May 28, 2015


Memories of Ondar

Today, I stumbled upon a photo of me with Kongar-ol Ondar, when he visited San Francisco some time ago. We had dinner that evening. It was a memorable evening, thanks to my good friends Phoebe and Ralph. I had listened to Ondar’s music, seen the documentary about him and Tuva, watched Feynman’s videos about Tuva, […]

by sv3rma at May 28, 2015 06:24 AM

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Classroom Observations, Day 2

Yesterday, we visited EFACAP, which is the public government school for the area. We visited the first-graders and the second-graders. The first-grade class was taught by a Marie-Carmelle. The lesson was reading in French – the kids were looking at … Continue reading

by Sora at May 28, 2015 02:10 AM

May 27, 2015

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Classroom Observations, Day 1

Today, we went to the Catholic school, St. Gabriel’s, and observed classes for two of the teachers we’ll be working with. First, we stopped by the first grade classroom. Filomenn was teaching – I know her because she participated in … Continue reading

by Sora at May 27, 2015 05:39 PM

Ghana Together

Another UDDT Toilet Going Up in Axim, Ghana! Thank you Axim Youth Alliance!!

You all remember the famous toilet that the Pacific Northwest Engineers Without Borders Chapter (based in Bellingham, WA) built in Axim at a Junior High, in coordination with Western Heritage Home (our Axim-based partner NGO there) with a little facilitating from Ghana Together. It was dedicated and open for use in Feb 2014. <o:p></o:p>

Engineers Without Border UDDT Toilet Built at an Axim Junior High School

We visited this new design urine diversification/dehydration toilet in Feb. 2015—literally. Maryanne can vouch for the fact that IT WORKS, even for senior American females!! She was skeptical, but Colleen Mitchell, EWB engineer extraordinaire, kept reassuring her…
Anyway, Axim is the kind of place where word gets around, and Headmistress Esther Abbey is the kind of woman who goes after new good things for “her students." So, she requested Western Heritage Home to replace the “old” toilet at her Methodist “Government” Primary/JHS school, with nearly 1000 students.
Headmistress Esther Abbey, with two of the Axim Library Staff. Her school was also one of the first to adopt the Axim Public Library's Mobile Library to Schools service
"Old Toilet"---VERY, VERY Old!!
We of Ghana Together loved the idea of building another UDDT, having seen for ourselves how much of an improvement the first one has been for the students (and teachers).
This low impact---no electricity/no water---design is so much better than the old “ventilated pit” type commonly built there. We want the knowledge of this worldwide engineering effort to be spread. What better way than to get another 1000 kids familiar with the concept??
So, we informed James Kainyiah, the WHH Chair, that somehow we’d find the funds, but we requested that the folks there provide volunteer help as possible, keeping in mind that few people there actually have tools like sledgehammers, wheelbarrows, work gloves, saws, hammers, etc. And with the power out a lot, most days are just twelve hours of daylight to do everything, but still…
Indomitable James engaged the help of the AXIM YOUTH ALLIANCE (AYA).
Just this past Saturday (May 23) members of the AYA managed to tear down the old toilet. Wow!!! <o:p></o:p>
Somehow these guys found a truck...and got to work!
What shall we do with all this concrete?
Haul it into town...

...and use it to fill potholes!!

Founded in Sept, 2014, this organization of the under-35 age group in Axim has as its mission to work towards the advancement of Axim and its environs in terms of infrastructure, capacity building, and human resource. <o:p></o:p>

We don’t know much about them at this point, but we are very grateful for their efforts.

And we think it’s REALLY great that such a group has formed!! Possibilities here…<o:p></o:p>
Now the new building can commence in the next few weeks. We asked about what the kids are supposed to do with no toilet for perhaps the rest of this term, but we were told that they were not using the old toilet anyway, but were opting for the bush…<o:p></o:p>

Stay tuned...<o:p></o:p>

And if you’d like to help top off the toilet fund…we are:<o:p></o:p>
<o:p>Ghana Together (</o:p>
<o:p>808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273</o:p>

by Ghana Together ( at May 27, 2015 02:06 AM

May 26, 2015

Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

Sugar Digest 2015-05-26

1. It is with great sadness that write these words: Marco Presenti Gritti, the principal Sugar developer from Red Hat from 2006 to 2008 and one of the founders of Sugar Labs, passed away this past weekend after a long illness. Marco was a brilliant engineer whose work still reverberates throughout the Sugar stack and a warm, personable colleague, father, and husband. We will miss you Marco.

Sugar Digest

2. For those of you who are interested, we hold our GSoC group meetings on Fridays, 11:00 EST (Boston), 14:00 UTC on #sugar-meeting.

Tech Talk

3. Peter Robinson, Sam Parkinson, Sean Daly, and Iain Brown Douglas have done a great job of revamping the Sugar on a Stick spin site for Fedora.

Sugar Labs

4. Please visit our planet.

by Walter Bender at May 26, 2015 01:32 PM

May 25, 2015

OLE Nepal

Relief efforts at Khokana and Bungamati

Last week, our team members had visited Khokana and Bungamati areas to observe the situation of the people, particularly of the children. After understanding the critical environment of the area, our team decided to carry on the relief effort to…

by Sofila Vaidya at May 25, 2015 05:03 AM

May 24, 2015

OLE Nepal

Sindhupalchowk: ruins and relief

On May 20, I travelled from Kathmandu to Liskankhu, Sindhupalchowk to help with a relief program. Sindhupalchowk is one of the most severely damaged districts by the earthquake. It had been less than two months that I had travelled the same area…

by Dovan Rai at May 24, 2015 11:21 AM

May 23, 2015

Hands of Charity XO Project | Kenya

Hands of Charity Technology Center Success

2013-09-16 17.44.15(2)WP_20141230_054

Busy weekend marketplace center sessions.

2014-11-29Marketplace--1 Busy weekend marketplace center sessions.

Hands of Charity Bukokholo Marketplace Technology Education Center is a hub of activity.  It attracts children from the many villages and homes around the hills north of Bukokholo.  On weekends more than 100 children come to use the 50, now aging laptops that were provided by Small Solutions and funded by students from a high school in Massachusetts.

During the week these laptops are taken to schools int he area by the Hands of Charity teams.  They serve more than 2000 children through their programs.  This is the success model.   Small Solutions Big Ideas will help others teams in our network develop models such as these.   A new Center has started north of Nairobi on Thika road in the Marurui Estate by Krys Kakoba of the OLPC Alliance, and Maina Kiambigi, founder of the Pleng School. Together we are developing this model  to bring technology the most direct and speedy way to the most number of children.   Below is our strategy premises.

Why ‘Centers for Technology for Education’

In Kenya schools where the need is the greatest, we are challenged by the absence of resources to support technology. Waiting for electricity, and every teacher to be ready comprises the furture for the children waiting now. We cannot wait. Our model is setup to be fast and flexible, and to concentrate expertise and technology in these centers. There we can build and deliver programs for member schools as network of technology educators and innovative schools :

Why? Schools do not reliably have:
-Electricity (sufficient and reliable)
-Safe storage for equipment
-Connectivity (both available and sufficient)
-Teachers ready to use technology
-Time for teachers to receive training (demands on their time are already challenging)
-Experience to select and apply technology to improving learning (integration)
– Resource staff to maintain technology over the long term

Why our model of technology delivery and education solves these problems:
-Concentrate expertise and resources where they can be maintained and enhanced
-Establish trained teams dedicated to schools and teachers to build strong programs
-Hire staff with technical expertise to configure, repair, upgrade, and maintain the technology
-Obtain the latest and best technology solutions for the member schools
-Teams are dedicated to schools and bring technology with them to implement programs
-Teachers attend training workshops in the centers or at their schools
-Teachers are part of a regional technology educators network.

by smallsolutionsbigideas at May 23, 2015 03:35 PM

May 22, 2015

OLE Nepal

Bringing smiles in innocent faces

Sabita and Sawal started setting up the laptops and slowly passed each one around. All the children in the room seemed very excited and happy to see the green tool placed in front of them. And that was exactly what…

by Sofila Vaidya at May 22, 2015 06:03 AM

May 19, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

A Brief History of 22 Years as an OER Activist

Charles Severance (aka Dr. Chuck) just sent Allen Downey and me this video he shot of his first ever meeting with Allen at Pycon last month.  I had met Allen face to face for the first time only two years earlier at Pycon 2013, so I understood his thrill at the moment.

Both of us had created "remixed" textbooks based on Allen's original 1999 How to think like a computer scientist.  1999 was at the very beginning of what has become the open educational resource (OER) effort, and Allen was a true pioneer.  In translating his Java textbook into Python, I became his first follower, and helped him, in the manor described so well by Derek Sivers' How to start a movement, broaden his impact as an OER leader.

The book as since been mixed and remixed several times in several different languages, both programming languages and natural languages. There is even an on-line interactive edition.

Seeing Dr. Chuck's video made me reflect on my 22 year journey as an open educational resource activist, and I thought now might be a good opportunity to write a bit of that history down, so that as old age approaches, I won't forget it all. It has been a joyous journey, and I feel fortunate to have been a part in turn of the free software movement, the Python community, and the open educational resources project.



I enrolled in a masters degree program at Bowie State University.  The computing environment there consisted of a VAX machine loaded with GCC.  GCC introduced me to the GNU project and the free software movement, which appealed immediately to my left-wing politics and knee-jerk egalitarianism.

Wanting to run GCC on my home PC, I found GNU/Linux. My first distribution was Yggdrasil followed by Slackware.



I participated in a Summer workshop organized by Prince George's County Public School's visionary supervisor of Mathematics, Dr. Martha Brown, in which she brought together a group of math teachers from the school system to create our own educational resources.  The experience was both liberating and invigorating, but we failed to develop an effective means of distributing the materials we made once we were finished making them. It occurred to me that the World Wide Web, which was just coming into common use then, could provide such a mechanism for the collaborative development and distribution of educational materials. 



Motivated by the College Board's switch from Pascal to C++, I went looking for a suitable programming language for our first year programming course and found Python.  Python was wonderful and the community was warm and welcoming, but at the time there were no textbooks using the language for introductory programming (and I don't think another high school anywhere in the world using Python).  Looking on the web, I found Allen Downy's Java textbook, How to think like a computer scientist.  HTTLCS was released under the GNU GPL, and I was thus free to make changes to it.  While I didn't feel competent to write a textbook from scratch, I did feel able to translate Allen's Java textbook into the Python textbook I needed, so that's what I did.  Soon after starting the translation process I setup the Open Book Project on ibiblio to host the work.



The Knowledge Trust honored me with their Education Award.  I'm not usually one for pomp and circumstance, but I have always treasured this award, since I know it was given in the same spirit in which it was earned.  While I tend to be much more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated, it does feel good to be recognized for my efforts by folks for whom I have the deepest respect.

As I embark this year on new OER projects for Firefox OS, GIS, and MicroPython, it is great to have the opportunity to take a brief look back.

by jelkner ( at May 19, 2015 12:37 AM

May 18, 2015

OLE Nepal

Khokana Bungamati

On Sunday afternoon, Deepa , Sabrina and I visited Khokana and Bungmati to observe ‘Child Friendly Spaces’, temporary playgrounds set up by different humanitarian organizations to address the emotional needs of children whose lives were affected by the recent earthquake in Nepal.…

by Dovan Rai at May 18, 2015 09:23 AM

May 15, 2015

Danishka Navin's Diary

Blankets give them enough warm but not Education!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I flew to Nepal on 1st of May 2015 and added Day 2 and Day 3 photos to my flickr  album. It's really hard to explain the situation there but I hope you can get an idea.

Another evening in Nepal with dark and fear of aftershocks

 Blankets give them enough warm but not Education!

What's the next step?

During my visit to Dharding on 3rd of May 2015, I learned that I can do much better work with my experience. There is a small school in the village with 400 students and 8 teachers.

Yes, I decided to help them with a school lab with Open Source Education tools.

I have been running a similar project in Sri Lanka and I had a plan to do my next deployment with Raspberry Pi.

Why Raspberry Pi?

Simply: Its cheap and portable.
Its much easier to relocate a lab in case of an emergency and its really cheaper than generic desktop machines.

What's required?
Single set need LCD Display, Keyboard/Mouse, Power Supply, Storage/Memory Card in addition to the RPi 2. 

I bought Raspberry Pi 2 on last evening

Operating System?
Hanthana Linux, a Fedora remix bundle with bunch of Educational tools and Sugar Desktop.

LibreOffice, Firefox, VLC, Educational Tools, Gnome/Sugar Desktop.

Not in the scope for now.

I would like to expand this in to several schools, based on the support I get from the community. I can't afford several devices and also I need local community to support by series of workshops to teachers and students.

They were about to receive new cloths.. 
Can you imagine if they touch a computer for the first time?

Wanna join?

Feel free to contact me if you willing to help this project.

 They have no idea about their future but you can make it!

by Danishka Navin ( at May 15, 2015 09:38 PM

May 07, 2015

Danishka Navin's Diary

Heading to Nepal after the Gorkha earthquake 2015 (Day 01)

 Nepal Earthquake aka Gorkha Earthquake occurred 25th of April (Saturday) at 11.56AM Nepal Standard Time with a 7.8Mw moment magnitude.

I try to contact my friends in Nepal via Facebook but most of them seems offline on first day but able to contact some of them on Sunday evening and the next day. Both Facebook and Google tools were really useful for track their status. During my previous visit to Nepal on 2013 for the Mozilla Meetup, I was down with food poisoning and my friends help me at that time. This was the first thing came to my mind when I heard Nepal Earthquake.

They helped me when I was in trouble. Why should not help them when they need help?
I was thinking how I can help them as I had experience in this kind of disaster as tsunami hit my country in 2004.

On 27th April, I decided to spend my long weekend in Nepal. As I was suppose to cover duties of my colleagues who was on leave from 30th of April to 12th of May, I had to be at office on 4th May 2015.  I ping'd my boss on 28th April night and informed him that I am off to Nepal.

I had only two issues on this visit. one of the major issue was to convincing my parents and find a flight. When I check several airlines I found that most of flights are too expensive though Malaysian Airlines was round 670$. I decided to wait till the last moment and call my parents on previous day and just mention "Dad, I will be flying to Nepal for a project on next morning. And I will be back on Monday".  He asked several questions and managed to convince him at last. When I spoke to mom later she scared "What Nepal?" anyway... later everything settle and purchased my ticket.

One of my colleague Naren, who is a volunteer to Red Cross who was helping me on finding me suitable medicines and also he gave me few stuff including emergency touch (with two type of lights, cutter, and window breaker), 100 surgical masks. While GuoZheng gave me a list of stuff to bring though I forgot some of them, Vasudha put me in to loop with her friends in Nepal already started their work. 

This was a huge plus for me as many of my friends who were asking why do you visit? Do you have a  First Aid Certification? Did you read those articles on why you should not visit Nepal?

As one of my friend from Nepal requested to bring T-shirts, I checked with Saurabh as he had a lot of cloths to be give away but he had sent them all to a tsunami village in Sri Lanka. some how he came with Tariq bought some food items and chocolate as they wanted do some contribution. Jeff was another friend who willing to help though I didn't request. I just asked a place to buy a sleeping bag but when he heard the news, he came up with some useful medicine for survivals in Nepal.

On 1st of May Friday, early morning I booked a taxi from my home to Airport around 4.20AM as my flight MH 602, was scheduled to 6.40AM. While driver uncle was helping me, he asked where are you going with these heavy bags? He thought I was heading to home with many stuff.

I told him that I am going to Nepal to spend my long weekend to help people there but I don't have relatives in Nepal. After reaching the Airport, I gave my ATM card to pay but he refused. I thought his payment machine is broken then I gave cash I had, as I remember it was around 35$.

Again he refused it and told me that, he won't take money form me but its from him to people in Nepal. I asked his name and did not forget to take a picture with him and publish in my Facebook profile once I landed in Nepal.
If you meet this driver uncle don't forget to mention that his money given to a local community to buy aids.

He gave me more courage to travel there. When I checked in my baggage I noticed that my luggage weight is around 50kg. The lady who handle my checking asked me to pay excess baggage but I told her that I am not visiting my parents or relatives but I am heading to Nepal with food and medicine. So, she smiled and let me checking. She was the second nice person who met on 1st of May within an hour. :-)

Can you expect this kind of service from an Airline for an economy class traveler? ;-)

As I was sleepless before flying I planned to sleep till the flight landing in Nepal. But when the captain announce I noticed that it was before the schedule time to land in Nepal (schedule time was 11.30AM on same day). I heard that most of flights with AIDS were redirected to Kolkata and Delhi Airports in India due to congestion in Nepal International Airport. It was Dhaka Airport in Bangladesh. There were many Nepali people and one rescue team and several foreigners in that flight.
at Nepal International Airport (4.00pm NST) 
Some of them started playing local songs in their mobiles with loud music which was disturbing and I had to request them to low down the volume.   After several hours on waiting in Dhaka, flight take off to Nepal and landed at 4.00PM in local time.

 Ground staff of Malaysian Airlines in Nepal stop (I don't know why?) me using my DSLR but I manage to click few photos using my mobile.

  There were several flights waiting for completion of unloading...

 Trucks around..  waiting for loading..

 I met two rescue guys from Korea with two dogs but they were waiting for their remaining stuff to be upload.

I didn't see any cracks in the airport other than this crack before the immigration. 
Yes, Airport is safe!

In 2013, I had to wait for an hour to clear immigration but this time immigration was with empty...
and the service was good.
There was no way to see the bags on the belt, as every one was trying to find their own baggage.

 One of the relief teams collect their AIDS side of the best a belt.

 Baggage handling was totally a mess but we can't blame anyone as they were not expected this much of stuff to handle within a day.

Outside of the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. 

Finally I came out from the Airport at 7.00pm after wasting 3hours and met my friends Bansaj and Sagar who were waiting outside since 11.30AM till 7PM.  I was tired but happy to meet my friends at last. But I lost one of my baggage with food and medicine. We decide to come back on next day morning to collect it if it already returned.

I hope this post will be useful for someone who willing to flying to a site after disaster.

Please DO NOT fly without having proper information!!! 
Yes, I went there but I had contacts and also a backup plan.  :-)

PS: I wrote this post as most of my friends request to share my experience. I was not suppose to do a job of media guy.

by Danishka Navin ( at May 07, 2015 06:36 PM

May 06, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Getting Started with LIDAR Data

LIDAR, as I learned in my Geospatial Science Fundamentals course last Fall, is an active remote sensing technology that produces three dimensional representations of the earth's surface by gathering reflected laser light, usually from equipment mounted in an airplane passing over the modeled surface.  My Summer independent study at GMU will involve learning to process LIDAR data from the Northern Virginia region, with the aim of using the results to provide useful information to building owners in the region on the viability of putting solar panels on their roofs.

I will of course want to see if I can accomplish this task using free software, since citizen science is ill served by fees or licenses which restrict open collaboration on the widest possible scale.

I've been casually gathering information for the past few months, and here is what I've done so far:
  • read about the US National Lidar Dataset project and found out Virginia's dataset status is listed as "partial".
  • created an account on the USGS's EarthExplorer website.
  • searched for Loudoun County Virginia and filtered on Lidar, which returned a single data set with LiDAR Entity ID: VA_LOUDOUNCO_2012_000298.
  • downloaded the 76.7 MB "LAS Product" of this data.
  • handed over the data to one of my students, Sam Phillips, who is helping me with this project.
Sam's blog is here. We plan to use our blogs to both document our work and have a digital dialog of our efforts. The impetus for this project comes from the GIS manager of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Shafi Khan, who came to our Code for NOVA meet up to propose the idea. I took notes from our first on the project, which included the following:
Finally, to provide structure to the theoretical study related to the project, I plan to make my way through Penn State University's GEOG 481: Topographic Mapping with Lidar, which wonderfully includes OpenCourseWare for the course.  I've ordered the required text book and will begin working on the lessons this week.

My next post on this topic will describe my first experiments using Python to process LIDAR data...

by jelkner ( at May 06, 2015 06:41 PM

May 05, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Learning and Teaching Firefox OS

With only about five weeks left in the school year, and with my Spring semester grad school class completed, I'll now shift focus to three things which are all part of student projects this year, Summer internships, and technologies I hope to integrate into the IT program of Arlington Tech next year:
  1. Firefox OS app development
  2. Mapping LIDAR data with Python
  3. Robotics with MicroPython and the pyboard
I will document each of these efforts in separate blog posts.

First on the list is Firefox OS app development.  I've written about my early enthusiasm for FXOS in a previous post.  The challenge now will be to gather and organize a collection of accessible and high quality resources to support incorporation of FXOS into a high school / community college curriculum.

The principal obstacle in meeting this challenge is that Firefox OS is a rapidly developing technology, so in attempting to write educational materials for it you are aiming at a moving target.  I've already found this to be a problem with existing materials.  One of the best written tutorials I've found thus far for FXOS is on the blog iRomin.  Written as a series of 10 episodes, Episode 1 : Setting up your Development Environment, is already woefully out of date.  It describes setup procedures that have already been replaced by better and easier to use technologies.

It seems important to me to get folks who want to help nurture the fledgling OS to release their books, blogs, and tutorials as open educational resources. I certainly will, but my life as a free software activist would be made so much easier if I could build on the work of others as I set about creating a curriculum for FXOS.  I'll be contacting the authors of the usable materials I find and asking them if I can update and adapt their work.

Here is a list of resources I plan to start with:
One of the first things I want to do is create a Firefox OS app "zoo", along the lines of the jQuery Zoo. The idea is to populate the site (and accompanying github repo) with a collection of small, easy to understand apps that are designed primarily to meet pedagogical goals.  I should start with a "hello world" app and build from there.

I've got a student coming in tomorrow morning for help getting started with FXO, so I best get working on the app zoo now...

by jelkner ( at May 05, 2015 07:04 PM

May 03, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Geospatial Representation of Roads

It turns out that the polygons in the Roads shapefiles do not represent roads the way I thought they would.  To explore the shapefile, I wrote a script using pyshp:  The pyshp module is definitely more rewarding to use than GDAL, since it is pure Python and it is thus possible to use Python's type introspection to explore.  I've found that all of the scripts I've written in Python 3 will run also in Python 2, which is convenient.  I also came across one of the big improvements Python 3 has over Python 2 in terms of type introspection.

The following line of code prints out the type of the first element of a list from a shapefile: 

print('type(sr[0]): {0}'.format(type(sr[0])))

Running the script in Python 2 results in: 

type(sr[0].shape): <type 'instance'>

which is not very informative.  Python 3 does much better: 

type(sr[0]): <class 'shapefile._ShapeRecord'>

Anyway, since my final project is due tomorrow, I had to cut the investigation into using pyshp short, but I'll be sure to continue looking into it soon.

My goal was to represent Columbia Pike in bright yellow or orange on my map. Columbia Pike is the road on which the proposed streetcar that had such a profound impact on the Vihstadt / Howze election ran.  I thought adding it to the map would provide visual interest.  It also gave me a chance to explore adding more than one layer to a map.

I wrote several scripts to make maps as part of investigating this.
Renders all 883 shapes from the Roads shapefile in a map.
Renders a single shape from the Roads shapefile as a new layer on the precincts map.
I used trial and error (and a bit of divide and conquer) to find shapes among the 883 that represented roads on and near Columbia Pike.
Finally, I added this roads layer to the election results map I made yesterday.
The first script,, generates a map of the roads in Arlington County:
I have yet to begin studying QGIS, but I googled how to load a shapefile as a vector layer to see how it would compare:
Since I generally feel more comfortable expressing my thoughts in code rather than using tools, I think I'm going to generally prefer writing python scripts to using qgis to make maps, but I realize I'll have to do both.

I assumed that each of the 883 shapes in the Roads shapefile represented a single road.  I was disappointed that the metadata didn't include names associated with each of the shapes, but I figured I could use a kind of binary search to print out half of them, render the map, and see which half Columbia Pike was in, cut that in half, and so forth, until I found Columbia Pike.  Soon I'll be able to read geospatial coordinates from the shapes and write a script that selects the shapes I want, but for now I figured this approach would be the quickest way to get to my goal.

It turns out that the reason there are no road names associated with the shapes is that each shape represents a cluster of connected road segments rather then a single road. illustrates this:
The orange line segments are from a single shape from the Roads shapefile.  Once I realized that, I spent some time gathering shapes that had a piece of the Pike on them, and made to render them:
Finally, I merged this with the color coded election results map I made yesterday in to produce:
The color contrast is bad here, but I'm running out of time to complete the project, and since this fails to render just Columbia Pike the way I wanted anyway, I decided not to spend any more time on it.

Where I'll Go From Here

OpenStreetMap is an incredible resource for open source mapping projects, and yesterday I did a quick search to see if it might provide me with a solution to my rendering Columbia Pike project.  I found out that OSM stores streets as a collections of ordered nodes called ways. This way holds a piece of Columbia Pike near where I live:

Here are the things I think I should investigate next:
My immediate project goal will be to render Columbia Pike, this time from OSM, onto the election map as I had originally intended.  I anticipate that the pyproj module will be the tool to use to convert among different geospatial data formats.

by jelkner ( at May 03, 2015 04:01 PM

May 02, 2015

OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

We are not wasting our time (8 years for me) :-)

Not many people bother to read details of research data for some critical in-depth analysis. OLPC and the XO laptops were designed for children who have no computer access for joyful self-directed learning. I care about fluid intelligence which is important for young children who are growing up fast. The evidences I found so far support this impact when we sieve out other variables and as the right questions.

"There were positive impacts on the Raven's Progressive Matrices test among children who did not have a home computer before the intervention, but no significant effects for the sample as a whole" 

Some positive effects are found, however, in general cognitive skills as measured by Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a verbal fluency test and a Coding test.

This support my observations working with the poor children as a Psychologist who does intellectual evaluation on both rich and poor children. Learning/play tools make a difference in cognitive stimulation and learning.

On a personal note till today I have yet to see a better alternative to the XO laptops. There are many ways to cook something .... with different impact on our taste bugs. Perhaps something will be in preparation for basecamps olpc 2.015 if people are willing to dine, celebrate and work harder.

 XO4All as it will be 10 years this year in Nov :-)

by T.K. Kang ( at May 02, 2015 09:29 AM

May 01, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

A Color Coded Election Results Precinct Map

Learning to use Python to make maps is becoming more fun the more time I spend with it.  This morning I was able to successfully generate a color coded precinct map showing which precincts were won by Alan Howze and John Vihstadt in last November's Arlington County Board election.

Here is what I did:
  1. Found a data set containing the election data.  The Virginia Department of Elections website has a CSV file with the data I needed here.
  2. Learned to use Python to extract the data I needed from this source.  This turned out to be surprisingly easy (maybe not so surprising, that's why I love Python!). I just needed the cvs module which comes with the standard library.  I then wrote a small script,, which produced a list containing the winner for each precinct.
  3. Wrote a script,, using mapnik and my script to generate a color coded map showing precincts which Howze won in green and those Vihstadt won in red.
Here is the resulting map:

I plan to spend the rest of my available time today trying to overlay Columbia Pike, the road along which the proposed streetcar that caused such a stir in this election had been planned to run.

I found a shapefile with all the roads in Arlington County here.  I'm planning to explore this file with the pyshp rather than the GDAL module, since pyshp is pure python instead of a wrapper around a C++ library and thus will be easier to work with.

My next post will report on my results.

by jelkner ( at May 01, 2015 05:47 PM

April 28, 2015

Mel Chua

On the diversity-readiness of STEM environments: “It’s almost as if I could only enter the makerspace as a janitor.”

My thoughts from an online discussion with other female Olin engineers on this NYT article on “how to attract female enginers,”, edited for context. In particular, we brought up the (well-worn) claim that women don’t want to “just focus on the tech stuff” and want to “do sociotechnical/humanitarian work that makes a difference in the world.”

I’ve built my career as a “technical community person” who “thinks beyond the technology,” and as a teacher and researcher of learning environments — so this may come as a surprise to people who know and have worked with me. But if my teenage self had had her way, I would have VASTLY preferred to “just focus on the tech stuff.”

As a kid, I wanted to choose the privilege of being oblivious and keeping my head down and immersing myself into the beauty — the sheer beauty! — and joy of STEM for STEM’s sake. I didn’t become an ECE to work on educational computers or hearing aids or anything like that. As my friend (and former roommate) Kristen Dorsey said, “I just geek out about nerdy stuff, OK?”

But I couldn’t “just geek out about nerdy stuff.” The environments where I was trying to “learn about nerdy stuff” were sociotechnically broken in a way that made it hard for me (as a disabled minority woman, among other things) to join in. If I wanted to even start being part of the technical community, I had to start by fixing the technical community — patching the roof and fixing the plumbing, so to speak — before I could even walk inside and start to live there. And when I patched the leaking roof, I patched the roof for everyone, and other people who needed non-leaky roofs to be in the community could now… be in the community as well!

For instance, I got really, really good at facilitating meetings because it was the only way I had to make meetings accessible to me — when other people facilitated meetings, they’d often forget I need to lipread, so… I just quietly started leading them myself, and ended up making meetings work better for everyone. And I found that when I drifted towards “humanitarian” projects, the people there were much more conscious of sociotechnical things and more likely to have already-healthy environments, so I would have less leaky roofs to patch, and less resistance when I tried to patch the roofs — and people actually recognized and valued roof-patching labor instead of looking down on me for not writing code full-time.

After a while of patching roofs and unclogging toilets and plastering the rotten drywall, I got a reputation in industry for being really, really good at open-source software/hardware (technical) community facilitation. It’s almost as if I could only enter the makerspace as a janitor. And part of me resented that, but never said so. But, I told myself, at least I was in the building. And I saw that my “janitorial” work made it possible for other people to enter the building and do the things they wanted to do — which were often the things I wanted to do, too! — and so I thought: okay. That’s okay. At least somebody gets to do it. I can see my gift to the community doing so much good, that I will give up my desire to learn and do the technical things — so I let my own STEM learning slide. I am good at “community work,” and I did come to genuinely love it, over time.

But if I had the choice, I would have never gone into “community work.” I would have chosen — if I had the choice — to focus on “shiny tech stuff” that… didn’t save the world at all. If my teenage self had had her way, I would not do community-facilitation-anything, I would not be thoughtful about women or minorities or disabilities or any underprivileged group in engineering… I would be oblivious to all my privilege. I’d be a kernel hacker, or an embedded geek, or something “hardcore technical,” Because I could be.

But I didn’t have the wherewithal (or the desire) to shovel all the stuff out of the way that I would have to do in order to do that. If you think of “caring/environmental labor” as a sort of tax some people have to pay in order to get to “learning/doing technical things,” my tax rate has always just been too frickin’ high.

So I have been “the full-time community person who is ridiculously good at tech stuff that she no longer gets to do,” instead of “the technical person who understands and listens to and cares about inclusion and community.” Because I cannot not patch a leaky roof. But I have always wondered what I might have grown up into, if I had learned STEM in an environment that was ready for me — without me having to fix it first.

by Mel at April 28, 2015 08:07 PM

Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

Sugar Digest 2015-04-28

Sugar Digest

1. Sugar Labs got six slots from Google. We had 67 applications — many quite strong — so there are undoubtedly a lot of disappointed students (and mentors — we have seventeen community members who have signed up). But we have six great students/projects so there is lots to look forward to this summer. Congratulations to:

  • Abhinav Anurag, Redesigning Collaboration Using Web Technologies
  • Amit Kumar Jha, Turtle Blocks for in-line programming
  • Ishan Sharma, Turtle Blocks 3D JavaScript
  • Yash Khandelwal, Music Blocks
  • Michaël Ohayon, Sugar WebBasic Activity Set
  • Richa Sehgal, Interactive Javascript Shell

We’ll be holding our first organizational meeting on Friday, May 1 at 14:00 UTC on #sugar-meeting. Please join us if you are interested in participating in any of these projects.

In the news

2. I clicked on the link, having been baited by the teaser: 16 Startups Poised to Disrupt the Education Market (You won’t believe #8). Alas, none of them have anything to do with learning.

3. Sebastian Silva posted a link to an article in ”The Atlantic” about the future role of the teacher in elementary and secondary education that is thought-provoking. In essence, the author is conceding teaching to the myriad of resources becoming available on the web and parroting Sugata Mitra’s position that children will learn given access to kiosks connected to the Internet. I remain skeptical: none of the scant evidence I have seen from Mitra (or the much talked about OLPC tablet experiment in Ethiopia) is convincing. Perhaps the succinct way I can express my doubts is to assert that no one has ever learned to program from reading a book (or attending a MOOC). You can only learn to program by programming.

I don’t doubt that resources will continue to amass on the web and that we can algorithmically steer students through those materials wherever Internet is generally available, but I am yet to be convinced that access can or should be equated to learning. Learning is a culture, one that is includes a spirit of open access, but also mutual support, respect, and responsibility. (These attributes of learning culture are tightly aligned with the culture of Free/Libre Software, one of the reasons I remain convinced that Free/Libre Software is fundamental to the future of education.) Children need access to powerful ideas, but there is still no getting around the need to do, to make, and to engage in order to learn.

In the community

4. With help from the Musson Foundation (and Trip Advisor) I ran a Turtle Art Day in Kingston, Jamaica, on 23 April for sixth-grade girls from five local schools. The girls had been given Android tablets with fairly stale bits. We tried running Turtle Blocks (both with the APK and through the browser) with out much success. So we switched to a variety of computers — whatever was kicking around the workshop venue — and the fun began in earnest. See [1] and [2] to read some of the local press about the event. (Note that the press someone turned “Turtle Art Day” into “Total Art Day”. Cute.)

5. Claudia Urrea and I will be heading to Managua in early May to both plan a Turtle Art Day and to discuss mechanisms for engaging the local universities in supporting the ongoing efforts in Nicaragua.

6. I’ll be doing a Turtle Art workshop in Tel Aviv in early June.

Tech Talk

7. The Sugar spin of Fedora 22 is now in Beta.

Sugar Labs

8. Please visit our planet.

by Walter Bender at April 28, 2015 08:06 PM

April 26, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Cambell's Law

I've had a gut feeling that the data driven decision making that has become the mantra guiding our educational practice in US schools these days is actually harmful to students and education.  I can sense that the problem is related in some way to the erroneous assumption that you can separate the observer from the observed - that the educational system can both gather data on itself and use this data to effectively improve its own practice.

In the case of a political, bureaucratic system like a public school system, relying on data points to determine the effectiveness of our efforts, and then doling out rewards and punishments based on these data points guarantees that it is the data points that will soon take on primary value, regardless of what they actually mean in terms of student growth and development.

It was with great delight that I came across this entry on Wikipedia on Cambell's law.  I take comfort in finding a statement by a well known and respected personage of what I was trying to say stated much better than I could say it:
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
Donald T. Cambell

by jelkner ( at April 26, 2015 07:11 PM

Drawing My First Map with Python

I was able to use python to read data from a shapefile and generate a map of voter precincts in Arlington County, Virginia.

Arlington County, Virginia makes numerous maps available on-line here.  The specific shapefile I started with holds boundaries for voter precincts in the county, and is available here.

I used the Voter_Precinct shapefile and adapted what I learned about gdal and mapnik from Python Geospatial Development. Specifically, the following chapters contained the examples I needed for this first map:
  • Chapter 3 - Python Libraries for Geospatial Development
  • Chapter 5 - Working with Geospatial Data in Python
  • Chapter 8 - Using Python and Mapnik to Produce Maps
I also read through the ESRI Shapefile Technical Description.

The Scripts

I wrote the following two scripts, which are now located in my gis_front_and_back repo on github:
The file, also in the github repo, contains a link to where to get the shapefile.

Since I use Python 3 whenever I can, the first script uses Python 3, while the 2nd, which requires mapnik, is written in Python 2.  Running the first script and redirecting the output to a file produces this.

Running the 2nd script generates this map:

Making this map by adapting the example scripts from the text was fairly trivial.  I've been unable to get filters to work thus far, however, which will enable me to vary the colors of the individual precincts based on rules.

I've been wanting to make a map ever since last November's election which will color code the results by precinct in the race between John Vihstadt and Alan Howze (see John Vihstadt beats Democrat Alan Howze in race for Arlington County Board seat).  The key issue in this race was the proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar, which was canceled soon after the election (see Arlington Cancels Streetcar Program).

I grabbed precinct election results from the website and saved them in a PDF file which I still have here. I was struck by how the support for the streetcar was clearly visible near the communities most effected by it (along the Columbia Pike corridor), while opposition (assuming a direct correlation between opposition to the streetcar and support for Vihstadt) was strongest in North Arlington, furthest away from where the streetcar would have run. This kind of data cries out for a good map, so I've been wanting to make one ever since.

I just downloaded the complete election result data in CVS format from here.  My most immediate problem now is to figure out how to color individual precincts based on filters.  I'll also look further into how to manipulate shapefiles, perhaps using the pyshp library, which can be installed on Ubuntu through the python-pyshp and python3-pyshp debian packages for versions 2 and 3 of Python respectively.  Then I'm thinking I'll either figure out how to read the election result data from the CVS file, or use the PDF to read the election results for each precinct and to color code them on the map accordingly.

by jelkner ( at April 26, 2015 07:07 PM

April 23, 2015

Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

Our Big Idea

Our team’s entry for the student social innovation competition Big Ideas @ Berkeley was selected as one of three finalists for the Global Impact category of Grand Prize Pitch Day. Basically, that means we get to fly out to California … Continue reading

by Sora at April 23, 2015 11:55 AM

April 22, 2015

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

The pyboards Have Arrived!

Arlington Tech, the name we have informally given to the new school being planed for the current Arlington Career Center, will have a focus on STEM ("green STEM" in particular).  Our carpentry instructor has both experience with and a big interest in high school robotics, and since robotics is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, I'll be working with him next year to help students learn to program the robots.

When I heard about the programmable microprocessor that runs Python 3 called the pyboard at Pycon a last week, I was naturally interested in investigating it as a possible tool for our robotics effort.

I ordered two pyboards, which arrived today.  Here is a picture of one of them:

Here is a screen shot of one of the example scripts from this tutorial, which prints out value from the accelerometer on the board:

I have to stay focused on GIS programming and Firefox OS, but I have a friend interested in microprocessors who plans to explore this further.

by jelkner ( at April 22, 2015 07:00 PM

One Laptop per Child

Design for life. 99 projects for the real world #OLPC

Design is an activity that has become fully part of our lives. We live in a world that is shaped largely by human effort and in which design is so present that it often becomes invisible until it ceases to work. However, design enables us to constantly, consistently, solve problems that generate great social impact. In this show, the Museum of Design in Barcelona focused on design that is expressly aimed at improving the lives of the users it is intended for, the environment in which it operates and the society to which it belongs.

To demonstrate the key role that design can play in providing solutions to everyday problems of different types, improving the welfare of citizens, both in our immediate context and in more distant geographical regions.

This was the main purpose of this exhibition, which took place at the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona from February the 19th – May the 17th.

The XO Laptop was part of this exhibition of the 99 design for life projects.

Photo credit: Design Museum of Barcelona

Inauguration Photo credit: Design Museum of Barcelona

Find a list of all the pieces exhibited here and more details about this exhibition in the press dossier.

by mariana at April 22, 2015 01:15 AM

April 20, 2015

OLE Nepal

A fascinating case of Surya Joshi

I could not understand him speaking but he got me. Nonetheless, I spent ten days with him. During those days, we did many things together, like playing, fooling around and learning together, which was a funny struggle as I could…

by Deepesh Thapa at April 20, 2015 08:52 AM

April 19, 2015

Path Education, Pakistan

Annual Audited Accounts of Path for 2014



In the Financial Year 2013-2014 we raised Donations  equal to Rs.4,075,941, a nominal fee from students of Rs. 220,140, and students share of Uniform and Stationary cost of Rs. 142,595. This gave us a Total Funds of Rs. 4,438,676 to spend on the education of nearly 300 children in this year.


We are happy to report that nearly all of this money went towards the direct educational expense of RS. 4,331,436. These  are made up of teachers and staff salaries, school building rent, food program, stationary and books purchased for the students, uniform subsidy provided to all children, and other day to day running expenses and utilities.

Administrative expense of Rs. 234,095 were mainly funds spent on getting certification from the Pakistan Centre of Philanthropy, previous year’s audit expenses, and other registration expenses.

We are also delighted to inform our patrons that this year’s audit was done on a Pro Bono basis by Usmani and Company Chartered Accountants.

The annual audited accounts are provided above for anyone who wishes to see these in more detail.


by kishwer at April 19, 2015 05:44 PM

Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

Installing Python GIS Libraries on Ubuntu 14.04

I'm working my way through Python Geospatial Development, which as good fortune would have it, is the book we are using in my Introduction to GIS Algorithms and Programming course at George Mason University.  At the beginning of the course we were given a VirtualBox image of Ubuntu 12.04 with all the software and data files we need for the course preloaded.  Since I'm already running Ubuntu 14.04 as my regular desktop OS, I preferred to just install the packages (all of which are in the standard debian repositories) onto my desktop machines.

Here are the libraries we are using:
  • GDAL - The Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (see Python GDAL/OGR Cookbook for Python specific "recipes") for reading and writing geospatial data (GDAL for raster, OGR for vector).
  • pyproj - Performs cartographic transformations and geodetic computations.
  • Shapely - Manipulation and analysis of geometric objects in the Cartesian plane.
  • Mapnik - Toolkit for building mapping applications.
To install them for Python 2 on Ubuntu 14.04, run the following in a unix shell:
  • $ sudo apt-get install python-gdal
  • $ sudo apt-get install python-pyproj
  • $ sudo apt-get install python-shapely
  • $ sudo apt-get install python-mapnik2
Even on Ubuntu 15.04 Mapnik is only available for Python 2.  The other three libraries (gdal, pyproj, and shapely) are all available for Python 3.  This means that I will unfortunately have to use Python 2 for my mapping project.

I've now read the first eight chapters of Python Geospatial Development, which contain all the information I'll need for my project:
  • Chapter 1 - Geospatial Development Using Python
  • Chapter 2 - GIS
  • Chapter 3 - Python Libraries for Geospatial Development
  • Chapter 4 - Sources of Geospatial Data
  • Chapter 5 - Working with Geospatial Data in Python
  • Chapter 6 - GIS in the Database
  • Chapter 7 - Working with Spatial Data
  • Chapter 8 - Using Python and Mapnik to Produce Maps
It is often quite difficult to find good books about rapidly developing technologies like this, but this book does a good job.  The material is relevant, the presentation clear, and the examples both engaging and illuminating.

With background reading done and infrastructure setup, it is time to dig into the project.

    by jelkner ( at April 19, 2015 03:38 PM

    April 17, 2015

    Juan Chacon Free Software & Education | El Salvador

    Firefox OS and Lowering the Barrier to Entry into ICT

    I'm recently returned from Pycon 2015, and still feeling the energizing, rejuvenating effects of this annual pilgrimage to connect with a community I love.  The YouTube channel for the conference talks is here.

    Two of the keynotes were especially memorable.  The keynote by Catherine Bracy, Director of Community Organizing for Code for America, left me feeling fortunate indeed to be involved with our local Code for NOVA brigade.  Catherine laid out in clear terms Code for America's vision of transforming the way citizens relate to their government (and the increasing alienation many feel from government) by bringing the community together to work collaboratively to address local needs.

    The keynote by Jacob Kaplan-Moss discussed how sexism and the myth of the rock star / ninja programmer where keeping people from entering the programming field and driving women out of it after they do enter.  By describing the ninja programmer myth as an inverted normal distribution, he presented both a memorable image and a clear exposure of the absurdity of the myth.

    Lowering barriers to entry into programming is my raison d'être as an ICT/CS teacher in a school serving lower income, immigrant students.  If I can't find a way to lower the barrier to entry, there is really no good reason for me to come to work each day.  It is with that in mind that I have been continuously thrilled by the wonderful work the folks at Mozilla are doing with their development tools for Firefox OS.

    The following three files are from the first app introduced in chapter 2 of Firefox OS in Action:
    Here is what this code looks like running in a browser (with the widow suitably shrunk to a small size):

     adding one more file turns this into a Firefox OS app:
    Here is the app loaded in the WebIDE and running in the simulator:
    The deployment story here is simply amazing.  I've never seen anything like it.  The WebIDE comes with Firefox, so there is nothing to install.  Simply press <Cntrl>+<F8> to launch it.  A few clicks of the mouse and a simulator with your choice of version of Firefox OS is running, and deploying your app to the simulator is a matter of loading the app source into the WebIDE and clicking a single button!
    It can't get any better than that, right?  Wrong!  The best is yet to come.  What if you want to deploy your app to a real phone?
    To show you how amazingly simple this is, let me first introduce a more interesting app, the LibriFox audio book player that two of my students are working on:
    To deploy this app to my Firefox OS phone, I simply plug in the phone with the USB cable, and it now shows up in the list of available targets:
    Firefox OS(Flame) is my phone

    Clicking the same triangle button I used to deploy to the simulator loads the app onto my phone.  Wow!

    I've never seen a development environment that even approaches the simplicity and elegance of this one.  The Mozilla Foundation is delivering on its goal of "making the Web better and more accessible for everyone everywhere".  I'm an ICT teacher just getting started in mobile app development, but I'm hooked on Firefox OS already.  By lowering the barrier to entry into this important technology, Mozilla will surely attract new developers far and wide, promising great things for the future of this free software phone operating system.
    Thank you, Mozilla!

    by jelkner ( at April 17, 2015 02:59 AM

    April 15, 2015

    Danishka Navin's Diary

    Hanthana Linux 21 (Sinharaja) released


    Hanthana Linux Project was founded in 2009 and we promote Free and Open Source Software among the community and also let them to contribute back. We are happy to announce our latest release Hanthana Linux 21 today.

    This new release Hanthana Linux 21, is ship with several Desktop Enviroments such as Gnome, KDE, XFCE, Sugar and LXDE. There are several editions in Hanthana 21, for general usage (Hanthana 21 LiveDVD) , educational purpose you can use Hanthana 21 Edu and Hanthana 21 Dev can be use for Software Development purposes. For those who just use Office packages can download either Hanthana 21 Light) or Hanthana 21 Light2. Each of these editions comes with both i686 (32bit) and x86_64 (64bit) architectures and 10 ISO images available for download.

    Download Hanthana 21 now!
    Hanthana 21 release is named 'Sinharaja' after the infamous tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka. UNESCO identifies Sinharaja as a World Heritage Site. It spans over 88.64sqkm and harbours high biological diversity. Hantana team thinks It is important to raise awareness on wealth of Sri Lankan wilderness so that the current release is dedicated to Sinharaja. The picture in the background is a plant species from Sinharaja Forest shot by Gauwrika Wijeratne.

    Hats off to those who help us to release Hanthana 21 (Sinharaja)!.

    We highly appreciate your feedback on Hanthana 21 release in order to make our next better suite for your requirements. Feel free to spread the word among your relatives and friends. Moreover you can conduct events in schools, universities, government and private organizations.


    by Danishka Navin ( at April 15, 2015 04:44 AM

    April 14, 2015

    OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

    Insights into XO usage

    These are not assignments . Some work by children who shared XOs in a community. 

     English translation:

     " Thank you teacher because you gave us an opportunity to learn. We all wish you teacher ... thank you teacher"



    "Today I am very happy as I have a gathering of my friends. My friends name are ......and many more. I have forgotten their names. I wish them always healthy. bye2"

    How true.....

    "This is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within -- within each child, within each scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day." 
    —Kofi Annan

    by T.K. Kang ( at April 14, 2015 02:51 AM

    April 11, 2015

    Nancie Severs

    Mid-Winter Musings & An Escape to the Sun — Palm Desert, CA

    Palm Desert, CA

    It's mid - winter and very snowy here in New Hampshire.  Our snowplow driver and the winter sports enthusiasts are ecstatic. The snowstorms don't bring us to a standstill like in the northeastern cities. I'm six weeks out from the last chemo and the February 9 snowstorm coincided with my Boston appointments. I was not about to miss seeing my oncologists, as I always leave their offices with new knowledge and reassurance. So I headed down to Boston during the thick of the storm. The afternoon Dartmouth Coach buses were canceled in the morning but the afternoon ones ran. We were just about the only vehicle on the road and I arrived to find the usually very busy South Station deserted. Even McDonalds was closed. The Massachusetts governor had just declared a state of emergency and told to taxis to stay home. My taxi driver said that he had bills to pay and he was grateful for the fare. The streets were deserted and the fresh white snow gave the city an eerie beauty. I stayed at the Copley Marriott so that I would have the attached indoor malls for exercise and easy access to healthy eats. From the 28th floor concierge lounge, I watched cold souls try to shovel snow laden roofs. The stores and restaurants in the mall and on Boylston Street were closed Monday night and all day Tuesday. It was weird. But for the Brigham, it was business as usual and I was reassured by my radiation oncologist that things are as expected. On Wednesday my appointment with my primary oncologist was also very helpful. I got a green light to fly as planned to California on the next day. I also fit in an acupuncture appointment. That seems to really help my tingling toes and I don't have a practitioner in New Hampshire yet. On Wednesday I stopped at Lululemon. I told my "friends" there that I missed their Sunday classes. I got some compression tights and they seem to help the discomfort I have with pelvic lymphedema. This problem is thought to be a side effect from both surgery where lymph nodes have been removed and radiation effects on those remaining. I've been working in New Hampshire with a PT that specializes in lymph drainage. But this issue is one that requires each of us to figure out what will work best for us. Unfortunately, there are not very effective resolutions for this problem. I mention this here, so that others who may be dealing with problems similar to mine can contact me for more information about what I find helpful and what's not. By Wednesday evening, Boston's traffic was back in full force. I had to share a taxi to the airport hotel where I was meeting Mark. It took 2 hours. But on Thursday morning, our flight to Los Angeles was right on time. We got out of town just before the next snowstorm that afternoon. I had planned a week to rendezvous with our family in Palm Desert, California. We loved this beautiful and easy to navigate vacation spot. This is a travel blog after all, so please indulge me as I share our family photos of our time in this stunning desert oasis.&lt;i&gt; Just click on any photo to scroll through all of them.&lt;/i&gt; I had been pretty tired all month. Frankly, that last chemo really dragged me down. Now, after a week of family and sunshine I feel much stronger. 10 months ago I started on this "unexpected journey" of surgery&gt;chemo&gt;radiation&gt;more chemo for Uterine Papillary Serous Carcinoma. We understand that this is a sneaky, fast growing, and aggressive type of cancer. It wasn't my best year, but it certainly wasn't the worst. Life is full of challenges. Overcoming them brings us strength. Should my life stop? Should it be all about having cancer? Should I try to cram everything in that I can? Should I change the way I live because I have cancer? I suppose that everyone in a similar situation asks themselves these questions. Stuart Scott, the ESPN anchor recently taken by cancer at age 49 after 7 years of treatment said "when you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live." I'll try to do honor to his wise words.

    April 11, 2015 10:54 PM

    Dancing on Thin Ice — Lebanon NH USA, NH

    Lebanon NH USA, NH

    This has been the winter that won't quit. And, it has been the year that I haven't been able to take my usual "sunny break trips." When we had another few inches of snow on April 8. I looked at the tracks left by early spring birds and comforted myself saying, it looks and feels like January but the "sunny break" is bound to be just days away.

    While I wait I've been reading Rachel Naomi Remen's book "Kitchen Table Wisdom." I restarted my gym membership April 1 and two RVC yoga friends recently gave me this book of "Stories that Heal." My first cancer symptom appeared a year ago this week. Then, after surgery, or even during treatment, I don't believe I could have found wisdom or encouragement in a book.

    Life is so much about the timing; the confluence of events. And now, with ice still covering both Occom Pond and the Connecticut River, I am reading yet another story about "living in the moment." Over the past few years "being mindful and being present" has become vogue. The teaching has utility and the practice gifts. But as Mark says, "living in the moment is a luxury. One of us has to think about the future and earn what's needed for it."

    Now as I begin life after treatment, or life during remission, or life with cancer as a chronic illness, I struggle with balance. Literally and figuratively. My toe neuropathy (a chemo side effect) challenges my balance physically. And my thoughts about what may be, because of what was or is, stir up fearful visions and life balance issues. Do I rush to plan to do things now while I can and when Mark can't because he is still working, enjoying it, and planning for Our Future? What's realistic? How do I balance that and the important positive belief that I am and can be well. How do I find freedom from the "nightmare fear scenario"?

    This brings us back to Dr. Remen's book. One of Dr Remen's stories is about a courageous uncle who after saving lives as a medic in a fierce WWII battle was awarded a Medal of Honor for bravery under fire. She quotes him saying you can be both brave and afraid at the same time. "[A]nyone who wasn't afraid in situations like war was a fool and they don't give medals to people for being fools. That being brave does not mean being unafraid. It often means being afraid and doing it anyway." (Emphasis added.)

    In a later chapter about "embracing life," the author quotes her patient saying: "When you are walking on thin ice, you might as well dance."

    Life with cancer means "doing it anyway." It means, finding freedom from the fear of both the journey and the outcome. It means seeking joy in each day. It's mid April and we still have ice in the Upper Valley. It's getting thinner; just perfect for dancing on.

    April 11, 2015 08:01 PM

    April 09, 2015

    Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

    Sugar Digest 2015-04-09

    Sugar Digest

    1. I just returned from India, where I had the pleasure of giving the keynote at BITs Pilani (my theme was how Sugar can provide the means for appropriate of knowledge) and then headed to Mumbai to give some Turtle Art workshops. At Pilani, which draws upon students from across all of India, I had a chance to spend time with students to discuss Sugar in greater detail and met with several GSoC candidates. In Mumbai, I was able to use the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education as a base (thanks to G Nagarjuna). Turtle Art Day was split across two venues: first, a workshop for educators, where we put the new Javascript version through a workout, and then at a nearby school, where we worked with a fourth grade classroom using some XO-1 laptops. Both groups seemed to take to turtle — “hard fun” had by all. While in Mumbai, I also had a chance to visit with Tata Trusts, to discuss possible venues for collaboration, including a possible Sugar pilot in Assam. And I visited IIT Bombay, where I met with the IITB Tata Centre, which pursues education and development projects across the subcontinent. Many thanks to Harriet Vidyasagar, who both helped to organize the Mumbai visits and to provide insights into local culture and needs.

    2. At Monday’s Sugar Labs oversight board (SLOB) meeting, we voted to add two new members to the Sugar Labs Membership committee: Sebastian Silva and Caryl Bigenho. They have tasked themselves with getting the members list refreshed. We are looking to recruit another committee member (or two) to help with outreach. Someone connected to the community of youths contributing patches to Sugar would be ideal. Also, recruiting more educators who use Sugar in their classrooms would help round out the committee.

    3. 67 students have applied to work as interns for Sugar Labs as part of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015. I’ve read through the applications and we have some very strong candidates. It will be a difficult decision as to how assign the slots we receive from Google — the number is still to be determined. I have already begun looking for other means of support we might offer to some of the qualified students who don’t make the cut. The mentors are meeting this evening to discuss the applications.

    In the community

    4. I’ll be doing a Turtle Art Day in Kingston, Jamaica, on 23 April. Details to follow. I’d love to reconnect with any Sugar users while I am in the area.

    Tech Talk

    5. James Cameron has been running performance tests on the XO-1 hardware, comparing boot and activity launch times across a number of builds. It is great to have some data to look at. The good news is that we have been making steady progress over the past few releases in terms of reducing boot and launch times. Those of you running old versions of Sugar/Fedora on XO-1 hardware should consider looking at Sugar 104. Many bug fixes, improved stability, etc., and as James has demonstrated, seemingly minimal impact on performance.

    6. Peter Robinson announced the availability of Release Candidate 1 of Sugar 104 on Fedora 22. Please help with testing. (The .iso files can be found at Look for SoaS images for your preferred architecture.)

    7. We will be meeting on Saturday, 11 April, to continue discussing plans the 106 release. Please join Martin Abente Lahaye and the Developer team on (#sugar-meeting) at 22:00 UTC.

    Sugar Labs

    8. Please visit our planet.

    by Walter Bender at April 09, 2015 02:46 PM

    Tabitha Roder

    iMoot 2015

    If you use Moodle, don’t forget to register for the global online Moodle Conference iMoot15 and “come on a learning journey with us” Thursday 28 May to 1 June 2015 (you should totally check the local times for this) #iMoot15 Everyone Matters.

    If you haven’t attended before, you can listen to the Free Moodle podcast where Vinny Stocker is interviewed by Stuart Mealor from HRDNZ.

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    by tabitharoder at April 09, 2015 01:46 AM

    March 31, 2015

    Ghana Together

    Please, Books with More Words, Mum...

    Our readers know we’ve been focusing on the Public Library (APL) in Axim, Ghana, for some time now---since Feb 2010, in fact, when Maryanne Ward and Regina Lawler---personal friends, intrepid travelers, professional librarians, and Ghana Together volunteers---noticed a distinct lack of children’s books in the APL.

    We met with Library Director Mercy Ackah and Western Heritage Home Chair James Kainyiah, who asked for help with the APL children's program. They set up a children's room with help from us and the District Assembly.  But, we needed BOOKS---lots of books!

    By 2012 we had a network of dedicated people in place and were shipping children’s books.<o:p></o:p>

    By 2014, we had hundreds (thousands?) of books, but the motorcycle they were using to deliver to a few very nearby schools had failed beyond repair. More schools were asking for help. So Western Heritage Home and Ghana Together decided to buy a motor tricycle and outfit it as a mobile library. It was dedicated fall of 2014.<o:p></o:p>

    Mobile Library Ready to Launch!!
    By Jan 2015, the APL was ready to launch a Mobile Library Service to schools.
    Maryanne Ward visited in Jan-Feb 2015 and got a first-hand project update.<o:p></o:p>

    Library staffers Gaddiel Eyison (right) and James Amrado pack up boxes of books to deliver to schools, via the Mobile Library
    The Mobile Library visits seven government primary schools in Axim: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Beamish, Akyinim, Apewosika, and AhleSunna. (Yes, we know it's a bit confusing to Americans. The schools with religious names were founded by Christian missionaries or local Muslims in the early to mid-20th century, and although they are now "government" (public) schools, they retain their original names.)

    The Mobile Library also serves five private schools: Morning Star, Augustino, Manye, SADA, and CTK.<o:p></o:p>

    When the Mobile Library arrives at a school, the Headmaster/Mistress commandeers some strong JHS students to help carry in the boxes
    Students pay one Ghana cedi to register for one year (about 30 cents). This is affordable by all, although we’ve let the library staff know if even this is too much for a specific family, we will help.<o:p></o:p>

    Students giving their one-cedi bills to Mr. Eyison to register as library members for one year
    The registration fee helps the library pay for the cards, envelopes,  pens, glue markers, and other supplies.

    Students who are registered check out one book per Mobile Library visit. Students are allowed to swap books with other students who are registered (a little pressure here!).<o:p></o:p>

    By end of Feb 2015, 2,465 students had registered!!

    Students gather round to select their book for the week---big decision!!
    Library members are instructed to “take your book to the house and read it to your mother.” In this way, Moms not only can proudly see their child’s reading ability, but also may learn a little literacy themselves and be able to help younger children not yet in school.<o:p></o:p>

    What could be better than this???!!!
    So far, we have focused on the lower primary grades through about 4th grade, with “easy readers.” Remember, schools have no or very limited libraries. Kids mostly only read what their teacher writes on the board and what they copy into their notebooks. <o:p></o:p>

    Girls read...
    Boys read too...
    But Maryanne heard over and over from students that they want “books with more words.” The older children have pretty good reading skills now, and they want something besides “Picture Books.”<o:p></o:p>

    SO, DEAR READER… <o:p></o:p>
    If you have children/youth books around, you know who to contact!<o:p></o:p>

    The guidelines?
    If you would buy the book today for your child or grandchild, you hit the jackpot! It’s good to go! Think ANY good children's books, but especially story books or children's non-fiction.


    ...textbooks, computer books, old encyclopedias, overtly culturally “American”---zombies, religious tracts, American holidays, cookbooks, Disney, Superman, American literary “classics” (Emerson, Hawthorne, Mark Twain…)---you get the idea! Nothing but the BEST for our kids in Axim!! Fiction or non-fiction, both OK.<o:p></o:p>


    --Book donors---every one of you!!

    --Ebeneezer Mienza who lives in Maryland, receives our US Postal mailed books, knows a shipper...<o:p></o:p>

    --Shipper, whoever you are...<o:p></o:p>

    --Ghanaians George Hayford and Ismael Baidoo who live in Accra and go to the port at Tema to pick up the books and drive them in their van to their own hometown, Axim...<o:p></o:p>

    --Ghana Library Authority Regional Director Mercy Ackah who launched the project in Axim in 2010 and continues to lead the effort...<o:p></o:p>

    --Gaddiel Eyison, James Amrado, and National Service worker Frederick Aman who staff the library, ride the motor tricycle, do all the hard work of packing and unpacking and checking in and checking out...

    --Axim Municipal Assembly for fuel for the motor tricycle...

    --James Kainyiah and Western Heritage Home for having the Mobile Library idea in the first place and staying on top of everything month by month...

    --All the headmistresses/masters and teachers who make it work at the schools!

    And, if you are reading this and have connections with other Ghanaian Nzema East/Western Region towns that have libraries, you know who to contact for some ideas on how you can replicate this model. They are asking for some help, but we can’t really expand to their areas.
    To contact us:

    by Ghana Together ( at March 31, 2015 01:57 AM

    March 30, 2015



    At the May 15th, 2014 meeting of (I believe this was the meeting hosted by Bruce Baikie at Inveneo, 972 Mission St., San Franciso,) Bruce introduced us to the Rachel Pi project: a content server developed by  It provides a Server/Service combination using the Rasberry Pi along with system software and content compiled by the WorldPossible team. (The "Three-Minute World Possible Intro", accessible from their home page, is well worth viewing.)

    A system was soon up and running but unfortunately the video material comes in a format (mp4) that can not be rendered by the XO OLPC laptop. The most straight forward solution seemed to be to convert the mp4 files to ogv and make the corresponding edits in the html files.  Scripts were developed to do this and we had a version usable by the XOs within a short time.

    At the February 2015 meeting, a consensus was reached that webm would be a better choice and so now the scripts were re-written to support conversion of mp4 files to either format (ogv or webm.) These Python scripts are available on github:

    $ git clone

    In the mean time the Banana Pi has become available and WorldPossible has released a version of Rachel for it.  The Banana Pi is based on a dual core ARM processor and should therefore support more clients than the single core ARM of the Raspberry Pi B model.  A version 2 of the Raspberry Pi with a quad core ARM processor has also appeared on the market.  Both of these platforms are under study and it is hoped that we can have a version of Rachel running on all three.

    There is a project planned for Tanzania, spear headed by Camille Harris with help from Hilary Naylor, and that's where our modified Rachel running on one (or more) of the Pi platforms will go; The primary school is in Nyamagongo.

    by akleider at March 30, 2015 02:55 AM

    March 26, 2015

    OLE Nepal

    Our duties teaches us more than what we expect!

    The afternoon of January 18, saw me and Peter seated in a Buddha Air Flight to Dhangadhi. Our final destination was Chainpur, Bajhang. We had to deploy XO laptops and E-Pustakalaya server in 4 schools and subsequently, provide support to…

    by Sawal Acharya at March 26, 2015 10:54 AM

    March 17, 2015

    OLE Nepal

    Solukhumbu Visit: photo series

    When the Phaplu airport finally opened after a year-long closure for repair, our team immediately planned a visit to five of our program schools in Solukhumbu last November. We were glad to find the schools and the teachers remain ever…

    by Dovan Rai at March 17, 2015 04:39 AM

    ICT4D Views from the Field

    Romanum Update: Peace Corps Volunteer Incentivizes with Tablets, Students Achieve Highest English Competency Scores in State!

    Fantastic news from Romanum, Chuuk, FSM! Last summer, we provided Melody, a Peace Corps Volunteer, with some tablets and a charger, for her to bring back to the school where she was serving, on Romanum Island in the Chuuk Lagoon. Romanum Elementary currently does not have electricity or Internet connectivity. I posted a few months ago about Melody’s early interactions with the 8th graders with whom she was working.P1130400P1130406

    I recently received a message from Greg Keeble, letting me know that the 8th Graders at Romanum ES, with whom Melody worked intensively, received the highest competency scores in reading on the national NMCT test amongst all the public schools in Chuuk!!!!

    Congratulations to Romanum’s 8th Graders and to Melody!!! That’s truly wonderful news.


    Greg went on to ask whether this outcome is “because of the better teaching of reading from Melody or is it the learning from the tablets?”

    Those of you familiar with my point of view on this (shared in multiple other posts) wouldn’t be surprised to read my own response: In education, technology is a tool that can enable good teachers to be more effective, but it’s really all about the teachers!!!

    IMAG0550 IMAG0556

    However, I wanted to let Melody speak for herself, so I contacted her and shared the good news. She was very happy to learn of the students’ success—this was the first she had heard of it. She also provided an update on the remainder of her school year with Romanum’s 8th Graders, which I believe provides a very clear answer to Greg’s question:

    “I do believe that technology can have a positive impact on the students. I held an optional class after school. It was for two and a half hours. The deal was if we spent an hour or an hour and a half on test taking skills focusing on English (writing, grammar rules, reading and oral) and Math then they could “play” with the tablets. I said this was an optional class but almost every 8th grader attended the class. They also had to go to their regular classes in the morning or they couldn’t come to the afternoon class. Needless to say 8th grade had the least amount of absences. I tried to show the students and the teachers that the better a student’s attendance, the better their grade will be. My 8th graders worked really hard to learn how to use those tablets.”


    by ljhosman at March 17, 2015 12:27 AM

    March 15, 2015

    Nancie Severs

    Finding Strength to Heal — Woodstock, VT

    Woodstock, VT

    I have a lot to say this week and not so many photos. I hope each of you will find something that speaks to you in this entry.

    Our California family trip was wonderful, but I returned home with a miserable cold &amp; infection. While the trip was worth it to see my grandson, for 3 weeks I was sicker than with either chemo or radiation. I feared I was not strong enough to recover. This weekend I am much better. It was only 3 weeks. So much for useless worrying!

    I had been too sick to do much at all at home. Thank you Karen &amp; Lindsay for the delicious soups. It was a treat and such a help. We all know someone who is ill or struggling from time to time. Many of you asked what you could do to help more times than once. I'm not good at saying please bring over some vegetarian soup or a treat (like Morano gelato - thanks Gloria:)) or can you pick up some fresh cut up fruit for me from the grocery store. What was touching and helpful were the times when friends just called and said" I made soup today and I'm dropping off a quart." Or I have something to bring by, I won’t come in - just drop it off. Thanks Judy &amp; Grace for the gorgeous orchids you brought this week!

    To those of you with friends undergoing treatment similar to mine, I can tell you that any vegetarian soup (like Karen's protein packed lentil or Lindsay's butternut squash with apple and ginger) will be appreciated and eaten. If you are ambitious you can make a lot and freeze it in quart or pint containers. When we are too tired to cook and need to eat, these jewels can easily be thawed and warmed on the stove. If you have an idea, for your friend, just do it. The greater gift is knowing that we are being thought of.

    I have to include a plug for the new ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care Center on the Miracle Mile in Lebanon NH. When I got a fever and my cheekbones throbbed I knew I needed to be seen and treated. I called GIM at DHMC &amp; left a message that I was a cancer patient &amp; that I needed to be seen. I was told a nurse would call me back. By 4:30 P M, I'd heard nothing so I headed over to the newly opened first in the Upper Valley urgent care center. I saw a very calm and kind experienced doctor, was diagnosed, and I left with an antibiotic in my hand all within an hour. It was a pleasant and reassuring experience. A week later, I returned, saw the same physician and had an on site chest x ray to rule out pneumonia. Again efficient, competent and very reassuring care.

    GIM at DHMC operates like a "fortress." When I could not get anyone helpful, I used MyDH online to leave a message for my PCP/internist to call me. The person that called me back was downright unhelpful. She told me that my doctor would not want to see me until I finished my antibiotics. She said if I went to another facility that I could not come there because I couldn't play one against the other. I finally spoke with my doctor but only after I had another doctor friend of his call him personally. Something's definitely wrong at the big house. They need reminding that their raison d'être is to show care as they provide care. I certainly did not need that extra stress.

    The happy ending is that ClearChoiceMD open 7 days a week from 8:00AM to 8:00PM is a great option. Don't hesitate to use them.

    I'm relieved to be feeling better. But my mood had definitely hit a funk. I was tired of the many months of being "sick". I wasn't sleeping well because of the respiratory symptoms. The lack of exercise and yoga did not help. We all need effective strategies to break a low mood less it persist and worsen.

    I set an intention to recover. There has been a lot of research about the effects of a positive attitude and the mind-body connection on prognoses in cancer patients (and other illnesses too; e.g., autoimmune illnesses). A low mood, and an attitude distrustful of a good prognosis can lad to worsening illness. I share what’s working for me.

    I forced myself to walk each day. A few minutes out and a few minutes back. And then a little farther. Deep breaths and one step at a time. By Monday, I met a friend &amp; walked an hour at the indoor rink. Thanks Joyce. I had to rest afterwards but I slept better that night and felt stronger afterwards!
    In California I had met "Ashley" while waiting in a line. My headscarf, hat, &amp; sparse hair declares my status as a cancer patient. Ashley asked me about it. And then she was insistent that I need to visualize myself healthy. I said, "that's hard when I look in the mirror. For many months I've seen a bald head and sallow skin and dark circles around my eyes.” And Ashley replied, "then you need to post photos of yourself healthy on your mirrors and look at them many times a day and visualize yourself as you were in those photos." Sometimes "healers" just appear in your life. The photos are up and it's really helping. Share this tip with your friends. I think it's great.

    Mark was on a business trip and I decided to give myself an early birthday gift. I turn 62 this week. Last year 60 was the new 40. This year I've felt it was more like 75. A serious pick me up was needed. Thursday, I spent the day at the Woodstock (Vermont) Inn Spa. I booked only the day before as the weather assured a cold but bright sunny day. I had never been there. Pardon the review this is a travel blog after all.:)

    The spa is lovely. It was built about 5 years ago and the architects did an amazing job with the site and light and sun. The spacious locker room was spotless. Breathing the camphor in the women's wet steam room helped clear my chest. The coed lounge was comfy and sunny with snacks &amp; teas and a room service menu to order lunch if desired. The staff was there when needed but not omnipresent. I didn’t try the hot tub on the full sun outdoor patio or dry sauna just beside it as I’d done the steam and I didn’t want to get dehydrated. But if you go, do bring a swimsuit.

    I turned off my cell phone and swore off the computer for the entire day. I should do that more often. I brought a book I've been wanting to read. I had the "Signature Service" to rehydrate my post treatment - winter heat stressed skin and to relax some very tight irradiated muscles. Carlene was great. Massage plays an important role in my physical and mental health. But I rarely go the "top notch" route. This day turned out to be just what I needed. I can highly recommend the Woodstock Inn Spa.
    Tip for locals: Sign up for their emails to see the Wednesday specials. Each week a different treatment is offered at a discount. They've got me.:)

    On Saturday, I went to "Yoga for a Cause."
    I was pleased at what I was able to do and I felt great afterwards! Carole Petrillo offered this special class to benefit Vital Communities of the Upper Valley. Vital Communities is a White River Junction, Vermont based regional nonprofit that works to engage citizens, organizations, and communities in creating solutions to challenges in the Upper Valley. tm
    Our class which filled the studio to the brim, included wonderful partner work fitting of the community theme. I’m enjoying the thoughtful handout Carole prepared for the class. I share this poem from it.

    “After a While” author unknown:

    After a while you learn
    The subtle difference
    Between holding a hand
    And chaining a soul.
    And you learn
    That love doesn’t mean leaning
    And company doesn’t mean security.
    And you begin to learn
    That kisses aren’t compromises
    And presents aren’t promises.
    And you begin to accept your defeats
    With your head up and your eyes ahead
    With the grace of a woman or man
    Not the grief of a child.
    And you learn to build all your loads on today
    Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
    And futures have a way of falling down in midflight.
    After a while you learn
    That even sunshine burns if you ask too much.
    So you plant your own garden
    And decorate your own soul
    Instead of waiting for someone to buy you flowers.
    And you learn
    That you can really endure
    That you are really strong
    And you really do have worth.
    And you learn.

    For me, the healing power of yoga is magic. It’s not just my conviction. The word is out. Kevin Pearce, the Upper Valley snowboard athlete had a snowboard accident that almost killed him. He has struggled to recover from a severe brain injury. In a split second, at 24 years old, he went from an athlete performing at the world-class level to re-learning how to talk, stand, and walk. Kevin now counts his yoga as an integral part of his healing process. “It’s been huge for me,” he says speaking about the importance of slowing down and staying present. The healing potential of yoga is physical, not just spiritual or emotional. In a recent LuluLemon blog, Kevin says: “I’ve worn glasses the last four-and-a-half years and have been doing eye therapies and had surgeries. I drove 45 minutes to a yoga class the other day—it was hands down the most amazing class I’ve ever taken—and I walked out of the studio and drove home without glasses on.” He was surprised by the dramatic improvement in his vision and apparently, from more recent news reports, it has continued. love-your-brain/ Kevin and his family started the Love Your Brain Foundation. The first Love Your Brain Friendly Yoga Classes started at the RVC in Lebanon, NH in October (while I was practicing and getting treatment in Boston.) The classes continue and the program is now rolling out to other locations.

    My regular yoga practice and the yoga wisdom (philosophy) it brings has healed me in the past. It steels me through times of stress, and enables me to find inner strength and wisdom when difficult decisions present. Because of yoga, I was physically strong when cancer struck. It has kept my body (relatively) strong throughout the treatment. My practice makes me resilient. It helps me access the inner strength needed to face life challenges. My yoga community provides healing, caring thoughts and brings happiness. This week, it has helped again to lift my dreary mood.

    If we think that we can make plans and life will follow obediently, we will surely be disappointed. Living a full life means we each will ultimately be called upon to find strength we didn't know we had. I am strong and I am grateful. I intend to remain so.

    Thank you all for your healing thoughts!
    Love, Nancie

    March 15, 2015 10:59 PM


    Harmonic Effect

    One of my old-time hobbies has been the open reel tape recorder. I'm a big fan!

    Magnetic tape adds a certain "warmth" to the music. It seems this effect comes from the harmonic effect generated as the tape slides past the tape head. People like this effect so much, that modern-day digital music editors come with "tape effect plugins" for popular tape and decks.

    So, I ran an experiment. I took the OLPC XO laptop and used Pippy Activity to generate a sine wave (6 beeps) and recorded it on tape. I should see one peak at 1000Hz.

    Then, I played it back from tape, and looked at the signal on Measure Activity. We see a major peak at 1000Hz, but smaller peaks at 3000Hz and 5000Hz.


    Very exciting! Definitely some harmonic effect going on here. Will have to investigate more to see what else happens on tape, and how it differs across brands and machines.

    by sverma at March 15, 2015 06:03 AM

    March 14, 2015

    OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

    XOs in Deployment

    Packing (NOW in Malaysia and posting this) up for another trip to Malaysia. This time for a small urban micro-deployment in my hometown Malacca. It will serve children who are underprivileged  - a mix of refugees children and indigenous OA children. Again this is made possible through donations from my past Malaccan classmates. dLEAP2 will be launched on March 16-17. Getting help from the first dLEAP deployment - 4 children will be driven all the way down (4-5 hours) from their hostel in Tras, Pahang by their warden. They will bring extra XOs  to help in out for the 2 days training.

    As much as I love the XO laptops there are two drawbacks. One is weight. In deployments be-careful not to break your back :-( if you have to transport them yourself. 

    The other  issue is video playing. While tablets and smartphones are multimedia ready out of the box, the  XO  need some technical intervention for it to work right. Licensing issues with Flash and Codec make distribution of an integrated solution harder.

    The "endless spin" is frustrating when children, teacher and end users expect pictures that moves.    

    Issue two can change if we recognized that working video streaming capability in a laptop is MUST and not an addon. Let's unleash what the XO can do as it celebrate its 10 years in 2015.


    Now off to Malacca by car!

    by T.K. Kang ( at March 14, 2015 12:42 AM

    March 13, 2015

    Fargo to Sudan XO

    Book chapter on building smarter computing cultures.

    Chris, Matt, and Kevin have a chapter in Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities.  The chapter is a white paper that comes out of our three-year work on Sugar Labs @ NDSU; it isn’t an academic study but instead some thoughts on how a community could tie initiatives together in order to build their smarter (as well as more equitable and just) computing cultures.

    by kab13 at March 13, 2015 02:16 PM

    March 11, 2015

    Tabitha Roder


    This week I joined MOSOMELT. I meant to join last week (or was it the week before?) but this week a prompt from a colleague reminded me to actually leap in and signup.

    What am I talking about? I’m talking about a cMOOC designed by some lovelies at AUT as a professional development strategy that takes on a distributed communities of practice approach. Over 24 weeks MOSOMELT will take us on a journey of Mobile Learning Technologies (with some friendly global experts) designed to develop both our personal eportfolios and pedagogical practice. There is an option for validation by external CMALT accreditation too.

    Why? I think this can provide a valid and effective way to offer and receive professional development. Enrolling in a cMOOC with some work colleagues means we have strengthened the likelihood of successful completion as we can motivate each other to stay engaged (a common problem with online only courses). There is also a great community of practice involved, with many members I know and respect for their contributions, so I can imagine this can be a robust course with some excellent opportunities to develop my portfolio, and my practice.

    See you there!

    by tabitharoder at March 11, 2015 09:26 PM

    March 05, 2015

    Ghana Together


    As of 2014, The Axim Girls Senior High School (AGSHS) has computers---lots of computers---thanks to the Ghana Education Service! AND, they have an ICT (information/computer technology) lab! This is no small miracle and is testimony to Ghana’s commitment to education, especially girls’ education.<o:p></o:p>

    BUT, in spite of all that, Axim is still woefully short on internet access, especially to an entire high school computer lab. And now they have all these nice shiny new desktops and laptops with wireless capability. What to do??<o:p></o:p>

    Enter Adam Holt and the computer wizards of Unleash Kids ( They knew about Ghana Together, because in their earlier days they were the folks who helped create the One Laptop Per Child XO computers. We have a nice XO collection in the Children’s Lab in Axim, right next the Public Library.<o:p></o:p>

    Adam asked if we’d like them to set up the first “Internet-In-A-Box” in Ghana! Well, YES, we certainly would!

    And so, we learned that IIAB is a very small “server”, about 6” square, which contains:   

    --all of Wikipedia through 2013, plus simpler versions in English, French, Arabic, and Swahili

    --hundreds of Khan Academy math and science videos<o:p></o:p>

    --dictionaries, maps, books, medical info<o:p></o:p>

    --and much more…  

    How could so much fit into such a small box??? (We read recently that Wikipedia, printed out, would take at least 1000 volumes!)

    Adam's team took over Maryanne's internet connection for about twelve hours and "loaded" the server from Toronto...
    See the little square silver-colored "box" on the small table? That's it!! Impossibly small.
    We contacted James Kainyiah, our Western Heritage Home associate and, conveniently (!), current Chair of the AAGHS Board, and also Headmistress Stella Adjei, who has been transferred.  They were enthusiastic, and current Headmistress Theodora Appiah was no less so.

    They connected us with Jerry Kwofie, ICT teacher, who gave us enough technical information about computers and had the technical savvy to give us confidence to go forward.

    So Adam and Maryanne Ward were off to Ghana with about 35 lbs. of cables and connectors and lots of other “stuff”. With the help of our wonderful friends George Hayford and Ishmael Baidoo in Accra, found the right solar panels and a 12-volt battery. In Axim, we found the all-important soldering iron.
    Ishmael Baidoo, George Hayford, and Adam Holt, at an electronics store in Accra, Ghana

    And so, with about $2000 worth of equipment, we were ALL SET!<o:p></o:p>

    Maryanne with about 35 lbs of components
    At the AGSHS, with the total support of Western Heritage Home leaders, and wonderful help of Headmistress Appiah, Jerry Kwofie, Eric Jim (science teacher), and Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), plus the other teachers and the students themselves, somehow we got it all to work!!<o:p></o:p>

    The President of the Nzema Youth Association (left), James Kainyiah, and Headmistress Theodora Appiah discussing the IIAB project
    We used solar power technology as part of the girls’ science training. They can see, on the computers, a screen that graphs the solar power.

    They helped set it up and have at least a rudimentary understanding of how it works. Because of the frequent power outages from the grid, we had to have solar power to make it work.<o:p></o:p>

    Eric Jim (science), Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), Adam Holt, Jerry Kwofie (computer teacher) and Maryanne Ward with the solar panels
    The science class sets up the panels
    Adam helps them verify that the panels are working!
    Another class checks...YES, WE DID IT!!!
    Thanks to the Vodafone staff in Axim who helped set up a minimal internet connection to one computer (plus the amazing skills of Adam and Jerry), we were able to connect with Unleash Kids experts Tim and George. From the East Coast of the United States, these two guys could “see” (literally with Skype) what was going on at the AGSHS and give technical support at every juncture.
    Teachers were trained

    Over two weeks, we tried to train every teacher and all 120 students. The girls were amazed to read about the history of Axim! One girl learned what menstruation really is. The literature teacher found the biographies of the African authors she was teaching. The Social Studies teacher had a class on “gender” the very next day, and got more information than she knew what to do with. One girl looked up her friend’s town on the map application....just a few examples...

    The computers access the Internet-In-A-Box in much the same way that they access the actual internet---wirelessly, and with protocols common to typical internet use. This is an educational project, for study, and research. One interesting feature is the ability of teachers to post their handouts on the server.

    Teacher Jerry Kwofie and Adam train the students

    The school staff will move the ICT lab with the IIAB into the new two-story classroom building probably in mid-April. They will mount the solar panels on the south side of the roof, where the sun shines the most and where they'll be the safest.
    New classroom building thanks to the efforts of Chief Awulae Attibrukusu III and the Ghana National Petroleum Council

    Adam and his team will continue to give technical support, from the US via a real internet connection on one of the computers, if needed. Ghana Together will stay in contact with Headmistress Appiah and others.

    It will take time for this resource to be fully integrated into the school's normal operations, both for teachers and for students. It’s hard to imagine the vast amount of information in this little box. <o:p></o:p>

    In 2003, a survey found that only about 7% of women in Nzema East District had a senior high school education. The Axim community founded the AGSHS as a direct response. Started in 2007, the school now has 120 students and is growing rapidly with girls attending from various parts of the country.
    This is our 4th project at the school in the past few years. At their request, we provided about 50 scientific non-graphing calculators (we always need more!). We installed a hands-on science room. This year we renovated and furnished a run-down building on campus that is now an assembly/dining/study hall.

    And no, Ghanaians don't speak Swahili, but since it was the ONLY African language offered, we took it just for fun!!!

    We can’t think of a better investment! We give all our thanks to all you “investors”, both here in the US and in Ghana. Good work!
    For more info and prior News Updates, see

    by Ghana Together ( at March 05, 2015 06:39 AM

    February 26, 2015

    Bhagmalpur XO

    Bossa Nova in Banaras

    In my previous post, I had written about unencumbered codecs that ship on the OLPC XO, versus the popular demand for video in MP4 container (usually H.264 video). This post has a strange twist with another container: WebM.

    WebM is a container put forth by Google. They also proceeded to embed the codec support within Chromium/Chrome. Firefox supports it natively as well. So, videos in WebM will play in Chromium/Chrome and Firefox without a plug-in.

    When I travel, I download my favorite tunes from YouTube by using the “FlashGot” plugin. I prefer to download these in WebM (the irony!). Perhaps I am violating some “Terms of Service” somewhere, but that’s a rant for another day.

    After my Bhagmalpur visit in Jan 2015, I headed back to Hyderabad. I took a train from Shahganj to Varanasi (aka Banaras) and then after a short stop, I was scheduled to take a flight out of the Varanasi airport in Babatpur (rural Banaras). As fate would have it, or rather as Indigo airlines would have it, their pilot wasn’t experienced enough to land the aircraft in the fog, and so, we had no return aircraft. I was stranded at Varanasi airport with no way to take another flight. Long story short, I ended up spending the night at the airport (usually a No No, but we had special permission!) along with two other travelers. They turned out to be visitors from Brazil and Italy. We had a great conversation that evening and the next day, hanging out at a small airport, eating stale cheese sandwiches. I got reminded of the Langoliers!

    Waiting for the Langoliers at Varanasi airport!

    Waiting for the Langoliers at Varanasi airport!

    Towards the afternoon, I recalled that I had a copy of some “Bossa Nova” tunes downloaded in WebM format. What luck! Here were two people who spoke [Brazilian] Portuguese, stranded in the thick of rural India, and I had “Desafinado” and “Girl from Ipanema” on my laptop! We sat down and listened to a somewhat strange rendition of “Desafinado” by

    1) Nova Music LA and

    2)  an interesting version of Girl (actually Boy) from Ipanema by Dionne Warwick and Sacha Distel

    (with appropriate apologies to Vinícius de Moraes, Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto).

    Such great coincidence, or perhaps I’m just cool like that :-) Shortly after that, we thankfully got onto our respective flights and headed our different ways. After keeping in touch with my new friends, it turns out they are biodiversity researchers. I hope they’ll come visit us in California to see the Redwoods for themselves! I hope the Langoliers will enjoy the Bossa Nova when they get to the Varanasi airport ;-)

    <iframe allowfullscreen="true" class="youtube-player" frameborder="0" height="312" src=";rel=1&amp;fs=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;wmode=transparent" type="text/html" width="500"></iframe>


    <iframe allowfullscreen="true" class="youtube-player" frameborder="0" height="312" src=";rel=1&amp;fs=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;wmode=transparent" type="text/html" width="500"></iframe>


    Desafinado on the OLPC XO-4 in HTML5

    Desafinado on the OLPC XO-4 playing natively on YouTube in HTML5

    by sv3rma at February 26, 2015 02:39 AM

    February 23, 2015

    Nancie Severs

    Mind Over Matter & Boston Attractions/Distractions — Boston, MA

    Boston, MA

    "And the Seasons, They Are A Changin." Autumn has turned to early winter. Yesterday, Boston was cold, windy &amp; pouring rain. Today we even saw snow flurries. Daylight Savings Time has ended &amp; today, the sun set at 5:00 PM. Luckily, Boston is rich with attractions and distractions both indoors and out. To see some of what I've been doing, just click through my Iphone photos posted here. I can hardly believe that I have completed six weeks of my radiation protocol already. I'll be here two more weeks and then resume commuting for the remaining chemotherapy. Side effects have gotten very unpleasant but only intermittently so and I can see the end this part of the treatments. I don't yet have the schedule for the last 3 chemos yet. But maybe I'll be through by the end of January and start to heal. I have read that chemo and radiation actually wounds the body. Not unlike surgery wounds, I will need to heal from these treatments too. It can take 6 months to 1 year to heal from the treatments and rebuild strength.  I'm grateful that I was strong coming into this, and I have been able to keep a minimal level of fitness up. I read this very interesting recent New York Times article: &lt;a target="_blank" href=" /magazine/what-if-age-is-nothing-but-a- mind-set.html" rel="nofollow"&gt; ine/what-if-age-is-nothing-but-a-mind-s et.html&lt;/a&gt; It's principally about mind over matter. There are some older non traditional studies profiled that show that folks can trick themselves into feeling younger than their years both physically and mentally. It points out that when we are diagnosed with a medical (or emotional) problem or illness, we think we are sick and we act sick, becoming sicker than we need be, because of our mindset. The approach I am taking with this bump in the road is to not view myself as sick. It just so happens I need to show up for treatment as part of my day. No matter what symptoms I might have, is dealing with it much different than dealing with my cranky knee which is spent from years of skiing? By not letting anyone treat me as ill, I mostly don't feel ill. The NYT's article puts what my practice does for me into words.  I think that the well meaning actions and reactions of our loved ones to diagnoses of major illnesses like Alzheimer's or cancer can exacerbate illness by treating us as "patients," especially as needy and ill patients.  I don't always feel great, and believe me, I would prefer to not have needed these toxic cancer treatments. But life IS what it is and I'm practicing making lemonade out of lemons! I continue to enjoy my impromptu Boston vacation. The many lessons of my yoga teachers help. Yoga is safe exercise when properly taught and practiced. When I take a class with other yogis, I feel strong, not ill. It keeps me very much in the present and I even forget that I have cancer. The lessons of yoga are to observe with awareness and to honor our bodies without doing harm. Even if I don't do all of the class poses, I benefit from the normalcy of being in class. My teachers' teacher, BKS Iyengar says: " Fear and fatigue block the mind. Confront both squarely, then courage and confidence will flow into you." I strive to follow his wise advice.  Thank you for your thoughts and continued encouragement.  Love, Nancie

    February 23, 2015 07:06 PM

    Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

    Our Booth @SCaLE 13x

    We had a great time this weekend at the Southern California Linux Expo! We met some cool Edutech volunteers like Kids On Computers and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The XO laptops were as popular as ever, especially with the younger crowd. It was so much fun, I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!

    IMG_2041 IMG_2057

    by curt at February 23, 2015 03:41 PM

    February 20, 2015

    Mike Fletcher

    Say What is still pretty popular

    So of all the Web Toys, the only one that seems to have staying power so far is the trivial wrapper around espeak Say What. Something about having a robotic voice parrot back whatever you type is really exciting for kids.

    by Mike C. Fletcher ( at February 20, 2015 10:14 PM

    February 17, 2015

    OLE Nepal

    While deploying XO laptops in the far west

    I was quite excited from early on. Our team of two (Basanta Dai and myself) were heading towards far-west Nepal on January 12th. It was my first visit to far-west – Bajhang to be specific, and my first experiences of…

    by Bishnu at February 17, 2015 07:40 AM

    OLPC Basecamp @ Malacca, Malaysia

    olpc 2.015: Year of the RAM

    The XO has come a long way since its inception in November 2005 thanks to the hundreds of volunteers. This year 2015, will be 10 years since the 1st protoype was shown to the world. Let us celebrate how far we have come and not forget why we participated:

    "This is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within -- within each child, within each scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day." 
    —Kofi Annan

    This is my first posting in 2015. Hope 2015 will bring another round of momentum to keep the spirit alive for olpc 2.015 and beyond. Perhaps a world-wide reunion and celebration!

    Personally, it has been an incredible journey of learning for me when I got my G4G4 XOs and celebrated the Year of the OX in 2008. We had fun taking the XOs for rides in the Year of the Ox,Tiger, etc. The Year of the Dragon and Snake  followed.

    olpc 2.015 will kickstart in the Year of the RAM.

     I still dream that XO4All will become a reality as I remained optimistic after all these years! 

    by T.K. Kang ( at February 17, 2015 05:44 AM

    February 13, 2015

    Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

    Sugar Digest 2015-02-12

    Sugar Digest

    1. A few weeks ago there was a guest op-ed piece, “Can students have too much tech?”, in the NY Times arguing among other things that Internet access was undermining programs like One Laptop per Child. I found it surprising that Susan Pinker would cite One Laptop per Child as the principle example of the children using computers to chat and play games on the Internet (which she soundly criticized), since almost none of the children who received laptop computers through OLPC programs have ready access to the Internet (at school or at home).  The exception of course being Uruguay, where every child has both a laptop and Internet access. Indeed, as a 2010 survey showed, the children in Uruguay play games – they are children after all – but they also use email, search for information, chat (also known as reading and writing), make music, artwork, and videos, program, and, in general, use the computer as a tool for problem solving. Contrary to the assertion that the program is “drive-by” education, a continuing effort is put into teacher training, community support, and outreach.

    That said, some people associated with OLPC —  including my former colleague Mr. Negroponte — are outspoken advocates for solutions that mitigate the need for teachers in elementary education. The X Prize for Education is designed around that approach and further requires that any proposed solutions be Android-tablet based. Not to say that it may be possible to engineer such a solution, to constrain the contest to an unproven pedagogical framework seems ill-advised. (Many tablet-based solutions have begun to distribute physical keyboards in acknowledgment that no one serious about writing or programming works exclusively with an on-screen keyboard. And while it is theoretically possible to exercise Software Freedoms on an Android tablet, in practice it is still well beyond most of us.) Meanwhile, here at Sugar Labs, we encourage open collaboration among students, teachers, and our community.

    2. Martin Abente, our Sugar Release Manager, is pleased to announce the release of Sugar (sucrose) 0.104.0. This release includes new features and a multitude of bug fixes from Google Code-In and Summer of Code students, deployments and community members.

    We are compiling detailed release notes at 0.104/Notes.

    Thanks to everyone who contributed to this release and special thanks to Martin for shepherding the process.

    3. Sugar Labs is applying to Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015. The application to Google has been submitted and we are in the process of building the associated wiki pages Summer_of_Code/2015. We often use GSoC as a way of exploring new ideas and future directions; for example, last summer we had projects on extending Turtle Blocks into three-dimensions and porting Sugar to Python 3, among others. This year we are going to take a more focused approach, concentrating on fleshing out and making more robust the Javascript support within Sugar. Sample projects will be added to the wiki over the next few days. We can always use more project ideas (please add them to the wiki) and more mentors (if you are interested, please contact me over the next few weeks).

    In the community

    4. Tony Anderson reports that he has finally has most of the Project Bernie website completed. This website shows what content is available on the School Server. (The School Server is a repository of content and services for Sugar deployments.) Tony reports that there are about 200 Sugar activities available to be installed from the school server; digital textbooks from Siyavula, and courses on Python, Web technology, and the Command Line Interpreter (Terminal activity).

    Tech Talk

    5. Peter Robinson, who has been coordinating the Sugar on a Stick releases (most recently for Fedora 21 [x86_64], [i686]) is looking for help coordinating testing and general community communications and facilitation. Peter is a great mentor, so it would be a nice opportunity for someone(s) to both contribute to the project and to learn more about packaging. Please contact Peter (pbrobinson AT gmail DOT com) if you are interested.

    Sugar Labs

    6. Please visit our planet.

    by Walter Bender at February 13, 2015 03:09 PM

    February 06, 2015

    Unleash Kids: Unsung Heroes of OLPC, Interviewed Live

    Unleash Kids Selected As All Children Reading Finalist

    Screenshot from the Haitian Creole version of iloominate, available here:

    Screenshot from the Haitian Creole version of iloominate, available here:

    Pleased to announce that the book-making software we piloted a few weeks ago has been recognized as one of three finalists in the All Children Reading – Enabling Writers competition. The credit goes to Nick Doiron for stepping up as the lead guy on this, and to everyone who offered their help, including Adam Holt, Caryl Bigenho, and Jennifer Shotwell. Keep an eye out here for some exciting updates as we build on this success!

    by Sora Edwards-Thro at February 06, 2015 02:05 AM

    February 05, 2015

    Project Rive: Reaching Students in Haiti

    Big News

    Pleased to announce that the book-making software we piloted a few weeks ago has been awarded $12,000 as one of three finalists in the All Children Reading – Enabling Writers competition. The credit goes to Nick Doiron for stepping up … Continue reading

    by Sora at February 05, 2015 07:56 PM

    OLE Nepal

    From field assistant to a programmer

    Transition must have been boring!! Most of you must be guessing the above statement by the title of my blog. But, I am here to surprise you all. As a passionate explorer, I am hooked with the anxiety and the…

    by Sabrina at February 05, 2015 09:38 AM

    February 03, 2015

    Sugar Digest / Walter Bender

    Sugar Digest 2015-02-03

    Sugar Digest

    1. Congratulations to Ignacio Rodríguez and Sam Parkinson, the grand-prize winners from Sugar Labs in Google Code-in. Our finalists are Cristian Garcia,
    Daksh Shah, and Jae Eun (Jasmine) Park.

    All five did great work, fixing bugs, writing documentation, and taking us to new places.

    2. Since the contest finished, Ignacio and Sam have continued to contribute patches almost daily to Turtle Blocks JS. Jasmine has written some beginner guides (See TurtleBlocksIntroductoryManual.pdf] and TurtleBlocksAdvancedBlocksManual.pdf). If you haven’t checked it out, please give it a try (feedback most welcome).

    Sugar Labs

    3. Please visit our planet.

    by Walter Bender at February 03, 2015 08:22 PM

    February 02, 2015

    OLE Nepal

    Pustakalaya in our hands

    It is very hard to tell when and how the idea to create a mobile application for our E-Pustakalaya started. However, it certainly was the advantage of applications alike these being handy, easy and accessible that attracted us towards creating…

    by Roshan Poudyal at February 02, 2015 10:25 AM

    ICT4D Views from the Field

    LeMaker Provides Banana Pi’s and Generous Support for Solar Digital Library all-in-one Kit Project—and for Maker Spaces


    This past summer (July 2014), I became aware of LeMaker, a company that makes and provides support for open source technology. More specifically for the purposes of this post, I was interested in their Banana Pi, which is an open source, single board computer just about the size of a credit card, that can run Android or Linux. With an ARM based dual core processor and 1 GB memory, it offers more computing power than the Raspberry Pi, its famous cousin. (With even more features added, LeMaker’s newest version is called the Banana Pro.)

    banana pi frontbanana pi back

    This organization came to my attention because they were sponsoring in-kind grants of Banana Pi’s for multiple different kinds of projects—of which education was one. We’ve been working for some time now to bring educational content to remote schools with no Internet connectivity, and the Banana Pi sparked an idea: How about developing a simple-to-use, all-in-one, solar-powered kit to enable the use of this content at remote schools with no electricity or Internet? The idea of our Digital Library all-in-one Kit was born.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 4.24.20 PM

    I applied for an in-kind grant on LeMaker’s webpage, describing the project: 50 Banana Pis to Remote Pacific Island Schools, and in the next month, I found out that they were interested, and were going to support the project! They sent me the hardware (Banana Pi’s, as well as cases), and I set about brainstorming how to make this project a reality at Cal Poly, where I would start working in the next month. The previous post showcases the initial steps we’ve taken on the project, and I’ll be reporting on the ongoing work in future posts.


    In December 2014, we had the opportunity to meet two of the Founders, Leo Liu and Ivy Yao from LeMaker, while in Hong Kong. They were kind enough to travel from their office in Shenzhen to meet with us. (Here’s a picture of breathtakingly beautiful Hong Kong.)


    We spoke about the project and our (mutual) excitement for it, but what really struck me was our mutual passion for harnessing technology to improve opportunities for children around the world who happen to have been born into resource-constrained conditions.

    During our conversation, I learned how passionate they are about the “Maker” movement, and their belief—with which I wholeheartedly agree—that having technology and physical spaces that promote creativity and innovation is one of the best ways to promote this mindset among (young) people across the globe. In many places around the world, education emphasizes rote learning and memorization and is not an experience that promotes creativity, innovation, teamwork, or all the skills and mindsets we believe will be the hallmarks of successful economies and “information and innovation societies” in the future. Maker spaces can be places that do promote such activities. So, even though we work toward making the educational experience more modernized around the world, this process won’t be easy and will take time.

    Images below: Here are some fun things that can be done with a Banana Pi or Banana Pro: It can be used as a traditional computer; as a server, as the “brains” for a remote controlled car…endless possibilities!


    banana pi server

    banana pi car maze

    In a similar way, we know about the benefits that access to information and the ability to communicate, via the Internet, can have in the educational context, yet Internet connectivity will not become a reality for a long time for many, many resource-constrained schools around the globe, even though we may be working toward that reality. In the meantime therefore, we are working towards ways to develop the “skills of the future” related to information (searching, acquiring, assessing) and knowledge creation and sharing: in other words, cultivating Internet-ready skills before the Internet arrives.


    So, we’re working to develop an offline solution that provides educational content in an environment that replicates an online environment. We’re working to deploy this first iteration of our Solar Powered Digital Library all-in-one Kit at 50 remote, unconnected Pacific Island schools. I’ll be writing more about that exciting work in future posts, so stay tuned!

    by ljhosman at February 02, 2015 12:43 AM

    January 31, 2015

    Bhagmalpur XO

    To Ogg or not to Ogg, that is the question

    In this recent trip to Bhagmalpur, Anish Mangal and I discovered something interesting. We’ve strived hard to keep the content available through unencumbered formats such as Ogg Vorbis for audio and Ogg Theora for video. Unsurprisingly, the OLPC XO laptop supports these out of the box, but will not run MPEG 4 videos.

    Some kids were upset. How would they watch Shah Rukh Khan on their XOs? These kids go to a repair shop nearby and get videos copied over to a USB stick for a small sum of money. However, the videos are in MP4, and they don’t play on the XO.

    Yet, we found a Shah Rukh Khan song number on a XO. How did that happen? Did they install the MP4 codec on the laptop? Some conversations later, we found out. They first figured out that the TED videos that do play on the XO are in OGV format. Next, they asked the guy at the shop to convert the Shah Rukh Khan MP4 to OGV. That’s it. Simple as a samosa. Now Shah Rukh Khan lives in OGV! Richard M. Stallman and Shah Rukh Khan are happy together in some universe :-)

    SRK in OGV

    SRK in OGV

    by sv3rma at January 31, 2015 04:49 AM