|Engineers Without Border UDDT Toilet Built at an Axim Junior High School|
|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!!|
|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!!|
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.
2. For those of you who are interested, we hold our GSoC group meetings on Fridays, 11:00 EST (Boston), 14:00 UTC on irc.freenode.net #sugar-meeting.
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.
4. Please visit our planet.
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.
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.
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:
We’ll be holding our first organizational meeting on Friday, May 1 at 14:00 UTC on irc.freenode.net #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  and  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.
7. The Sugar spin of Fedora 22 is now in Beta.
8. Please visit our planet.
data driven decision makingthat 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.
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
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.
HIGHLIGHTS OF PATH AUDITED ACCOUNTS 2013/14
SOURCES OF FUNDS
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.
|Firefox OS(Flame) is my phone|
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.
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 https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/alt/stage/22_Beta_RC1. 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 irc.freenode.net (#sugar-meeting) at 22:00 UTC.
8. Please visit our planet.
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.<object height="81" width="100%"><param name="movie" value="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F198691961"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><embed allowscriptaccess="always" height="81" src="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F198691961" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="100%"></embed></object>
|Mobile Library Ready to Launch!!|
|Library staffers Gaddiel Eyison (right) and James Amrado pack up boxes of books to deliver to schools, via the Mobile Library|
|When the Mobile Library arrives at a school, the Headmaster/Mistress commandeers some strong JHS students to help carry in the boxes|
|Students giving their one-cedi bills to Mr. Eyison to register as library members for one year|
|Students gather round to select their book for the week---big decision!!|
|What could be better than this???!!!|
|Boys read too...|
At the May 15th, 2014 meeting of olpcSF.org (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 WorldPossible.org. 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 email@example.com:alexKleider/Convert.git
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.
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.
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!!!
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.”
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.
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.
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!
|See the little square silver-colored "box" on the small table? That's it!! Impossibly small.|
|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 |
|The President of the Nzema Youth Association (left), James Kainyiah, and Headmistress Theodora Appiah discussing the IIAB project|
|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!!!|
|Teachers were trained|
|Teacher Jerry Kwofie and Adam train the students|
|New classroom building thanks to the efforts of Chief Awulae Attibrukusu III and the Ghana National Petroleum Council|
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!
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
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 ;-)
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
6. Please visit our planet.
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!
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).
3. Please visit our planet.
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.)
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.
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!
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!
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 :-)