often, students end up learning from fellow students as much as from teachers.

Everyone crowds in to peer at the first to finish so they can figure it out too.

Everyone crowds in to peer at the first to finish so they can figure it out too.

Graduates become familiar with the new system so they can help teachers with it later on.

Graduates become familiar with the new system so they can help teachers with it later on.

Someone's having fun already on the first day.

Someone’s having fun already on the first day.

by Sora Edwards-Thro at July 15, 2014 02:04 AM

July 14, 2014

Nancie Severs

After Chemo Course 1 - Altered Expectations — Lebanon NH, NH


Lebanon NH, NH

We are relieved that my treatment is underway. It was a really good week. Mark &amp; Noah drove me home from The Brigham hospital in Boston Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning I got a short haircut. My FB friends say that I look "hip" and younger. I'll take that! My doctors anticipate that I will lose my hair over the next few weeks because the Chemo targets the fastest growing cells in our body. Our hair is the fastest growing normal cell and the chemicals are unable to discriminate. That's why cancer patients often lose their hair. Am I worried about that? Nope! I've some comfy hats, it's only "hair," and it will grow back eventually. I did not feel any effects of Monday night's chemo infusion until Thursday evening. When my legs and feet ached, I chalked it up to  21\2 days in bed, and then the fact that Noah and I had spent a full and active “vacation” day together. Noah wanted "American Chinese" for lunch. We played golf at Twin Lakes on Little Lake Sunapee and went to Dairy Twirl on the way home. Thank you Bruria for the delicious soup for dinner. I was way too tired to cook. On Friday, Jill’s therapeutic “Gentle Yoga” class at AHA gave me a boost. But by today, Saturday, i am realizing that my activity level and my expectations of what I can do will have to change during the period of "cancer cell eradication!”   My bones and joints hurt and my feet are tingling with pins and needles. I am tiring easily. I only walked a bit of our Prouty course and I came home for a nap.   I will find it difficult to accept the need to slow down. Friends &amp; family, please remind me often that this is the best thing I can do for myself, &amp; for us all, to give us the best shot at a cure!   It's a good thing that I have a long list of books and films to keep me busy in the coming months. Additional recommendations welcome.:)   Altering my expectations will be a good mental exercise. I am reminding myself, "don't lean too far back into the past nor too far forward into the future. The present is a gift. That's why its called a present!"

July 14, 2014 11:47 PM

Chemo Treatment Day 1 — Boston, MA


Boston, MA

Where I stayed
Boston Marriott Cambridge MA


I went home for the weekend and now I am back in Boston. It is very weird because I still don't feel sick. But that's a gift! My first chemo infusion will be today for 5 hours. I’ll need to be there several hours before it starts too. Noah flew in from Thailand for a rare visit. He spent the weekend visiting Ellen &amp; Houman, Aaron and Megan, David and Aliza and sightseeing in LA. He is coming in to be with me for the first chemo  treatment. Mark will come down on Tuesday and bring us home Wednesday if I'm able to go right home. This week, I’m at the Cambridge Marriott as we think that will work best for the first treatment round. Today I did some shopping, and had a healthy dinner at Legal Sea Foods. It was a beautiful summer evening. The sidewalk cafes were filled with people enjoying the weather. I walked all the way from Prudential to the Boston Public Garden to see the roses and then through the common to the Park Street T. I think I will sleep tonight. Mark, was of course willing to join me today. My sisters, Janet &amp; Lynn wanted to fly up from Florida, to be with me. My closest girlfriends offered. And Noah decided to fly in from Thailand. He won. He is on his way from the West Coast as I write.   I have felt wonderfully supported by my family and friends from the time I knew I needed surgery. The love and offers of assistance continue and I am very grateful. You all know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.   I am bull headed. I am most comfortable beginning the treatment process by myself. I'm not sick yet and while sitting around the hospital today is what I need to do, I don't see any reason for anyone else to be here too. I'm actually calmer &amp; quieter by myself and I prefer to come in and get treatment without focusing on the reason for it. I hope to be like my amazing and brave cousin Tillie, and soldier on with my life during each step of the life saving treatment.   Reality hit in the lab this morning. I saw many very sick folks, a child or two, teenagers, young me and women and very elderly. Cancer does not discriminate. I had an IV inserted in my arm. Ouch. And now I'm in a sunny private room at The Brigham waiting to start the medications that will eradicate any remaining cancer cells.   At 4:30 PM it looks like I'll be getting the infusion late tonite. We can't rush things and there isn't any reason to. Everyone I've met has been cheerful and competent. 6:30 PM brought dinner, and a handful of anti-nausea &amp; anti-allergy meds. We had agreed on the lowest doses and fewest agents possible.  We started the Taxol at 8:00 PM for 3 hours followed by 1 hour of Carboplatin.   We finished at midnight. I was woozy and had a headache, but that’s about it. 6:00 AM: We Did It! And with NO Steroids (usually used but I react badly to them.) I am feeling tired, but clear-headed and not too bad. The treatment plan my doctors created just for me has paid off off bonuses. It appears to me that I can be safely treated, and with the chemo regimen that we KNOW will kill my cancer!   I appreciate everyone's concern, notes, &amp; healing thoughts sent my way so very much. As I get farther into this treatment journey, when there is something some of you can do to help, or to cheer me up, I'll gratefully accept assistance and I will let you know how you can help. Thanks &amp; Love, Nancie

July 14, 2014 11:42 PM

Honduras: The Owen Project

Shangri-La

I confess that I am an unabashed idealist, child-like ( I hope!) not childish. I continue to reread Hilton’s Lost Horizon and I love the old, black and white film of the same name, starring Ronald Coleman. There is a wonderful scene where a group of travelers are high in the Himalayas, near death in a blizzard, roped together at the edge of a crevasse. They find a break in the rock face which leads to a hidden utopia, an isolated and protected valley full of cultivated fields, vineyards and forests. Ronald Coleman is full of wonder and haunted by a strange feeling that he somehow knows this place. This is the mystery of Shangri-la;. we are haunted, wherever we are,  that the world could be more beautiful and full of meaning.

It is the beginning of the rainy season in Honduras and already the mountain sides are bursting with new, delicately- green growth, and the mountain tops are wreathed in mists and clouds. We drove from Tegucigalpa to Siguatepeque and were treated to a vision of central Honduras in all its glory. We set out for a new village school early the next morning. We were joined by the Vice-Mayor of Siguatepeque, a former teacher, who was accompanied by her body guard in a government truck. Richard, Natalia, Becky and I rode in back with the computers and a rifle-wielding soldier. We soon found out that the rifle was for show and that it didn’t have a trigger or bullets. It still intimidated us! We drove through Siguatepeque, down crowded streets full of dust and diesel fumes. The city itself is not scenic, in fact it has the character of a boom town. All of the buildings are make-shift and slip-shod and nothing seems clean or orderly. As we turned onto a dirt road into the mountains, we left the hustle and bustle behind us and entered into a central american Shangri-la. The school itself was stucco and cement brick, but the trees and shrubs surrounding it lent their beauty to the simple structure. Of course the real treasure hidden here is contained in the bright eyes and beaming smiles of the children. They waited timidly, hiding behind the open windows periodically braving a look outside at us. There was a hushed silence, the bated breaths of many excited children. Where there was joyous chaos at Oropoli, here there was happy anticipation and barely-controlled hands and feet. Because the Vice-mayor was with us, some formal introductions were made and then the speeches began, given by teachers, parents, students- essentially anyone who feels compelled gets a chance to speak. There was nothing forced or superficial in all this.  Owen was mentioned in a  remarkably sensitive and compassionate way, as if the speakers themselves knew the pain of losing a child.  Wrinkled, weather-beaten old women spoke with incredible humility of their prayers and hopes for their children, and a light shone in their eyes that reminded Sally and I of how it feels to be a parent. Very soon all the thank yous were acknowledged and we got down to work with the students. Here is where the real magic begins. None of the pictures I’m including quite captures the combination of wonder and hilarity that prevails. I can’t imagine a person hardhearted enough not to smile and laugh in the midst of all this  happy discovery. Maybe we do learn all we need to know in kindergarten!!

 

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Thanks,

Mark


by mkeddal at July 14, 2014 03:57 AM

Fargo to Sudan XO

Tech Genius Doesn’t Need To Be White, Male And Wearing A Hoodie – ReadWrite

Tech Genius Doesn’t Need To Be White, Male And Wearing A Hoodie – ReadWrite.

Good initiative.  Been thinking about how our local Sugar Labs approach wasn’t quite right. We tried to build from nothing to something; if we start again, we need to find partners up front, have the infrastructure and support in place.

 


by kab13 at July 14, 2014 02:55 AM

July 12, 2014

Honduras: The Owen Project

The Dance of Life

On our second day in Honduras we drove into the montains near the Nicaraguan border to oscar Ochoa’s home village of Oropoli. It is much drier in this part of Honduras, reminding all of us of Texas. This is our first school in the southern part of the country. We expected a quiet entrance into the village and maybe an embarassing game of soccer. Instead, we ran headlong into a whirlwind of activity, a moving fiesta that followed us up the main street, such as it  was, across a river and to the school itself. There were flowers, folk dancing, music and smiling faces throughout. Some biologists speculate that when life began in the primordial seas, amino acids began to dance, combining to form single-celled organisms. As you will see below, we too felt surrounded by dancing life, full of joy and satisfaction.

 

IMG_9958 IMG_9959 IMG_9957 IMG_9977 IMG_9976

 

This was also our first experience with the XO tablet and we were a bit apprehensive. This only increased when we realized that we had to charge the 60 tablets before teaching. All of the parents and village worthies looked in from the open windows as chaos swirled around us in the form of 60 very excited children. Four hours later we had everything in hand and no child left disappointed or frustrated. In many ways the tablets are more accessible than the laptops and the applications are more numerous and just as entertaining and welcoming. Once again many of  the students stared in disbelief and wonder when we told them that these computers were theirs to use. I wish I could convey the spell cast over these children by the XOs; perhaps it is more the case of watching their imaginations come alive. I’ll let these pictures tell the story.

 

IMG_9988 IMG_9985 IMG_9983 IMG_9981 IMG_0001

With care,

Mark

 


by mkeddal at July 12, 2014 02:13 AM

Yeats Was Mistaken….

In a dark poem Yeats wrote that, “….the best lack all conviction, while the worst burn with passionate intensity…” I’ve been haunted by these lines for years and the current political and social environment seemed to verify Yeats’ somber prophecy. I can happily report that once again I have been saved by Honduras. We arrived in Tegucigalpa before noon on Tuesday, the 8th. We had a few minutes to gather our wits and then we met with the Undersecretary of Education. Richard, Linda and Natalia Grey were with us, along with Oscar Ochoa. The Undersecretary was quite approachable: a former teacher who has worked under several Honduran administrations. We were there to ask for internet access for the 16 schools we have supplied with laptops and tablets. The Undersecretary warmed to our presentation and became quite enthusiastic about the potential changes that could be made in rural areas. Very soon she was speaking more as an educator and less as an a politician. Her enthusiasm was infectious. We needed little prodding to tell of past trips into the mountains around Siguatepeque. With Linda as a creative and insightful translator, we were able to speak from the heart as well as the mind.

The excitement of our day was far from over. Later that afternoon, we met with a group of Honduran computer programmers writing code for a digitized curriculum that we could download into our XOs. The new XO tablets are android-based, different from the platform used in the laptops. For quite some time the conversation was quite technical and quite a bit over my head. Thankfully, Richard, himself a programmer, was able to carry on ably for our side. The atmosphere changed significantly when the topic changed to the underserved students in the mountains. These tech geeks where transformed into obviously passionate and idealistic teachers trying to change the lives of children who might not have shoes, but who might soon have a computer!

It was then that I remembered Yeats, realizing that I had just witnessed a reversal of his dark forboding. Here in Honduras, at least, it is the best who burn with passionate intensty.

More later,

Mark


by mkeddal at July 12, 2014 12:45 AM

July 08, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

Wonderful Feedback on Teacher Training

I recently was communicating with two of the teacher trainees in Hinche on Facebook. I would like to share their messages, showing their appreciation for the teacher training that we have been providing through the partnership with MIIS and St. Dunstan’s. A...

by Lisa at July 08, 2014 05:40 PM

Nancie Severs

Boston Treatment Begins — Boston, MA


Boston, MA

Where I stayed
With Friends in Coolidge Corner, Brookline


I spent four days in Boston with preliminary appointments and setting up logistics. I went home for the weekend and now I am back in Boston. My old friends, Adele &amp; Larry, were terrific hosts and I stayed with them. I enjoyed the city, and even went to a great yoga class at Coolidge Corner Yoga in between my appointments. Scroll through the photos and you can see some of Boston in mid-summer.

It is very weird because I don't feel really sick yet. But they must expect me to get sick because I have three nausea meds prescribed. My first chemo infusion will be on Monday. It is 4-5 hours, once it starts. I’ll need to be there several hours before it starts too.

The first treatment challenge is whether I’ll tolerate the chemo without a rash or allergy. I saw two very bright physicians last week specifically to address my past medication adverse events. We have a plan and we are prepared. I'm psyched to get started. After Chemo, I'll get my haircut on Wednesday, short. Then I’ll have about 3 weeks before you see pictures in cool head wraps. Have you ever wondered why chemo patients often lose their hair? It's because the chemo targets the fastest growing cells in our bodies for the "kill." Cancer cells grow too fast. "They don't die enough." Our hair is made up of our fastest growing "normal" cells, and since the chemo targets fast growing cells, it also kills our hair follicles. That's why I'll lose my hair.

I have a lot of confidence in the doctors at Dana - Farber. Heck their pathologists saved my life already when they correctly re-diagnosed the type of cancer that I have. I fully expect that together we can pull out a cure. I'm prepared to do whatever it takes.

Here are some tips to help you navigate my blogs.


1. Click on a photo anywhere in the entry and you will get a larger
photo with arrows to click and scroll through all photos. In that
format, you'll see the title and any comments I wrote on the right side
too.


2. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, below the photos on
any entry, the Table of Entries (Contents) appears below each
entry. You can scroll and click on any Entry from any other Entry.

July 08, 2014 02:45 PM

An Unexpected Journey Begins — Lebanon NH, NH


Lebanon NH, NH

When people ask what I do, my husband, Mark usually says, that Nancie’s a “professional traveler.” I smile, grateful for the amazing opportunities I have had over the past 8 years. This year, I had some business cards made up in Bangkok, to use for my volunteer work. For fun, I described myself as a “Professional Adventurer” and “OLPC Volunteer.”

In late April, 2014, I began a new adventure. Like many of my treasured experiences, this too was completely unplanned. I had some symptoms that led to a cancer diagnosis. On May 6, I had surgery (a hysterectomy) to remove the cancer and now, I'm on an "Unexpected Journey".

I was originally diagnosed at DHMC &amp; NCCC, our local hospital and cancer center. I arranged “second opinions at the Dana Farber - Brigham &amp; Womens Cancer Center (DF-BWCC) in Boston. We quickly learned that you should always get a second opinion! It is not an understatement to say that in my case it saved my life.

The DF-BWCC pathologists obtained the biopsy and surgical slides, and they did what they do when asked to consult. They carefully re-examined everything, as if it were a first look. My diagnosis changed. We learned that I have a different kind of cancer than we had first been told. It is called Uterine Papillary Serous Carcinoma. It is a particularly aggressive type of cancer. While we had been told at DHMC that that the tumor was “contained” and mostly removed by the surgery, we now understand that the treatment needs to be very aggressive. Finally after unfortunate delay, my treatment plan is in place. I will be treated at DF-BWCC in Boston and I am confident that I am receiving top-notch care.

I had not decided whether to share this publicly or if so, when to do it. I had not put anything on Facebook until this week. I had told my family and some of my friends. While I want to reply individually to all of the emails, phone calls, and cards of support I have been receiving, my need to focus on the details of care and treatment, is making this difficult. I have friends that have used Caring Bridge or Facebook for their treatment updates, so that their extended family &amp; friends and can keep in touch and offer words of support. I’ve decided that this “Professional Adventurer” prefers Travelpod.:) I’ll post some updates and the details we wish to share in this new “trip.” There is a link to “trips” on the right side. Click on that to read some of my other adventures of the past few years.

I haven’t told my Mother about the need for treatment as I do not think it will do her any good, and it won’t change anything for her to know. She knows that I had a hysterectomy and I visited her shortly afterwards, looking strong and running off to yoga class as usual. Mom doesn’t use the Internet and we are all on board with this decision. We may decide to tell her at some point, but we may not. If you know my Mom, or anyone else at the Coves where she lives, please be careful not to mention my illness.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the garden, to yoga classes, played some golf, and kayaked at Grafton Pond. I visited my Mom and family in Florida and I’ve shared tea, gelato and meals with friends. I’ve largely caught up on my volunteer work and other life details. While my goal has been to fit the cancer treatment into my life rather than have it take over my life, the new diagnosis requires that I devote the year ahead to going for the “cure.”

My snapshots will be just that, as my Iphone is the source of the photojournalism you’ll see here. I’ll post updates here and I will see your “comments” if you leave a note.

I know that my family and friends will be concerned about me. I deeply appreciate that. I’ll see your emails but I will not be able to reply to all of them. If I don’t answer the phone when you call, it just means that it is not a good time for me to talk. Worrying about me won’t do anyone any good; please don’t. I am feeling strong and healthy going in and I will be starting this fight with a smile on my face.

This journey may take me places I've never been. I view it as another adventure and it will surely bring gifts of its own to me. What you can do, is to take a moment every day to appreciate life when you send me healing thoughts and prayers.

With love and deep gratitude for all my family and friends.
Nancie

Here are some tips to help you navigate my blogs.

1. Click on a photo anywhere in the entry and you will get a larger
photo with arrows to click and scroll through all photos. In that
format, you'll see the title and any comments I wrote on the right side
too.

2. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, below the photos on
any entry, the Table of Entries (Contents) appears below each
entry. You can scroll and click on any Entry from any other Entry.



July 08, 2014 02:45 PM

July 05, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

Where the dirt road ends

Originally posted on Project Rive:
As the priest here in Hinche, Pere Noe is in charge of not just one church but a whole parish of them. He lives and works at St. Andre’s, but spends a lot of time…

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at July 05, 2014 03:39 AM

Au Revoir, Hinche

Originally posted on Project Rive:
We leave Hinche at 4 in the morning (yes, you read that right), so here’s a wrap-up post where I dump all of my photos on you and reminisce about the time we’ve had here.…

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at July 05, 2014 03:36 AM

Seventh Day: Unleash Kids Travels North to Hinche, Haiti and St. Andre’s School!

Originally posted on Haiti Dreams!:
Early this morning we (Unleash Kids!) left Port-au-Prince for a 2 or 3 hour ride to St. Andre’s School in Hinche. Once here, we had some lunch and got to work checking out XO laptops…

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at July 05, 2014 01:47 AM

July 04, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

Scholarship Drive Update

Our goal is in sight! 100% of your donation goes to St. Andre’s school operations. We are only $3000 short of our $35,000 goal and still have matching funds available. We know there are folks out there who want to help,...

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at July 04, 2014 09:52 PM

Bert Freudenberg

SqueakJS runs Etoys now

TL;DR: Try Etoys in your web browser without a plugin (still buggy, but even works on iPad). Feedback from more platforms is very welcome, and fixes to improve the compatibility, too.
Half a year has passed since my initial release of SqueakJS. Now I can report on some significant progress since then.

For one, I adopted a UI layout similar to Dan’s Smalltalk-72 emulator, where the debugger interface is only visible when the system is stopped. Now that the basics are working, there is no need to show the debugger all the time. Try it yourself at the Lively page.


But more importantly, many more subsystems are working now. BitBlt is almost complete (all the important modes are implemented), WarpBlt works (for scaling and rotating morphs), the image can be saved, an emulated file system supports reading and writing of persistent files. This now is enough to not only run the very old and undemanding “mini.image”, but SqueakJS now can even run the very latest Etoys image, the same version as on Squeakland. Beware of the many incomplete features and outright bugs still left to be fixed, but try it for yourself here.

While Etoys feels a lot slower than the MVC “mini.image”, and some operations take many seconds, it is surprisingly responsive for normal interaction. On the browsers with the fastest JIT compilers (Safari on Mac, IE on Windows) it is almost good enough, even though no serious optimizations were done yet. It is also interesting to see that some browsers (Chrome and Firefox) are currently significantly slower. And not just a little slower, but Safari outperforms Chrome by 200% for this workload! This is likely due to Safari›’s excellent LLVM-based FTL JIT.


The remarkable thing about the screenshot above is how unremarkable it looks. Apart from the missing white oval behind the “Home” label it looks just like it’s supposed to. In comparison, a week ago the screen still looked like this:


The difference is that Tobias Pape and I added support for Balloon2D rendering. This is Squeak’s default vector rendering engine, originally created by Andreas Raab to show Flash animations. But unlike the rest of the SqueakJS VM, we did not port the original code. Instead, our plugin intercepts the drawing commands and renders them using HTML5 canvas drawing routines. While still far from complete, it can already render one kind of important shapes: TrueType font glyphs. They are defined by Bézier curves, which need to be rendered with anti-aliasing to look nice. And now that we can render text, the graphics are almost complete. Many more details still need to be implemented, especially color gradients.

This highlights one strength of Squeak: The VM and its plugin modules present a well-defined, stable interface to the outside world. That is what makes a machine truly “virtual”. In contrast, other systems rely on FFI (the foreign function interface) or similar techniques for extension. While convenient during rapid development, it does not keep the interface small and stable. That interface is overly broad and unpredictable. Typically, client code must be special-cased per platform. It's calling C functions directly, which may or may not exist on a given platform. That makes it much harder to move the system to another platform, and in particular one that is completely different, like the web browser. The Squeak Etoys image on the other hand did not have to be modified at all.

What I’d like to see fixed in Squeak is that there should be working fallback code for all non-essential primitive functions. This would make it much easier to get up and running on new platforms.

For SqueakJS, bugs need to get fixed, and many features are still missing to run Etoys fully. Adding support for other Squeak releases than Etoys would be great (closure/Cog/Spur images). Contributions are welcome: fork my github project.

by Bert (noreply@blogger.com) at July 04, 2014 08:42 PM

SqueakJS: A Lively Squeak VM

I'm proud to announce SqueakJS, a new Squeak VM that runs on Javascript:


It was inspired by Dan's JSqueak/Potato VM for Java, and similarly only runs the old Squeak 2.2 mini.image for now. But I developed it inside the Lively Kernel, which allowed me to make a nice UI to look inside the VM (in addition to all the Lively tools):


It represents regular Squeak objects as Javascript objects with direct object references. SmallIntegers are represented as Javascript numbers, there is no need for tagging. Instance variables and indexable fields are held in a single array named "pointers". Word and byte binary objects store their data in arrays named "bytes" or "words". CompiledMethod instances have both "pointers" and "bytes". Float instances are not stored as two words as in Squeak, but have a single "float" property that stores the actual number (and the words are generated on-the-fly when needed).

For garbage collection, I came up with a hybrid scheme: the bulk of the work is delegated to the Javascript garbage collector. Only in relatively rare circumstances is a "manual" garbage collection needed. This hybrid GC is a semi-space GC with an old space and a new space. Old space is a linked list of objects, but newly allocated objects are not added to the list, yet. Therefore, unreferenced new objects will be automatically garbage-collected by Javascript. This is like Squeak's incremental GC, which only looks at objects in new space. The full GC is a regular mark-and-sweep: it's marking all reachable objects (old and new), then unmarked old objects get removed (a very cheap operation in a linked list), and new objects (identified by their missing link) are added to the old-space list. One nice feature of this scheme is that its implementation does not need weak references, which Javascript currently does not support.

This scheme also trivially supports object enumeration (Squeak's nextObject/nextInstance primitives): If the object is old, the next object is just the next link in the list. Otherwise, if there are new objects (newSpaceCount > 0) a GC is performed, which creates the next object link. But if newSpaceCount is 0, then this was the last object, and we're done.

The UI for now copies the Squeak display bitmap pixel-by-pixel to a typed array and shows it on the HTML 2D canvas using putImageData(). Clipboard copying injects a synthetic CMD-C keyboard event into the VM, then runs the interpreter until it has executed the clipboard primitive in response, then answers that string. This is because the web browser only allows clipboard access inside the copy/paste event handlers. You can drag an image file from your disk into the browser window to load it.

Besides running it on your desktop, you can install it as offline web app on an iPad:


On the iPad there is neither right-click nor command keys, but the menu is available on the inside of the flop-out scrollbars. It needs a fairly recent browser, too - it works in iOS 7, but apparently not in older ones. On Android it works in Chrome 31, but not quite as well (for example, the onscreen-keyboard does not come up on an Galaxy Note tablet).

Go to the project page to try it yourself. The sources are on GitHub, and contributions are very welcome.

Have a great Christmas!

by Bert (noreply@blogger.com) at July 04, 2014 03:47 PM

July 01, 2014

Chris Ball

Serverless WebRTC, continued

Around a year ago, in WebRTC without a signaling server, I presented an simple app that can start a chat session with another browser without using a local web server (i.e. you just browse to file:///), and without using a signaling server (instead of both going to the same web page to share “offers”, you share them manually, perhaps via IM).

It’s been a busy year for WebRTC! When I released serverless-webrtc, Chrome didn’t support datachannels yet, so the code only worked on Firefox. Now it works in stable releases of both browsers, and is interoperable between the two, for both reliable (TCP-like) and unreliable (UDP-like) transfers. And I’ve just added Node to the mix (so you can do Node—Node / Node—Chrome / Node—Firefox) as well, with the first release of the serverless-webrtc NPM package. Here’s how to try it out:

$ git clone git://github.com/cjb/serverless-webrtc
$ cd serverless-webrtc
$ npm install
$ firefox serverless-webrtc.html &
$ node serverless-webrtc.js
<paste firefox's offer into node, hit return>
<paste node's answer into firefox, click ok>
<you're connected!>

And here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:

I’m able to do this thanks to the wrtc NPM module, which binds the WebRTC Native Code Package (written in C++) to Node, and then exposes a JS API on top of it that looks like the browser’s WebRTC JS API. It’s really impressive work, and the maintainers have been super-friendly.

Next I’d like to unwrap the JS from the node client and make a pure C++ version, because the Tor developers would like “to have two C++ programs that are capable of chatting with each other, after being given an offer and answer manually”, to help investigate WebRTC as a method of relaying Tor traffic.

Finally, a link that isn’t related to this project but is too cool not to mention – Feross Aboukhadijeh has a WebTorrent project to port a full BitTorrent client to the browser, also using WebRTC in a serverless way (with trackerless torrents, and peer-to-peer node introductions).

What would it mean if the next Wikipedia or GitHub (see Yurii Rashkovskii’s GitChain project!) didn’t have to spend tens of millions of dollars each year for servers and bandwidth, and could rely on peer-to-peer interaction? I’d love to find out, and I have a feeling WebRTC is going to show us.

by cjb at July 01, 2014 01:01 PM

June 29, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

Priorities for Episcopal Schools in Haiti

Priorities for Episcopal Schools in Haiti The St. Andre’s school is well on it’s way to meeting the priority goals of development for all Episcopal Schools in Haiti. Thanks to everyone for their unwavering support for this mission and the...

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at June 29, 2014 04:18 PM

June 24, 2014

Hinche Haiti Partners for Education

Anatomy of a Haiti Mission Trip

Update from Youth Haiti Mission Team member Rodger Langland:   Father Noe did most of the service this morning and then headed to two other parishes to do services there. Back about 16:00. He says his combined parishes have about 2500...

by hinchehaitipartnersforeducation at June 24, 2014 04:01 AM

June 23, 2014

Ghana Together

Update on WHH Scholars


We thought our readers would like an update on those original Western Heritage Home Scholars. As “orphaned or vulnerable children” (a Ghanaian government classification) they spent their early years in the WHH Children’s Home in Axim. In fact, their care was WHH’s first substantial community project and our first collaboration with WHH. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
You may recall that in mid-2011 the WHH Board moved the children into kinship/foster homes, both out of their own concern about the long-term effects of institutionalizing children, and also because of some governmental policy changes.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Maryanne visited with most of these children in February this year. She was told by Manye Academy staff that due to the extra tutoring and care in early years at the Children’s Home, they have done well in their studies, considering they had few to no academic skills when they started at Manye at various ages.
 
So here’s an update.
<o:p> </o:p>
Ben (P5) and Gladys (P2) attend in Brawie/Akyminim Primary School, in north Axim, near the Community Development Vocational Institute. They live with their Grandma. It’s a tough go, but the school headmaster says as long as we provide uniforms and fees which cover exercise books, pens, daily lunch, etc. they’re ok. We’re grateful to generous neighbors who help out Grandma as best they can.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Philomena (Form 1 SHS) and Charlotte (Form 1 SHS) are on Tullow Oil Company scholarships at Nsein Senior High School. They are both outstanding students, and the oil company pays all of their expenses, so they require no support from us as this time. Way to go girls!!! Way to go Tullow!!
<o:p> </o:p>
Peter has just graduated JHS, took his BECE exams, and is awaiting results. He will attend High School in the Nzema East area, starting September, either with our help or, because his academic work is tops, he is hoping for a scholarship.  He likes math, science, business, and computers, he says. Peter has moved from Mr. Bentil’s home (how can we thank you for your years of generosity to this boy??) and is now living in the Heritage Volunteer Quarters. He is helping Evans Arloo, the Manager, esp. with the One Laptop Per Child Computers (he’s an early expert!). Peter not only lost his parents as a young boy, but recently both his biological sister (sickle cell) and his brother (typhoid). <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Frederic is in P6 at Manye Academy and living in a kinship/foster home in Axim.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Francis (JHS Form1) and Lamin (JHS Form 2) are living in kinship homes and attend Manye Academy. Lamin still loves soccer and has become an outstanding athlete.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Olivia, George, Isaac, and Eric are in JHS Form 1 at Manye. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Isaac dropped out for a couple of years to join his older brother in traditional medicine work, but he has been counselled by WHH board member Nana Adjow Sika (Queen Mother) to finish high school before he makes career decisions and he has decided to accept her wise counsel.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Eric also dropped out and joined a fishing crew in Ivory Coast, but he decided he wanted to be back in Axim, and learn driving or electrician work. But, to do that, he needs to finish JHS first, so he has decided to resume his studies at Manye. (Thank you, Manye staff, for being so flexible---you are true educators!)<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
George, Olivia, Ernestina, Isaac, and Eric are boarding at Manye Hostel. As they got older, between helping their families with fetching of water, cooking, etc., and lack of electricity so no lights, they had too little time for homework during daylight hours. In the hostel, they have regular food, water, and a generator. It is crucial, in Ghana, for students to finish junior high. Eligibility for senior high school is based on junior high test results. Without JHS training, one simply doesn’t have the skills to work in Ghana’s economy.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Gifty is in SHS in Beyim. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Joanna is with her biological grandmother/auntie in the Takoradi area. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Mary is with family in Accra. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Wahab and Adiza are in Tarkwa in kinship homes. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Emmanuela is at the Blind/Deaf School in Cape Coast. She is doing well. Maryanne didn’t visit her because she has adjusted well, per the teachers, and a visit would perhaps disturb that. We pay for some of her expenses—all of her menstrual supplies, clothing, toiletries, etc.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
Godwin has been taken into James Kainyiah’s family in Takoradi and is growing up with the Kainyiah children. He still loves his OLPC and told Maryanne he is tops in his class in ICT (computer studies). <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
We save Dorothy Armoo for last! She has graduated senior high school and is teaching at a small private primary school just south of Axim. She loves teaching---English and ICT. She is earning her own living. We are so proud! WAY TO GO DOROTHY!!!<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> 
Dorothy, second from left, with fellow teachers
</o:p>


One of Dorothy's classes in their "bamboo school"

These WHH Scholars are still a primary responsibility for WHH and for Ghana Together. We jointly continue to support them financially, on an individual, as-needed basis. Our goal is to make sure that one way or another, all who have the academic ability will finish senior high school, a high achievement in Ghana. We’d like to do more for those who are academically capable
<o:p>
 
They see each other as "extended family" and do look after each other. We are proud of them. Dorothy, the "senior sister" called at 2:00 am on Mother's Day to wish all the "Mums" on Ghana Together's Board a Happy Mother's Day from all the scholars.
<o:p></o:p> 
We are especially grateful to local leaders, especially James Kainyiah, Isaac Bentil, Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika, and the various teachers and administrators at Manye Academy, especially Felicia Atta, former assistant headmistress and current teacher. <o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
And youhave helped support these children over the years. They and we thank you.
<o:p></o:p> 
The WHH motto is “Making Leaders of the Least” and so they are…
<o:p></o:p> 
</o:p>
<o:p>For more info see http://ghanatogether.org</o:p>
<o:p>Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org</o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>

by Ghana Together (noreply@blogger.com) at June 23, 2014 08:11 PM

OLPC SF

Google Hangout from OLPC SF June 2014 meeting

Thanks to Mike Lee, a recording of the Google Hangout from our June 2014 meeting is up on Youtube. Clearly there are better ways of managing Google Hangouts, and clearly I don't know most of these, so once again, thanks to Mike Lee for saving the day! For the parts of the session on XOVis, you can see a blog post at http://www.olpcsf.org/node/208, and get slides from http://www.slideshare.net/sverma/xovis-analyticsvisualizationsugarolpc-3... . Braddock Gaskill's slides on Internet-in-a-Box are posted on GitHub at https://github.com/braddockcg/internet-in-a-box/raw/master/doc/201402_SC...

 

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/jDyiL8jvGWY" width="420"></iframe>

by sverma at June 23, 2014 06:04 PM

OLE Nepal

Comparing Deployment Data with XOvis

It is hard to believe that six months have already passed since my arrival to Kathmandu. My volunteering time at OLE Nepal is up. At the end of May, I delivered a final presentation about XOvis, an XO usage visualization application our Data Quest Team has developed, and bid farewell to my Nepali colleagues. From [...]

by martasd at June 23, 2014 02:57 PM

OLPC SF

XOVis: The quest continues

Note: Slides for this project are now posted to Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/sverma/xovis-analyticsvisualizationsugarolpc-3...

Update: Martin Dluhos has published a post at OLENepal's blog site, which was written independent of this post, but acts as a good companion to this post, especially highlighting the ways in which OLENepal can compare data across schools. http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/902

The "Quest for Data" project has been going on for a while now. You can take a look at previous posts to get an idea, but the short of it is that we've had several efforts to gather data that allows us to peek into the usage behavior of projects. These have happened in Paraguay, Jamaica, Australia, India, Peru and a few other places. XOVis is a newer incarnation in that string of efforts. Thankfully, this one builds on the foundations of some of the previous ones.

Learning Analytics
is defined as a process with four phases: measurement, collection, analysis and reporting. In case of Sugar, the measurement happens within each activity - more specifically through its metadata - where we use proxies such as start time, collaboration, type of activity, file produced, etc. to assess a level of engagement. For the purposes of this post, we'll go with the assumption that these proxies imply correlation with engagement, and therefore to learning (yes, this is a big assumption, but this is a blog post, and not a double-blind peer reviewed journal paper, so I won't get into it here).

Visualization is an important stage in the reporting process, although by itself, it may lead to incomplete assessments. Visualization tends to be used with aggregates, that is the aggregate behavior of a classroom , school or a collection of schools. So, for instance, we may be interested in seeing how a group of children use Sugar activities during school hours versus outside of school hours (for those fortunate deployments where the laptop goes home).

The data flow is from the laptop's Journal, to an automated Journal backup set on the School Server (XS or XSCE), to the extraction of metadata, to aggregate analysis and finally visualization. There are several ways to do this, but we chose to look at a three-tier architecture: The laptop's Journal, The School Server and the hypothetical Ministry of Education or NGO central cloud service. Metadata flows from XO to XS[CE] via automated rsync backups. Metadata flows from XS[CE] to the Ministry/NGO central server through a mechanism explained below.

XOVis architecture

At this point, I must specify that the XOVis application was written by Martin Dluhos, while he was working at OLE Nepal, while I helped with the overall architecture, based on my experiences in Jamaica and India, and Andi Gros helped with the visualization front-end. The work that Martin did is thankfully built on top of what Raúl Gutiérrez Segalés and Leotis Buchanan did earlier in Paraguay and Jamaica respectively. We also involved input from Martin Abente Lahaye about Australia's Harvest system, and Anish Mangal about sugar-stats, and were mindful to create an architecture that can accommodate both systems (these other systems will need some coding labor, of course).

Resuming the explanation, one of the key issues was to deal with the problem of offline and intermittent connectivity to School Servers. We needed a glue that connected the School Server to a central location, and would be resilient to pick up sync where it left off, and do so without human intervention (very much like rsync). Then we would need an engine to aggregate the data across different cross comparisons - averages and comparisons of usage by day, by month, by year, etc. This is where CouchDB magic comes in. CouchDB can:

  1. Store data as json documents at the School Server.
  2. Generate aggregates using MapReduce.
  3. Store the visualization front-end (HTML+JavaScript).
  4. Synchronize from School Server to Ministry-of-Education/NGO over broken/intermittent connections (can also use a USB stick sneakernet).
  5. Make coffee while running all of the above (ok, so that's not true)

Could we use CouchDB to address all these needs? Yes! So, we used CouchDB to do #1, #2, #3, and #4. For #5, you are on your own :-)

 

So, this is somewhat how it goes. You can head over to GitHub (https://github.com/martasd/xovis) and grab the code. If using a XS (I haven't tested yet) I'd recommend that you install by hand, using the

./scripts/install_xovis.sh 

script. If you are running your project on XSCE, use the ansible playbook for xovis.

./runansible 

will play all playbooks and install all services, including xovis. To install xovis only, do

ansible-playbook -i ansible_hosts xsce.yml --connection=local --tags="xovis"

Next, make sure that you have Journal backups in

/library/users

If you have registered XOs with this School Server, the backups will start to happen automatically (takes 30 minutes or so). If you have user backups, then you can run the process_journal_stats.py script to do a bunch of things.

 

process_journal_stats.py all 

will export metadata to comma-separated value (csv) format for analysis in Excel, LibreOffice or R.

process_journal_stats.py activity

will spit out stats for activities

process_journal_stats.py dbinsert xovis --deployment <deployment-name> --server http://admin:admin@127.0.0.1:5984

will push the metadata into the local CouchDB database on the School Server. Note that the admin:admin userid:password may/should change.

Next, to visualize what your deployment has been up to, open up a browser on a machine connected to your School Server. Go to

http://schoolserver:5984/<deployment-name>/_design/xovis-couchapp/index.html

Pick your deployment from the dropdown and click on a button to check out the visualization!

Frequency of use

Frequency of use

 

Activities tracked by month

Activities by month

 

Activities by time of day

Activities by time of day

by sverma at June 23, 2014 08:58 AM

June 20, 2014

Anish Mangal: walking the path...

Ed-tech v/s culture

If you've been in the "ed-tech" space long enough, you listen to enough conversations and start getting your head around the major issues people often get wrong. One of them is culture. I've titled the post "Ed-tech v/s Culture", because that's what I see happening in many places with many projects. I think this is a dangerous trend.

Education, or more generally learning, especially for young children, never happens in isolation, and often times, happens more outside the school than in. To put it one way, it is a long process of enculturation one in which many people play a part - friends, parents, uncles, teachers, mentors et. al. This process takes place at a different pace across different societies, and the societies themselves are at various stages of cultural evolution (for lack of a better word).

Throughout history, there have been many precedents of new technologies shaping culture, but, to be honest, it's a tight feedback loop. The sages in India wouldn't have discovered '0' if they weren't imagining things in huge time-periods, and astronomical scales that required the invention of zero. There are many other examples from the modern age, and it is a generally well known fact that culture and technology are often interlinked, quite closely.

What happens then, when a piece of technology, which is almost futuristic to it's intended audience is air-dropped and folks with access to it are left to themselves. (Kind of like if aliens flew to earth and shared the plans for cold-fusion or faster-than-light travel). To make matters worse, the targeted audience of ed-tech projects is generally young children, who may be incapable of taking the decisions by themselves, mostly because the societal sphere they exist in doesn't play any significant influencing part. This happens as a result of technology being treated as a commodity rather than as an agent of cultural change.

A more tangible example is the recent news story about iPads being hacked by kids in a school in LA.

Following news that students at a Los Angeles high school had hacked district-issued iPads and were using them for personal use, district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.
Assuming that tablets were being given to children to foster creative learning, an incident like this should actually attract adulation rather than criticism, where the children came across a problem, and they worked, hopefully creatively, to find a solution to it. However, that's not what happened, and the school halted home use. Why? I can take one guess. It was because the parents of those children were never "involved" by the school in the process of their children gaining access to iPads. The were most likely made to sign some legal document, which they would have happily did - who wouldn't like to have a new iPad, right?

Wrong!

The critical mistake that happened here was a piece of new technology was introduced in an existing ecosystem, and all the parties involved (mainly the parents) weren't informed of it's true ramifications. Hence they were never able to influence or guide their children of how it might be useful to them, what the various risks were or atleast keep an eye on what's happening. I guess a physical analogue could be a child discovering cigarette smoking, and instead of having a parent telling them that it's bad for their health, you have a machine that says "access denied". It doesn't take a lot to imagine what would happen next.

iPads are commonplace in the US, but in many remote regions of the world, people have never seen an old cellphone before, let alone a computer or a tablet. In such a situation, it is almost delusional to assume that airdropped laptops or tablets would lead to expected or intended results. Projects that make such an assumption and don't engage with local communities and encourage grassroots efforts are doomed to less than ideal, sometimes even negative results. I see it happening with OLPC in many places.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) there is no easy, elegant way to make this happen. You can have all the technical infrastructure and resources you want, but it is not going to lead to the "education revolution" that you were hoping for. Lasting change only happens through grassroots efforts; and a deep appreciation for the communities in which the new piece of technology is being introduced. The sooner that ed-tech community realizes this, the better it will be for everyone.

Best,
Anish


by Anish Mangal (noreply@blogger.com) at June 20, 2014 02:58 PM