Earlier this week, Phoenix’s ABC15 news featured a story on the SolarSPELL digital library.
Earlier this week, Phoenix’s ABC15 news featured a story on the SolarSPELL digital library.
The ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), in July 2017, to carry out a training on the solar digital libraries with a new cohort of Peace Corps volunteers. This training represents the third (annual) training with FSM volunteers, launching SolarSPELL’s third year of use in the field.
This particular training was quite special, as our team comprised a librarian from ASU Libraries, who offered a training on how to set up a library in a school, as well as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei some twenty years earlier, who had returned to the island for the first time since her service. We also had some special guest visitors attend the training from SolarSPELL project partner PREL, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, with whom we look forward to collaborating even more closely in the (near) future!
The training kicked off with a background and overview of the SolarSPELL project, explaining not only where the idea for a solar digital library sprang from, but also some of the challenges and successes that the project has faced over the years. This presentation concluded by welcoming this new group of volunteers into the SolarSPELL family.
We continued the training by distributing both tablets and the SolarSPELL digital libraries, so that the volunteers could figure out how to operate the libraries, and could begin to surf and explore the library’s content, as well as pose any questions about the content, functionality, etc.
Subsequently, we held a scavenger hunt for the volunteers, to help familiarize them with the content on the library. Since there were prizes involved, the scavenger hunt became quite competitive!
The winning team members were quite pleased with the prizes!
After lunch, the training segued into a workshop on “How to Set Up a Library in Your School,” led by Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian at ASU. The volunteers played a game to familiarize them with challenges associated establishing a library in resource-constrained conditions.
Discussion continued on relevant topics such as obtaining books, keeping the library as free as possible of bugs, mold, and other potential environmental threats, as well as topics like setting up a book check-out system, and incentivizing reading.
Finally, Jessica Hirshorn, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei, FSM approximately 20 year prior, gave some valuable advice and insights to this incoming class of volunteers.
Jessica had the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, to see the impact her service had had, and she shared this with the incoming volunteers, which was quite a motivating force! The new volunteers had plenty of questions for Jessica.
The day ended in the traditional SolarSPELL way: with a group photo.
And some nice SolarSPELL team pictures, too!
Pictures taken by Brooks McAllister.
|Dorothy doing her practicum|
|Philomena, Maryanne, Charlotte, Charlotte's niece, and Charlotte's Mom|
|Emmanuella with her laptop. She has a special program that reads her textbooks aloud, and headphones|
Peter and Maryanne discussing Peter's future!!
|Kingsley and George---"brothers" in the art of welding!|
|Gifty and Ernestina with Maryanne---PURPLE is the school color!!|
|Johnson and Maryanne|
|Maryanne and Olivia, near her and her Mom's food stand|
|Gladys, Maryanne, Godwin, and Ben|
|Ghana Together scholarship graduates at Community Vocational Development Technical Institute (one is missing)|
13 of these students are graduating Grade 6 and are headed for JHS---we are sorry we didn't get a pic of the actual 13!!
Each of these young men and women have been given a chance to overcome their circumstances through education. Ghana is investing liberally in education, with government schools initiating tuition-free senior high school this coming September.
In fact, when we started working in Ghana in 2006, there was no tuition-free education from primary through university.
On behalf of these 74 youngsters we've helped out during the 2016-2017 school year, we thank especially the adults in Axim ---James Kainyiah and Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika, Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), Headmistresses/Headmasters, and teachers. Their dedication is inspiring.
And we thank you, our dear readers...for your support and encouragement.
$ sudo yum install postgis postgresql-server postgresql-contrib
$ sudo postgresql-setup initdb
$ sudo -i -u postgres
postgres=# \password postgres
Enter new password:
Enter it again:
$ sudo vi /var/lib/pgsql/data/pg_hba.conf
host all all 127.0.0.1/32 ident
host all all 0.0.0.0/0 md5
$ sudo vi /var/lib/pgsql/data/postgresql.conf
#listen_addresses = 'localhost'
listen_addresses = '*'
$ sudo su - postgres
$ createuser --superuser [user]
$ psql -c "ALTER ROLE [user] PASSWORD '[password]'"
$ createdb webster
$ psql -d webster -c 'CREATE EXTENSION postgis'
Webster.dbdirectory containing the file geodatabase, I ran:
$ ogr2ogr -f "PostgreSQL" PG:"dbname=webster user=[user] password=[password]" Webster.gdb
The final highlight of the ASU SolarSPELL team’s time in Samoa was a two-day training with the Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. This was our team’s first opportunity to carry out a training with local teachers, and we are so grateful for the Samoa Peace Corps staff for suggesting it and then making it a reality!
The day started off with an introduction of the team from the Peace Corps country director, Sherry Russell.
It continued with a historical overview of the development of the SolarSPELL: it did not appear out of thin air! There was a lot of in-field “lessons learned” that went into developing it, and we’re never finished with development: the library is a living thing. The background also lets participants know where they fit in to the overall picture of the SolarSPELL, and that they are now part of the SolarSPELL family.
The team next distributed the SolarSPELL libraries, explained how the technology works, got everyone connected, and then allowed time for the participants to begin surfing and exploring the content.
The ASU students on the team subsequently gave a “highlights tour” of the SolarSPELL’s content, with each taking one of the website’s main categories to elaborate upon.
The following day was kicked off with a scavenger hunt. There were prizes for the winners, so the event turned quite competitive! Surprisingly, the smallest team won the competition.
Next, there were a few frank discussions of the challenges that the participants would likely face once they returned to their home schools and villages. The SolarSPELL is a disruptive technology, and introducing new technologies is always challenging. We worked through six “use case” scenarios, all from real-world challenges that previous Peace Corps volunteers had faced, in the field.
We took more time for questions and answers, and the participants (as always) had useful, valuable questions, insight, and advice for us. We will take this advice to heart and use it to improve the future versions of the library!
Last month, after nearly 5 years of knowing each other, sharing each other’s interests, and learning from each other, Sucheta and I got married.
Here is a picture of us:
…and here are some pictures from the ceremony taken by Steve Horn:
The theologian Origen created the idea of apocatastasis, which means in the Greek that at the end of time everything will be as it was in the beginning. For Origen this meant that history is moving to the perfection that existed when the universe was an idea in the mind of God. I was reminded of this when we rode into the mountains after a heavy downpour on our way to Santa Rosita. This was the very first school we visited seven years ago. Below are the words I read to the gathered parents, students and village elders.
” There is a saying in my country that once you leave home you can never return.But every time we come back here it feels like coming home. I remember the old mud and wattle school and the desks set up outside under the trees. I remember the looks of wonder in the eyes of you parents, a look of gratitude for prayers answered. I remember the looks of understanding and compassion in all of your eyes when we told you of our son and why we were here. I remember the looks of excitement and enthusiasm on your young faces and those of pride on the faces of your parent’s. My favorite memory of all is when we walked to the swimming hole in the rain, each child carrying a laptop, stopping under porches when the rain grew heavy. Each year when we come back, we see more confidence, more understanding and more aspiration. Today I see faces of children who will find the talents that God gave them and share them with the world. Truly these memories are touched by grace.
Too often it is easy to think that the world is only filled with struggle and war, with poverty and oppression. But I see here something miraculous, something magical, something that confirms what is best in human beings, wherever they live, whatever language they speak. There is something hopeful and resilient here, something beautiful and holy. To those who say that miracles never happen, I say what about Santa Rosita!”
Here are some photos:
Millions of young people from around the world are learning to code. Often, during their learning experiences, these youth are using visual block-based programming languages like Scratch, App Inventor, and Code.org Studio. In block-based programming languages, coders manipulate visual, snap-together blocks that represent code constructs instead of textual symbols and commands that are found in more traditional programming languages.
The textual symbols used in nearly all non-block-based programming languages are drawn from English—consider “if” statements and “for” loops for common examples. Keywords in block-based languages, on the other hand, are often translated into different human languages. For example, depending on the language preference of the user, an identical set of computing instructions in Scratch can be represented in many different human languages:
Although my research with Benjamin Mako Hill focuses on learning, both Mako and I worked on local language technologies before coming back to academia. As a result, we were both interested in how the increasing translation of programming languages might be making it easier for non-English speaking kids to learn to code.
After all, a large body of education research has shown that early-stage education is more effective when instruction is in the language that the learner speaks at home. Based on this research, we hypothesized that children learning to code with block-based programming languages translated to their mother-tongues will have better learning outcomes than children using the blocks in English.
We sought to test this hypothesis in Scratch, an informal learning community built around a block-based programming language. We were helped by the fact that Scratch is translated into many languages and has a large number of learners from around the world.
To measure learning, we built on some of our our own previous work and looked at learners’ cumulative block repertoires—similar to a code vocabulary. By observing a learner’s cumulative block repertoire over time, we can measure how quickly their code vocabulary is growing.
Using this data, we compared the rate of growth of cumulative block repertoire between learners from non-English speaking countries using Scratch in English to learners from the same countries using Scratch in their local language. To identify non-English speakers, we considered Scratch users who reported themselves as coming from five primarily non-English speaking countries: Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Germany, and Norway. We chose these five countries because they each have one very widely spoken language that is not English and because Scratch is almost fully translated into that language.
Even after controlling for a number of factors like social engagement on the Scratch website, user productivity, and time spent on projects, we found that learners from these countries who use Scratch in their local language have a higher rate of cumulative block repertoire growth than their counterparts using Scratch in English. This faster growth was despite having a lower initial block repertoire. The graph below visualizes our results for two “prototypical” learners who start with the same initial block repertoire: one learner who uses the English interface, and a second learner who uses their native language.
Our results are in line with what theories of education have to say about learning in one’s own language. Our findings also represent good news for designers of block-based programming languages who have spent considerable amounts of effort in making their programming languages translatable. It’s also good news for the volunteers who have spent many hours translating blocks and user interfaces.
Although we find support for our hypothesis, we should stress that our findings are both limited and incomplete. For example, because we focus on estimating the differences between Scratch learners, our comparisons are between kids who all managed to successfully use Scratch. Before Scratch was translated, kids with little working knowledge of English or the Latin script might not have been able to use Scratch at all. Because of translation, many of these children are now able to learn to code.
This blog-post and the work that it describes is a collaborative project with Benjamin Mako Hill. You can read our paper here. The paper was published in the ACM Learning @ Scale Conference. We also recently gave a talk about this work at the International Communication Association’s annual conference. We have received support and feedback from members of the Scratch team at MIT (especially Mitch Resnick and Natalie Rusk), as well as from Nathan TeBlunthuis at the University of Washington. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation.
The ASU SolarSPELL Team’s second day of visiting Peace Corps volunteers’ sites took place on Upolu Island. We first visited Cynthia’s school, and got a tour of the school’s library.
Once again, the ASU students got to spend some quality time with the primary-level students. We even got to demonstrate the SolarSPELL to these students, including a Virtual Reality field trip.
As a post-script highlight, Cynthia let us know that our visit has re-inspired interst in the SolarSPELL at her school, and sent us pictures of her students using the digital library in the following days.
Our next stop was to see Zack. We had let him know we were on the way, so he had asked another teacher to take over for him once we arrived. Thus, we were delighted to be able to watch Zack’s host mother leading a class on environmental issues.
When she excused the class to start working in groups, the ASU students again had the opportunity to interact with the students, helping them brainstorm about how and why erosion takes place. We got a tour of Zack’s house, and spoke further with him about using the SolarSPELL at his school.
Finally, our marathon-of-a-day ended with Craig, and he gave us a quick tour of his school and library.
After this (and a quick dip in the Piula Cave pool), we returned to Craig’s house where he kindly allowed us to interview him. In fact, we interviewed all of the volunteers we went to visit, and our videographers made a fantastic couple of videos from this footage. Those will be highlighted in separate posts.
In May 2017, the ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Samoa to carry out a training on the SolarSPELL digital libraries with both Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. Before this training took place, however, the team had the opportunity to visit some volunteers who had received SolarSPELL libraries (and training) one year prior, in their local schools and communities. We had the chance to catch up with these volunteers, receive feedback on some of the challenges and victories they’ve had vis-à-vis using the SolarSPELL in their schools and communities, and got a much better idea of what their lives are like as Peace Corps volunteers.
On May 27, the team had the opportunity to travel to Savai’i Island and visit two Peace Corps volunteers at their schools. The day began with a ferry ride across the ocean, from Upolu Island to Savai’i Island, which was breathtakingly beautiful.
Once arriving at Savai’i, we headed to Kiana’s school, where students were still in class. Kiana showed us her library, and we talked further about the SolarSPELL, while also providing her with an updated SD card with all of the new content we’ve been collecting over the past year.
The team was so fortunate to be able to interact with the students at this school, once class let out. A number of the SolarSPELL university students got to read to the primary schoolchildren, as well as play some games, including playing hide-and-seek, and dancing.
Other heretofore-unknown talents were demonstrated, as well!
Next, after a quick barbeque lunch along the side of the road, the team visited Patrick’s school, where we learned about how he is in the early stages of incorporating use of the SolarSPELL into recently launched computer courses. We also updated the content on Patrick’s SolarSPELL.
The team had many other amazing experiences on beautiful Savai’i Island, and some of the more breathtaking photos are below.
There is a wonderful tradition in Honduras of giving impromptu speeches at important events. I’m sure there are some basic conventions, but to an outsider they appear spontaneous and authentic. Everyone can participate, if they are willing. At the beginning of each school visit and at the end there are a round of these speeches given by teachers, parents, students, administrators and someone from our group. Linda is our first choice, not only because of her fluent Spanish, but because she seems to know our minds and hearts and give a view of these to the villagers. Sometimes I will ask her to say something specific, something that needs saying at that moment. This year I wrote speeches for particular schools and Linda translated them as I spoke. A word to the wise: google translate does not pick up nuance or connotative meanings. I tried using this application on these speeches with laughable results. My editor( read Sally) has warned me that I am dangerously close to bombast in these posts, so I will simply reproduce the speeches as presented. After this I will include another collection of pictures. The first text was read at the Special School in Siguatepeque. I’ll enter the second tomorrow.
” My favorite place in all the world is my house in Seguin. This is because my wife lives there and, for a time, my son did as well. My house is filled with love and openness, with caring and compassion. It is a place where you can leave the cares and frustrations of the world behind and enter the Kingdom of God. On the best of days, I wonder why the world cannot be like my house, filled with acceptance and idealism.
My second favorite place in the world is this school, because it feels like my house. I am a teacher and in my profession there are often very selfless and committed people, but I have rarely seen teachers like yours; their every movement and word seems full of caring and authentic concern. I can see something miraculous in your eyes as well, you students; I see such vulnerability and trust, such openness, enthusiasm and curiosity. Jesus said that only those who can become as children will enter the Kingdom of God. You have helped me to understand these mysterious words.
I miss my son very very much. He was a beautiful soul. Thankfully, so is his mother. Thankfully, too, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the light of his eyes in yours. It is a very beautiful memory. Thank you all. We hope that you will enjoy these computers, and that they will empower your creativity and wonder. There is much in the world that is wonderful. You have some of that magic here, and we hope you find more in your futures.”
Here are more pictures:
Pascal anticipated the world we live in today, a world where we live too much in our heads. Our hearts and bodies are ready with their wisdom, but we cannot hear them. I thought of this when we all arrived at the Zari Hotel in Siguatepeque long after midnight. Our minds were exhausted but our hearts were full and our bodies knew what to do. Even our Forestry Ministry driver, Raul, seemed caught up in our comfortable transition. Freed from the tyranny of thinking, I could look on in wonder at our gathered group and feel the miracle of our shared love and commitment, the many years we had been in exactly this same situation. All those experiences shifted into a single frame and made the very air itself seem somehow deepened and full of magic. The faces of these people I know so well seemed to shine from within because I was in the presence of saints. Sometimes in a pleasant dream I will walk through a familiar place but the experience is charged with some powerful symbolic significance, as if nothing was as it seemed and that everything was to be cherished as full of meaning and wonder. I have yet to wake up from this dream of Honduras. I floated through breakfast the next morning and on into the trip into the mountains to visit our first school. It is very rainy and humid this time of year and this serves to intensify all the aromas of rural Siguatepeque. You can literally smell the fertility of the mountainsides, the saturated dark earth, the profusion of leafy green and the many flowering shrubs, trees and flowers. Most beguiling are the scents of the tropical fruits, fruits on trees and displayed on roadside stands. Surely Eden smells like this!! Arriving at the school, we soon saw the faces of excited and expectant children, lined up before us like precious fruit. I can’t express the impact of these faces, so full of curiosity and anticipation. It is humbling and inspiring at the same time, making our hearts open like flowers. I woke up from this pleasant dream three hours later, after we had completed all of our lessons and the children were exploring in a room full of laughter and gasps of surprise and amazement. I’ll stop now and let you see the pictures which will make my words seem shallow and unnecessary.
As a young boy I loved the Arthurian legends, particularly the search for the Holy Grail. When Lancelot or Gawain set out to travel to a rural chapel, their path, though simple at first glance, was always fraught with adventures and challenges which put unexpected obstacles in their way. A journey of an afternoon ends up lasting months. Hungry for the destination, for the goal, I was always anxious to move on with the narrative. Now I realize that the tests along the way are just as important as reaching the goal, that the slings and arrows of fortune are a necessary preparation. Sally and I are often very anxious before our mission begins. Making flight connections, checking shipping logistics, anticipating customs duties all seem like dragons to be faced. Yet as soon as we board our flight, it seems as if everything were happening by itself, as if some larger fate or destiny were drawing us forward. After 16 hours of relatively uneventful travel we arrived in San Pedro Sula to meet Linda, Richard and Natalia and to begin our quest for the Sangreal.
The ASU SolarSPELL team’s final two days in Vanuatu were spent at the national ICT Days conference, May 17-18.
The conference proved to be a fantastic opportunity for the team to explain, demonstrate, and all around talk about the SolarSPELL and the Library Lab.
The team never would have imagined such a level of interest! I do believe our table was consistently the busiest one there! There was regularly a crowd of people around it, excited to learn about it, eager to use the tablets we provided, to surf the library’s content.
We had an eager audience in the Smart Sistas ICT Camp for girls, when the whole group came over to visit us.
We had a few groupies who spent quite a bit of time with us.
Longtime collaborator and friend of SolarSPELL, Ian Thomson, from the University of the South Pacific, took some time to talk with the team.
There was even an opportunity to demonstrate the SolarSPELL to the Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jenny Da Rin!
The team so greatly enjoyed being able to talk with so many ni-Vanuatu people about the SolarSPELL.
The team wondered many times whether there was a language barrier, as we explained everything in English, and there are a number of technical terms. However, the rate at which people returned to the table, after listening to the explanation once, and then explained to their friends and relatives how SolarSPELL worked, and how to surf the library’s website, showed us that language was no real barrier.
There are so many great pictures from this fun event!
On May 10th to 12th, 2017, leaders and stakeholders from various industries, countries and continents gathered in the KIGALI CONVENTION CENTER to participate in the Transform Africa Summit. They all had one purpose: to foster constructive conversation towards building a Smart Africa. The Transform Africa Summit facilitated meetings for leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss policies and opportunities to accelerate the continent towards a socio-economic transformation, as the theme for the summit stated: “Smart Cities Fast Forward.”
OLPC and Foundation Zamora Teran participated in this summit as a wonderful example of how technology combined with commitment is indeed the solution to sustainability and development.
During the summit, Foundation Zamora Teran shared its experience with the One Laptop Per Child projects in Central America. As a part of its educational program, the Foundation Zamora Teran created the first digital island, Ometepe. This served as a relevant case study for the summit. Summit participants had the opportunity to interact with the OLPC and FZT teams to learn about the strategies they employ for success in their educational program. One such strategy for success focuses on actively engaging all relevant stakeholders, including educators, technical teams and operations teams, in the process. The three sectors work together to bring all stakeholders together in order to positively impact the community
During the exhibition, many officials from participating countries visited the OLPC/FZT stand to learn how its ecosystem could be a key to sustaining different development projects in their respective countries. Journalists and TV stations also had the opportunity to learn more about the OLPC/FZT services. FZT and OLPC conducted interviews as well.
The Summit was a wonderful opportunity for OLPC and FZT to build global connections to increase opportunities to provide children around the world with a quality, innovative education.
(Below are several interviews.)
In 2016, the Fundación Zamora Terán in Nicaragua entered Phase II of its One Laptop Per Child Educational Program. In an effort to strengthen the program, the Fundación Zamora Terán signed a collaboration agreement with FUNDECYT-PCTEX a non-profit organization based in Spain to continue to support the educational program throughout Central America.
The objective of the collaboration is to continue the social transformation process and strengthen the existing educational institutions. Extremadura, an organization based in Spain, is devoting resources to further support innovative education in Nicaragua. The organizations are working together to network, innovate, and scale the OLPC educational program. Estremadura is currently developing new educational applications for the XO Laptop. The organizations opened CEDSL in 2015, a space for educational innovation and training, using open source software and technologies. Teachers, university students, staff of NGOs and other foundations come to receive training on the use of technology in the educational process.
The project also strengthens the role of the private sector in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries. The organizations promote and strengthen public-private partnerships by creating new, multilateral partnerships and alliances between national and local authorities, business and NGOs in order to facilitate the development of local capacity and the delivery of services, particularly in rural areas for women and other marginalized groups.
More than 390 people will benefit from this alliance, including technical staff and educational officers of the Fundación Zamora Terán (15), teachers from primary schools in Nicaragua (52), students of the San Judas Tadeo Educational Center of Managua (188), University students from UNAN, UdM and UNI of Nicaragua (105), university support staff of the Free Software Development Center (10), NGOs, technical personnel and Nicaraguan Educational Foundations (20 participants).
The applications developed for the XO Laptops will benefit 224,000 people in the region, including 45,500 children, and more than 1,000 teachers in schools in which the FZT has a presence in Nicaragua and Honduras. Applications developed during phases I and II of the project will be available through the XO Laptops and will be distributed nationwide. All XO Laptops use free software. In addition, the families of participating children will have the ability to access and use such applications.
OLPC France (http://olpc-france.org), a volunteer driven association, has just released a new version of the Sugarizer platform. Sugarizer allows the Sugar Learning Software to be used on any device. More precisely, Sugarizer is a port of Sugar – the open source learning platform distributed on the XO laptops – in web technologies. You can run it within a browser (http://try.sugarizer.org), as well as from your Android, iOS or Windows device. There are links for every device. Any computer, tablet or smartphone can be transformed into an XO Laptop! The Sugar Learning Software allows children to learn through doing. Sugarizer allows children to benefit from the Sugar Learning Software from any device. Children also have the ability to connect globally with the worldwide OLPC experience.
OLPC France, a grassroots organization started in 2008, has run several OLPC deployments. The organization distributed 200 XO Laptops to a small island north of Madagascar. It also provided 50 XO Laptops to a city near Paris. Recently, it distributed 25 XO Laptops in Saint-Ouen, a suburb of Paris.
(XO-4 used in the classroom in Saint-Ouen)
This new deployment is also using 25 Android tablets with the Sugarizer OS (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.olpc_france.sugarizeros), which replaces the standard Android environment. Children can then enjoy a Sugar-like look and feel and activities (e.g. Labyrinth, an application to build mind maps or the famous Speak activity), and other Android applications (like Book Creator).
Still in beta, the Sugarizer features continue to improve, thanks to support from the SugarLabs community and Google. This month, two students from the Google Summer of Code program (https://summerofcode.withgoogle.com/) will join the team. There are currently 24 activities available in the latest version of Sugarizer (v0.8). The volunteer team continues to work to port new activities. The next version of Sugarizer (v0.9) will have at least 30 activities. All Sugarzier activities are available in English, French, and Spanish. Sugarizer is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Polish, Igbo and Yoruba.
With Sugarizer, the spirit of OLPC is now accessible from any device.
|Frederick Johnson, WHH Scholar, Junior High Graduate, Budding Electrician|
|Young Frederick in 2008, proud to be able to spell his own name!|
The ASU SolarSPELL team had the opportunity to work with the SMART Sistas Vanuatu team on Sunday May 14. These amazing young women will be the first ever team from Vanuatu representing the country at the upcoming FIRST Global robotics competition in Washington DC in July 2017.
For this competition, the SMART Sistas will need to develop a robot from the same parts that are provided to every team in this global competition—what they do with these parts, and what they can make the robot do—is what will distinguish them from the other teams at the competition.
The SolarSPELL team arrived early and discovered that Lana and Lilia were already hard at work.
Shortly after this, team leaders/teachers/mentors Rodney and Grace from the US Peace Corps arrived and all of the team members introduced themselves.
Our team described how the SolarSPELL digital library works, and the SMART Sistas were quite taken with it.
Then, it was time for the hard work of the remainder of the afternoon. Good thing there was a robotics major among the ASU students! Even so, all of the ASU students were engineering majors, allowing them to contribute their valuable skills to the effort.
The short term goal for the day was to make sure the robot could be driven up a ramp. The longer term work included a great deal of brainstorming ideas about how to make this robot do what it’s supposed to do. The ASU students had plenty of ideas, but also indicated that they were just blown away by Lana’s and Lilia’s ideas.
A few days later, the SolarSPELL team was fortunate enough to see the SMART Sistas give a presentation at the ICT Days conference in Port Vila (May 17). Not only were the girls all poised, well-spoken and confident, their robot was a star, too! They drove it out in front of them on-stage at the beginning, and at the end, they drove it up the ramp effortlessly.
We are happy that we had the chance to get to know these amazing young women, proud that we had the chance to work with them, and we wish them all the best at the FIRST Global competition in Washington DC next month! You are AWESOME!!!
The ASU SolarSPELL team’s third site visit was to Nancy’s village of in Nguna on Monday, May 15, 2017. With a village population of about 130 and no electricity, running water, or Internet connectivity, this village faces significant challenges. To give one example, there is no school beyond a kindergarten. All schoolchildren must travel to other villages to continue their schooling. Nancy welcomed us to her home and told us more about the village when we arrived.
Some of the local schoolchildren began asking Nancy to help them with various homework or school-related activities, and she heard about a SolarSPELL digital library that had been left with a headmaster in a neighboring village, on the same island but quite a distance away, by a Peace Corps volunteer who had completed their term of service there. She asked the headmaster for the SolarSPELL and had been using it for the past 6 months. We brought her the new, updated version.
Nancy had invited a group of students she regularly interacts with, to come and be among the first to “surf” the new SolarSPELL library.
At first, these kids were incredibly shy–this picture captures it well!
But after Miles explained how the SolarSPELL worked, and pointed out some of the new content, they were off and running! They became far less shy, and we were so happy to see how second-nature it was for them to connect to the library and start surfing, whether on a tablet or smartphone.
They began surfing to their hearts’ content, (mainly) watching videos that interested them.
They are currently on a two-week break from classes, so this was a welcome diversion. A village youth leader also joined in the action.
Later on, he proved to be a natural on flying Bruce’s drone, taking amazing aerial photos of the village.
Another highlight of the day was that our nursing student, Emily, was able to meet with some local women, to hear the health-related concerns facing them, their families, and/or the village more generally. What a fantastic opportunity to learn what the true challenges are for remote villages that lack so many resources we take for granted.
The team would like to thank our gracious Peace Corps volunteer hosts in all three locations. What an amazing experience to be welcomed everywhere we went, benefiting from the wonderful relationships that the PCVs have established and cultivated with their home villages. We feel so fortunate to have been welcomed in so warmly, in each and every case.
On Saturday, May 13, the ASU SolarSPELL team was thrilled at having the opportunity to join Peace Corps volunteers Katie and Jack as they traveled back to their “home” island of Lelepa. There was a crowd of children at the pier, all of whom were elated to see Katie, whom they knew as their teacher.
We also met a number of the village residents as we trekked through the main street.
All of them were elated to see Katie and Jack returned to Lelepa.
There were beautiful seascapes at every turn, as we made our way to an amazing cave.
We were glad we hadn’t needed to travel in one of the local canoes, pictured above, but it was neat to see quite a few of them, nonetheless.
There were beautiful vistas around every turn, as we made our way to Lelepa’s famous cave.
One of the locals, Krystal, gave us a tour of the spectacular cave that just defied description, so I will leave it to the pictures. We also learned quite a bit about the legend of Chief Roi Mata, whose remains were found on the hat shaped island pictured below. (It’s called Hat Island.)
There were some ancient cave drawings from the 1800s depicting local topics of importance in that time (which were very difficult to capture on camera). Can you see the silhouette of a wild pig in the photo below?
Afterwards, we walked back out to where the boat was moored and to our surprise on this off-grid, unconnected island, there was a teenage girl, sitting on the beach with her tablet, watching music videos!
Our next stop was at Katie and Jack’s home, adjacent to the school where Katie teaches. We trained them on how to use the SolarSPELL library, giving them the lightning-speed overview of the device and pointing out some highlights of the content.
Lelepa island seems to be an ideal place for the SolarSPELL as Katie estimated that over half of the island’s residents own tablets, not even to mention how many smartphones would be found there as well, so finding devices in Lelepa would not present the same challenge as in Epau. The team was surprised at the difference in access to technology that a small difference in local income levels makes. We inquired about this and were told that since Lelepa has no water source of its own, (subsistence) farming is not an option, so people commute to Port Vila and work for wages. Clearly, they were earning more than the subsistence farmers. How interesting that geographic limitations could lead to higher incomes.
Katie and Jack were tremendously excited at the new possibilities that using the SolarSPELL presented for the school. Katie already shared numerous ideas she was having, not only for using the SolarSPELL in her classes, but for holding a workshop to introduce it more widely, to teachers and parents as well.
Finally, the team got back in the boat and headed around to the far side of the island for some absolutely amazing snorkeling.
And a great fish dinner afterward.
|Crammed into a teacher's van to go to debate contest--before new bus came on the scene!|
|Thanks for the help, guys. We can see the need for paint, too.|
|Library staffer Gaddiel processing the new books! Good guy! He's very skilled at driving the motor tricycle, too.|
Join Our Campaign: Our goal is to provide 120 devices to Hands of Charity Programs.
Who knew that from every corner of these hill towns children emerge and the schools are overflowing. This was where we landed 6 years ago. These villages clustered within 4 kilometers of each other have possibly 10 schools, many with classrooms of 50 to 70 pupils. We are hoping to increase the number of laptops, tablets and macbooks to meet the need. Our leaders work seven days a week, because the time students have to access computers during are in school programs is not enough. So they come on the weekends, often 70 to 100. Help us with this fundraiser: http://gofundme.com/path4kenya
Hands of Charity was inspired by the work of our partner organization in Uganda, Venture for Good in Jina, making reusable sanitary pads. We sent some fundst Hands of Charity for them to purchase supplies, so they have begun. The plans are for the teachers do hold community events, as funds are available and invite girls to come and learn about their reproductive health, about how to handle their fear of men, and develop pride and faith in the wonder and beauty of being female. Here is their report.
HANDS OF CHARITY BUNGOMA OLPC APRIL 2017 REPORT
WEEK 1 APRIL 2017
It was the last week for the schools to break for the holidays.
Teachers Rose, Anita, Rhodah and Irene were to prepare girls who were to come at the center and learn how to make sanitary pads for themselves.
Teachers shared ideas on how to develop skills of solving problems at their level of understanding.
Teachers did not only prepare on homemade sanitary pads but also on general reproductive health issues and sanitation.
2nd WEEK APRIL 2017
Girls aged 12 years and above were brought together at the center for homemade sanitary pad lessons and general hygiene talks lead by Teacher Rose and Anita
Major things girls learned over homemade sanitary pads was;
-what material are to be used?
-how cost effective they are?
-how to cut and have recommended measurement of the sanitary pads.
How the pads are used compared to those sold in shops.
Major aim of doing this was to improve confidence in young girls and minimize school absents of girls during their menstrual periods and reduce costs to the families that are not financially able and balance self-esteem in all the girls cutting across all lifestyle.
Cyclone Donna—a category 5 Cyclone that passed near to Vanuatu on May 8 & 9—effectively canceled our plans to travel to Ambae and Maewo Islands, respectively, to see Peace Corps volunteers in-action, visit their schools and health care centers, and carry out impact evaluations. Nonetheless, we were able to find multiple silver linings: Thanks to the flexibility of the Peace Corps staff and volunteers, our team was able to make three site visits more locally.
We first traveled to the more remote and rural side of Efate island, to visit Frances in the village of Epau, on Friday, May 12. Frances shared with us how she has been using the SolarSPELL library that the previous volunteer, who was stationed at Epau before Frances’s term of service, left with her.
Since her school has no devices of its own, and the families in Epau cannot afford purchasing devices like smartphones or tablets, Frances has been using the SolarSPELL herself to plan lessons for teaching. She also hosts community members at her house who have homework or other specific topics they would like to surf the SolarSPELL library to find out more about.
Frances teaches third grade students, which is when students in Vanuatu begin learning in English. We were excited to share with her all of the new content and resources our team recently added to the SolarSPELL library for absolute beginner-level English language learners.
Frances gave us a fantastic tour through her village. There were various signs posted, attesting to the ferocity of Cyclone Pam, an off-the-charts cyclone that devastated Vanuatu two years ago, so it was quite understandable how seriously everyone had taken Cyclone Donna. Thankfully it was far less destructive than estimates were predicting.
As an update, we saw Frances again before we left. She let us know that on that very first evening after we brought her the Raspberry Pi with new-and-improved content, her host family was so excited about it, they kept her up very late into the evening, surfing and exploring all of the new content!
Last week, we presented a new paper that describes how children are thinking through some of the implications of new forms of data collection and analysis. The presentation was given at the ACM CHI conference in Denver last week and the paper is open access and online.
Over the last couple years, we’ve worked on a large project to support children in doing — and not just learning about — data science. We built a system, Scratch Community Blocks, that allows the 18 million users of the Scratch online community to write their own computer programs — in Scratch of course — to analyze data about their own learning and social interactions. An example of one of those programs to find how many of one’s follower in Scratch are not from the United States is shown below.
Last year, we deployed Scratch Community Blocks to 2,500 active Scratch users who, over a period of several months, used the system to create more than 1,600 projects.
As children used the system, Samantha Hautea, a student in UW’s Communication Leadership program, led a group of us in an online ethnography. We visited the projects children were creating and sharing. We followed the forums where users discussed the blocks. We read comment threads left on projects. We combined Samantha’s detailed field notes with the text of comments and forum posts, with ethnographic interviews of several users, and with notes from two in-person workshops. We used a technique called grounded theory to analyze these data.
What we found surprised us. We expected children to reflect on being challenged by — and hopefully overcoming — the technical parts of doing data science. Although we certainly saw this happen, what emerged much more strongly from our analysis was detailed discussion among children about the social implications of data collection and analysis.
In our analysis, we grouped children’s comments into five major themes that represented what we called “critical data literacies.” These literacies reflect things that children felt were important implications of social media data collection and analysis.
First, children reflected on the way that programmatic access to data — even data that was technically public — introduced privacy concerns. One user described the ability to analyze data as, “creepy”, but at the same time, “very cool.” Children expressed concern that programmatic access to data could lead to “stalking“ and suggested that the system should ask for permission.
Second, children recognized that data analysis requires skepticism and interpretation. For example, Scratch Community Blocks introduced a bug where the block that returned data about followers included users with disabled accounts. One user, in an interview described to us how he managed to figure out the inconsistency:
At one point the follower blocks, it said I have slightly more followers than I do. And, that was kind of confusing when I was trying to make the project. […] I pulled up a second [browser] tab and compared the [data from Scratch Community Blocks and the data in my profile].
Third, children discussed the hidden assumptions and decisions that drive the construction of metrics. For example, the number of views received for each project in Scratch is counted using an algorithm that tries to minimize the impact of gaming the system (similar to, for example, Youtube). As children started to build programs with data, they started to uncover and speculate about the decisions behind metrics. For example, they guessed that the view count might only include “unique” views and that view counts may include users who do not have accounts on the website.
Fourth, children building projects with Scratch Community Blocks realized that an algorithm driven by social data may cause certain users to be excluded. For example, a 13-year-old expressed concern that the system could be used to exclude users with few social connections saying:
I love these new Scratch Blocks! However I did notice that they could be used to exclude new Scratchers or Scratchers with not a lot of followers by using a code: like this:when flag clickedif then user’s followers < 300stop all.I do not think this a big problem as it would be easy to remove this code but I did just want to bring this to your attention in case this not what you would want the blocks to be used for.
Fifth, children were concerned about the possibility that measurement might distort the Scratch community’s values. While giving feedback on the new system, a user expressed concern that by making it easier to measure and compare followers, the system could elevate popularity over creativity, collaboration, and respect as a marker of success in Scratch.
I think this was a great idea! I am just a bit worried that people will make these projects and take it the wrong way, saying that followers are the most important thing in on Scratch.
Kids’ conversations around Scratch Community Blocks are good news for educators who are starting to think about how to engage young learners in thinking critically about the implications of data. Although no kid using Scratch Community Blocks discussed each of the five literacies described above, the themes reflect starting points for educators designing ways to engage kids in thinking critically about data.
Our work shows that if children are given opportunities to actively engage and build with social and behavioral data, they might not only learn how to do data analysis, but also reflect on its implications.
We want to share this amazing article. Congratulations to Uruguay on the 10th anniversary of its national OLPC program, Plan Ceibal!
By Gerardo Laborde
MONTEVIDEO, May 14 (Xinhua) — Uruguay this month is celebrating the 10th anniversary of a national program that has made Internet available to the masses by providing all elementary school students with a laptop.
The national program, called Plan Ceibal, in conjunction with the global nonprofit initiative called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), made Uruguay “the first country in the world to provide one laptop to every primary school student,” according to OLPC’s website.
“I must admit that, at the beginning, I never imagined a plan so complete and well executed,” OLPC’s founder, the U.S.-born Nicholas Negroponte, said during a visit to Montevideo this week.
Negroponte, who is also the founder of MIT’s Media Lab, said one of the factors that helped to make the plan a resounding success in Uruguay was President Tabare Vazquez, who was serving his first term (2005-2010) when the plan was first adopted.
Vazquez was adamant about the scope of the program, insisting it should cover every child, according to the state Uruguayan News Agency (UyPress).
“Nobody else did that. That is extraordinary,” said Negroponte.
In announcing the plan in December 2006, Vazquez said that as of 2007 “the fundamental school supply our children are going to have is going to be this computer.”
The first green-and-white laptops, which cost 100 U.S. dollars to make, were distributed in May 2007 at a school in the small town of Villa Cardal, in the southern department of Florida, home to just 500 inhabitants. But soon schoolchildren throughout the country had a “ceibalita,” as the laptops were called.
The first three students to get a laptop were Micaela Rodriguez, Rocio Martinez and German Arrua, today aged 17, 18 and 19, respectively.
All three agree the laptop marked a turning point in their educational life.
“They came to be used for all the day’s work,” Rodriguez told national radio network Radiodifusion Nacional del Uruguay (RNU).
“With a computer, we could find out about many things that we didn’t know existed in Uruguay,” she added.
Martinez agreed, saying the Plan Ceibal, a Spanish backronym that stands for Basic Informatic Educative Connectivity for Online Learning, “was a great help” for studying.
Arrua, meanwhile, recalled using his laptop to take pictures.
The president of Plan Ceibal, Miguel Brechner, said prior to the initiative, “only 9 percent of children from the poorest households had access to a computer. Today, more than 90 percent of that population does.”
Thanks to its effectiveness, Plan Ceibal was expanded to secondary school students and since 2016 is being used to teach the elderly.
According to Negroponte, two other factors helped make the program a success in Uruguay, including developing the needed infrastructure, which state telecom Antel was tasked with doing.
The third factor was the country’s belief in the advantages of promoting equality, he said.
“Due to these three things: Vazquez, equality and the telecommunications, this project turned into what it is. And it helped us in many aspects, and that’s why I want many other countries to copy this experience,” Negroponte said.
Uruguay “has become the byword” for progressive educational programs, he said, predicting that “in 20 years, Uruguay will be producing the world’s most creative people.”
It’s not just that Africa is important, it has always been important, what I want to say is that Africa is a critical part of our future as Americans. In the next ten to twenty years, the maturing second generation of leaders of these new democracy leaning countries (remember most African countries did not gain independence until the 1960s and 70s) will drive significant political and economic changes in the continent. Africa will be the the planet’s most populous continent in the next 30 years. It is also much larger and diverse geographically than most of us realize. Africa is rich in resources, intelligent educated citizens and talent. In addition Africans are highly motivated to move past the old politics to establish truly representative governments. Already these countries have more women in leadership roles, and Kenya has a written a new constitution.
What is important here is the large population of youth. In some cases it is 60% of the country. The youth bubble challenged governments to build enough classrooms and train enough teachers.to meet the education needs for the 21st century. Kenya’s current president ran on a platform that featured not just education, but technology for education. He has been in power almost 4 years, and just now the technology is arriving in schools for the 6 year-olds. Teacher salaries have increased, as well as investments in creating a digital curriculum. A large percentage of schools in Kenya now have electricity. This is not true in many other African nations, but what they do all have is some access to cell phone and the internet. Another cultural factor is that African countries do tend to work collaborate regionally. East Africa has open borders among 5 countries, so that goods, people, jobs and educations cross borders.
Efforts such as those of a small organization like are able to bring rural communities out of isolation, assist them in using their technology in schools, not just to learn math, reading and science, but to benefit the community through project based learning initiatives. Bonaventure has led our students to become community workers to eliminate Jiggers infections, to educate girls about their reproductive health, to develop girls into leaders, to assist in the healing and education for HIV affected families and have assisted orphans develop skills and find sponsors for their continued education.
Listen to this Video by one our young female teachers: https://youtu.be/TtFLD16zHaU
What Africa doesn’t have is the capital investment. Our students may graduate for secondary school to a country that has no jobs for them, no career opportunities. So how do we prepare them. Through the project based learning, they are able to develop the vision of their capacity to be innovators and leaders. We are pleased to have worked with George Newman at One Planet Education who has taught them about effective advocacy, and research. They have learned how to speak out, how to collaborate with their peers in Asia, the US and the Middle East. Surely such efforts will bring positive outcomes and new opportunities for our 21st century.
Watch this video created by one of the orphans supported by our center’s leaders. https://youtu.be/nlGeywKnEfY
Ethnographer and photographer Laura de Reynal has been documenting the work of organisations, such as Mozilla and One Laptop per Child who are helping communities to get online for the first time.
The first online experience for these 16-year-olds in Madagascar was browsing Wikipedia and writing what they had discovered on a blackboard.
The One Laptop per Child project was one of the first to deploy small laptops in classrooms in developing countries, more than a decade ago.
The children were able to practise their algebra by shooting spaceships.
One Laptop Per Child continues to expand its educational program in Africa. Thanks to a generous donation from the Nommontu Foundation, OLPC provided 27 OLPC Laptops to Centre de Chirurgie Orthopedique et de Rehabilitation Sainte Marie de Rilima, the top health care facility in Rwanda for children with health issues. The Center cares for approximately 70 children for three or more months while they receive treatment. With this donation, these children have access to education and technology during their stay in the Center. OLPC provides ongoing training and guidance to facilitators and children. The OLPC team continues to work closely with the staff in the Center, as we strive to guide the process of technology integration into the lives of these children who otherwise would have no opportunity to receive a formal education or learn to use technology while they receive care at the Center. The children are delighted with this opportunity to learn and use technology to create and experiment. These children are truly a model of hope for their parents, community, nation and the world.
Adam Holt and I were interviewed last night by the Australian Council for Computers in Education Learning Network about our not-for-profit work to improve educational opportunities for children in the developing world.
Australia poses some of its own challenges. As a country that is 90% urbanised, the remaining 10% are scattered across vast distances. The circumstances of these communities often share both developed and developing world characteristics. We developed the One Education programme to accommodate this.
These lessons have been developed further into Unleash Kids, an initiative that we are currently working on to support the community of volunteers worldwide and take to the movement to the next level.
Engineers Without Borders asked me to write something for their Humanitarian Engineering magazine about One Laptop per Child. Here is what I wrote.
The school bell rings, and the children filter into the classroom. Each is holding an XO – their own personal learning device.
This is no ordinary classroom. As if by magic, the green and white XOs automatically see each other as soon as they are started up, allowing children to easily share information and collaborate on activities together. The kids converse on how they can achieve the tasks at hand. One girl is writing a story on her XO, and simultaneously on the same screen she can see the same story being changed by a boy across the room. Another group of children are competing in a game that involves maths questions.
Through the XO, the learning in this classroom has taken on a peer-to-peer character. By making learning more fun and engaging, children are better equipped to discover and pursue their interests. Through collaboration and connectivity, they can exchange knowledge with their peers and with the world. In the 21st century, textbooks should be digital and interactive. They should be up-to-date and locally relevant. They should be accessible and portable.
Of course, the teacher’s role remains vital, and her role has evolved into that of a facilitator in this knowledge network. She is better placed to provide more individual pathways for learning. Indeed the teacher is a learner as well, as the children quickly adapt to the new technology and learn skills that they can teach back.
Helping to keep the classroom session smoothly humming along are children who have proven themselves to be proficient with assisting their classmates and fixing problems (including repairing hardware). These kids have taken part in training programmes that award them for their skills around the XO. In the process, they are learning important life skills around problem solving and teamwork.
This is all part of the One Education experience, an initiative from One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Australia. This educational programme provides a holistic educational scaffolding around the XO, the laptop developed by the One Laptop per Child Association that has its roots in the internationally-acclaimed MIT Media Lab in the USA.
The XO was born from a desire to empower each and every child in the world with their own personal learning device. Purpose-built for young children and using solid open source software, the XO provides an ideal platform for classroom learning. Designed for outdoors, with a rugged design and a high-resolution sunlight-readable screen, education is no longer confined to a classroom or even to the school grounds. Learning time needn’t stop with the school bell – many children are taking their XOs home. Also important is the affordability and full repairability of the devices, making it cost-effective versus non-durable and ephemeral items such as stationery, textbooks and other printed materials. There are over 3 million XOs in distribution, and in some countries (such as Uruguay) every child owns one.
One Education’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to every child, no matter how remote or disadvantaged. The digital divide is a learning divide. This can be conquered through a combination of modern technology, training and support, provided in a manner that empowers local schools and communities. The story told above is already happening in many classrooms around the country and the world.
With teacher training often being the Achilles’ heel of technology programmes in the field of education, One Education focuses only on teachers who have proven their interest and aptitude through the completion of a training course. Only then are they eligible to receive XOs (with an allocation of spare parts) into their classroom. Certified teachers are eligible for ongoing support from OLPC Australia, and can acquire more hardware and parts as required.
As a not-for-profit, OLPC Australia works with sponsors to heavily subsidise the costs of the One Education programme for low socio-economic status schools. In this manner, the already impressive total cost of ownership can be brought down even further.
High levels of teacher turnover are commonplace in remote Australian schools. By providing courses online, training can be scalable and cost-effective. Local teachers can even undergo further training to gain official trainer status themselves. Some schools have turned this into a business – sending their teacher-trainers out to train teachers in other schools.
With backing from the United Nations Development Programme, OLPC are tackling the Millennium Development Goals by focusing on Goal 2 (Achieve Universal Primary Education). The intertwined nature of the goals means that progress made towards this goal in turn assists the others. For example, education on health can lead to better hygiene and lower infant mortality. A better educated population is better empowered to help themselves, rather than being dependent on hand-outs. For people who cannot attend a classroom (perhaps because of remoteness, ethnicity or gender), the XO provides an alternative. OLPC’s focus on young children means that children are becoming engaged in their most formative years. The XO has been built with a minimal environmental footprint, and can be run off-grid using alternate power sources such as solar panels.
One Education is a young initiative, formed based on experiences learnt from technology deployments in Australia and other countries. Nevertheless, results in some schools have been staggering. Within one year of XOs arriving in Doomadgee State School in northern Queensland, the percentage of Year 3 pupils meeting national literacy standards leapt from 31% to 95%.
2013 will see a rapid expansion of the programme. With $11.7m in federal government funding, 50,000 XOs will be distributed as part of One Education. These schools will be receiving the new XO Duo (AKA XO-4 Touch), a new XO model developed jointly with the OLPC Association. This version adds a touch-screen user experience while maintaining the successful laptop form factor. The screen can swivel and fold backwards over the keyboard, converting the laptop into a tablet. This design was chosen in response to feedback from educators that a hardware keyboard is preferred to a touch-screen for entering large amounts of information. As before, the screen is fully sunlight-readable. Performance and battery life have improved significantly, and it is fully repairable as before.
As One Education expands, there are growing demands on OLPC Australia to improve the offering. Being a holistic project, there are plenty of ways in which we could use help, including in education, technology and logistics. We welcome you to join us in our quest to provide educational opportunities to the world’s children.
From the “I should have posted this months ago” vault…
When I led technology development at One Laptop per Child Australia, I maintained two golden rules:
In large part, I believe that we were successful.
Once the more obvious challenges have been identified and cleared, some more fundamental problems become evident. Our goal was to improve educational opportunities for children as young as possible, but proficiently using computers to input information can require a degree of literacy.
Sugar Labs have done stellar work in questioning the relevance of the desktop metaphor for education, and in coming up with a more suitable alternative. This proved to be a remarkable platform for developing a touch-screen laptop, in the form of the XO-4 Touch: the icons-based user interface meant that we could add touch capabilities with relatively few user-visible tweaks. The screen can be swivelled and closed over the keyboard as with previous models, meaning that this new version can be easily converted into a pure tablet at will.
Still, a fundamental assumption has long gone unchallenged on all computers: the default typeface and keyboard. It doesn’t at all represent how young children learn the English alphabet or literacy. Moreover, at OLPC Australia we were often dealing with children who were behind on learning outcomes, and who were attending school with almost no exposure to English (since they speak other languages at home). How are they supposed to learn the curriculum when they can barely communicate in the classroom?
Looking at a standard PC keyboard, you’ll see that the keys are printed with upper-case letters. And yet, that is not how letters are taught in Australian schools. Imagine that you’re a child who still hasn’t grasped his/her ABCs. You see a keyboard full of unfamiliar symbols. You press one, and on the screen pops up a completely different looking letter! The keyboard may be in upper-case, but by default you’ll get the lower-case variants on the screen.
Unfortunately, the most prevalent touch-screen keyboard on the marke isn’t any better. Given the large education market for its parent company, I’m astounded that this has not been a priority.
Better alternatives exist on other platforms, but I still was not satisfied.
The solution required an examination of how children learn, and the challenges that they often face when doing so. The end result is simple, yet effective.
This image contrasts the standard OLPC mechanical keyboard with the OLPC Australia Literacy keyboard that we developed. Getting there required several considerations:
One interesting user story with the old keyboard that I came across was in a remote Australian school, where Aboriginal children were trying to play the Maze activity by pressing the opposite arrows that they were supposed to. Apparently they thought that the arrows represented birds’ feet! You’ll see that we changed the arrow heads on the literacy keyboard as a result.
We explicitly chose not to change the QWERTY layout. That’s a different debate for another time.
After much research and discussions with educators, I was unimpressed with the other literacy-oriented fonts available online. Characters like ‘a’ and ‘9’ (just to mention a couple) are not rendered in the way that children are taught to write them. Young children are also susceptible to confusion over letters that look similar, including mirror-images of letters. We worked to differentiate, for instance, the lower-case L from the upper-case i, and the lower-case p from the lower-case q.
Typography is a wonderfully complex intersection of art and science, and it would have been foolhardy for us to have started from scratch. We used as our base the high-quality DejaVu Sans typeface. This gave us a foundation that worked well on screen and in print. Importantly for us, it maintained legibility at small point sizes on the 200dpi XO display.
abc123 is a suitable substitute for DejaVu Sans. I have been using it as the default user interface font in Ubuntu for over a year.
It looks great in Sugar as well. The letters are crisp and easy to differentiate, even at small point sizes. We made abc123 the default font for both the user interface and in activities (applications).
Likewise, the touch-screen keyboard is clear and simple to use.
The end result is a more consistent literacy experience across the whole device. What you press on the hardware or touch-screen keyboard will be reproduced exactly on the screen. What you see on the user interface is also what you see on the keyboards.
Tundikhel, an only vast open space in between the city, is now filled with families who lost their homes in the recent earthquake. As we drive, walk or ride pass through the lanes alongside Tundikhel, we can see numerous tents – some donated by China and some made locally by the sufferers. When OLE Nepal team visited the ‘refugee camp like place’ it was heart wrenching to see people in need of necessities required for survival. Many organizations from various backgrounds provided immediate relief effort, such as food, water, shelter, sanitation, etc.
Amidst all the chaos, OLE Nepal are particularly concerned about the welfare of thousands of children who have been affected in more ways than one – distressed, displaced and completely traumatized by the scenes of devastations all around them. As we try to rehabilitate communities, it is utterly important to pay special attention to the emotional and physical well-being of these children. Along with their physical safety, their psychological security needed to be duly addressed as well.
With so many schools destroyed, and communities displaced, many children are deprived of education and will be for months, if not years. In this critical time, it is important to give children the space where they can enjoy their time in quality learning and exploring.
In Kirtipur, Khokana and Bungamati, OLE Nepal is now providing relief to the children at Tundikhel. Following are the photos taken during the first day of our relief effort.
The Manuelita Foundation is a Colombian organization
founded in 2014 with an emphasis on teaching
technology, English and leadership skills to students.
Its emphasis is to educate on a one to one basis,
with a comprehensive model that leads teachers
to enrich the learning environment using modern
methodologies and technology, with the ultimate
goal of developing life skills for students. The program
works to create motivated and happy learners.
The Foundation has delivered 240 XO Laptops to
students in kindergarten through third grade and
other equipment to students fourth grade and above,
including teachers. The program has reached more
than 670 students and 430 families. The program
has a social component specifically designed for the
The program “Educating One to One” is implemented
in the city of Palmira Valle del Cauca and benefits
the surrounding neighborhoods, including four
educational institutions of Antonio Lizarazo. The pilot
program began in Rosa Zárate de Peña.
Then I added myself to the libvirtd group, so that I would have access:$ sudo apt install qemu-kvm libvirt-bin bridge-utils
$ sudo ap install virt-manager
I converted my VirtualBox hard drive images to KVM images with:$ sudo adduser [user] libvirtd
Here is a screenshot of Debian Jessie running on Ubuntu Yakety:$ qemu-img convert -f vdi oldImage.vdi -O qcow2 newImage.qcow
Small Solutions Big Ideas Connect Kids February vacation program was introducing simple games to our students. Mazes are early games that children play, and also a favorite in the Sugar XO Activities that our students in Kenya have been using for the last 6 years.
On the day the workshop began, I heard a news report about the poaching of forest elephants in the African country of Gabon. Gabon is in West Africa. We looked up the country on Google Earth and found out that forest covered almost two thirds of the land. The forest is thick, and so dense that no one had tracked down the elephants in the forest for many years. The country decided to do an inventory.
The results of the inventory were shocking. The number of forest elephants surviving since the last inventory was about 20%. The forest was full of poachers and they had even established an active gold mine deep in the forest.
We read more about the elephants, and decided to design our Scratch Maze game as the Gabon Forest. The sprites were small tribes of elephants, and poachers.
First we created our forest on paper with the trails of the elephants as the maze, and then the students imagined different danger spots, where lions might attack, or near the gold mine where poachers were living. They also created some safe areas for the elephants. We practiced making mazes. Then we used our Scratch program. Sprites are like the players in the game. So we created tribes of elephants as sprites, and wild randomly flying dark glasses as the poachers. The create the maze we used the background and painted our forests and the elephant trails.
We programmed the elephants to move with the keyboard arrow keys. The poachers had a random fast moving pattern, so that the elephants had to be careful to avoid them. We put in our lakes as safe places, the gold mine, cliffs or rocks as danger places. There was more work to do, but it was fun. Below are photos of students using MakeyMakey, and then creating a maze on the floor.
We will post the Mazes to our studio http://scratch.mit.edu/studios/2935407/. If you go to the scratch website, anyone with our without a scratch account can see our projects.
Come and Join our Classes Starting in April 2017. On Thursday, March 30th, you can come at 4 PM to the Unitarian Church in Newburyport to see what we are doing, and whether you’d like to sign up. More information on our website too on the Connect Kids page.
After the First Year:
Many students choose to take the course a second and even a third year. Some students choose to travel once, sometimes twice. Others choose not to travel and perform their service in other ways. All projects are student-driven, and evolve from the individual’s interests, preferences, and perception of what’s needed. Please see our Related Projects page, and visit our Etoys website for more information. And feel free to use any of our work and share it with others. We would love our work to be widely used. If you have ideas or needs, please use the email form to contact us.
This course meets approximately once per week. The general outline is as follows:
Learn the Sugar operating system
Thanks for your interest! Please check back periodically to view our progress.
OLPC San Francisco will be hosting our monthly meeting Saturday, March 11th, from 10:30AM - 1PM at the downtown SFSU campus, 835 Market Street, 6th floor, room 609.
This month, the **new** OLPC XO-NL3 Laptop is going to Ethiopia. Come and see the new device at work. We'll have a discussion with the project lead Andreas Gros of Facebook and project computer expert Sameer Verma of SFSU. Discussion will be moderated by Alex Kleider.
We will have Ethiopian coffee and light snacks.
- Meet and greet
- Ethiopia and the new OLPC XO-NL3 Laptop
- Project updates
- Project working time
Our meetings are held on the second Saturday of every month. Everyone is welcome to join us for our monthly meeting! We'll be discussing the latest in OLPC events and give updates on our local (and global) projects. There will be plenty of XO laptops with the latest builds to play around with, too.
Bufferbloat is the most common underlying cause of most variable bad performance due to latency on the Internet; latency is called “lag” by gamers.
Trying to steer anything the size of the Internet into a better direction is very slow and difficult at best. From the time changes in the upstream operating systems are complete to when consumers can buy new product is typically four years caused by the broken and insecure ecosystem in the embedded device market. Chip vendors, box vendors, I’m looking at you… So much of what is now finally appearing in the market is based on work that is often four years old. Market pull may do what push has not.
See What to do About Bufferbloat for general information. And the DSLReports Speedtest makes it easy to test for bufferbloat. But new commercial products are becoming increasingly available. Here’s some of them.
The fq_codel & cake work going on in the bufferbloat project is called SQM – “smart queue management.” This SQM work is specifically targeted at mitigating the bufferbloat in the “last mile,” your cable/DSL/fiber connection, by careful queue management and an artificial bandwidth bottleneck added in your home router (since most modems do no perform flow control to the home router, unfortunately).
Modems require built in AQM algorithms, such as those just beginning to reach the market in DOCSIS 3.1. I just ordered one of these for my house to see if it functions better than the SQM mitigation (almost certainly not), but at least these should not require the manual tuning that SQM does.
To fix bufferbloat in WiFi requires serious changes in the WiFi driver in your home router (which typically runs Linux), and in your device (laptop/phone/tablet). The device driver work was first released as part of the LEDE project, in January 2017 for initially just a couple of WiFi chip types.
First up, I’d like call out the Evenroute IQrouter, which has a variant of SQM that deals with “sag”.
DSL users have often suffered more than other broadband users, due to bad bloat in the modems compounded by minimal bandwidth, so the DSL version of the IQrouter is particularly welcome. Often DSL ISP’s seem to have the tendency (seemingly more often than ISPs with other technologies) to under provision their back haul, causing “sag” at different times of day/week. This makes the static configuration techniques we’ve used in LEDE/OpenWrt SQM ineffective, as you have to give away too much bandwidth if a fixed bandwidth is used. I love the weasel words “up to” some speed used by many ISPs. It is one thing for your service to degrade for a short period of days or weeks while an ISP takes action to provision more bandwidth to an area; it is another for your bandwidth to routinely vary by large factors for weeks/months and years.
I sent a DSL Evenroute IQrouter to my brother in Pennsylvania recently and arranged for one for a co-worker, and they are working well, and Rich Brown has had similarly good experiences. Evenroute has been working hard to make the installation experience easy. Best yet, is that the IQrouter is autoconfiguring and figures out for you what to do in the face of “sag” in your Internet service, something that may be a “killer feature” if you suffer lots of “sag” from your ISP. The IQrouter is therefore the first “out of the box” device I can recommend to almost anyone, rather than just my geek friends.
The IQRouter does not yet have the very recent wonderful WiFi results of Toke and Dave (more about coming this in a separate post), but has the capability for over the air updates and one hopes debloated WiFi and ATF will come to it reasonably soon. The new WiFi stack is just going upstream into Linux and LEDE/OpenWRT as I write this post. DSL users seldom have enough bandwidth for the WiFi hop to be the bottleneck; so the WiFi work is much more important for Cable and fiber users at higher bandwidth than for DSL users stuck at low bandwidth.
The Evenroute is effective on all technologies, not just DSL. It is just particularly important for DSL users, which suffer from sag more than most…
I’ve bought an Ubiquiti Edgerouter X on recommendation of Dave Taht but not yet put it into service. Router performance can be an issue on high end cable or fiber service. It is strictly an Ethernet router, lacking WiFi interfaces; but in my house, where the wiring is down in the basement, that’s what I need. The Edgerouter starts at around $50; the POE version I bought around $75.
The Edgerouter story is pretty neat – Dave Taht did the backport 2? years back. Ubiquti’s user community jumped all over it and polished it up, adding support to their conf tools and GUI, and Ubiquiti recognized what they had and shipped it as part of their next release.
SQM is available in recent releases of Ubituiti’s Edgerouter firmware. SQM itself is easy to configure. But the Edgerouter overall requires considerable configuration before it is useful in the home environment, however, and its firmware web interface is aimed at IT people rather than most home users. I intend this to replace my primary router TP-Link Archer C7v2 someday soon, as it is faster than the TP-Link since Comcast keeps increasing my bandwidth without asking me. I wish the Ubiquiti had a “make me into a home router” wizard that would make it immediately usable for most people, as its price is low enough for some home users to be interested in it. I believe one can install LEDE/OpenWrt on the Edgerouter, which I may do if I find its IT staff oriented web interface too unusable.
If you are adventurous enough to reflash firmware, anything runnable on OpenWrt/LEDE of the last few years has SQM available. You take the new LEDE release for a spin. If your router has an Ath9k WiFi chip (or a later version of the Ath10k WiFi chip), or you buy a new router with the right chips in them, you can play with the new WiFi goodness now in LEDE (noted above). There is a very wide variety of home routers that can benefit from reflashing. Its web UI is tolerably decent, better than many commercial vendors I have seen.
WiFi chip vendors should take careful note of the stupendous improvements available in the Linux mac802.11 framework for bufferbloat elimination and air time fairness. If you don’t update to the new interfaces and get your code into LEDE, you’re going to be at a great disadvantage to Atheros in the market.
The pcengines APU2 is a good “DIY” router for higher speeds. Dave has not yet tried LEDE on it yet, but will. He uses it presently on Ubuntu….
BSD users recently got fq_codel in opnsense, so the BSD crowd are making progress.
The Turris Omnia is particularly interesting for very fast broadband service and can run LEDE as well; but unfortunately, it seems only available in Europe at this time. We think the Netduma router has SQM support, though it is not entirely clear what they’ve done; it is a bit pricey for my taste, and I don’t happen to know anyone who has one.
Cable users may find that upgrading to a new DOCSIS 3.1 modem is helpful (though that does not solve WiFi bufferbloat). The new DOCSIS 3.1 standard requires AQM. While I don’t believe PIE anywhere as good as fq_codel (lacking flow queuing), the DOCSIS 3.1 standard at least requires an AQM, and PIE should help and does not require manual upstream bandwidth tuning. Maybe someday we’ll find some fq_codel (or fq_pie) based cable modems. Here’s hoping…
Many home routers vendors make bold claims they have proprietary cool features, but these are usually smoke and mirrors. Wireless mesh devices without bufferbloat reduction are particularly suspect and most likely to require manual RF engineering beyond most users. They require very high signal strength and transfer rates to avoid the worst of bufferbloat. Adding lots more routers without debloating and not simultaneously attacking transmit power control is a route to WiFi hell for everyone. The LEDE release is the first to have the new WiFi bits needed to make wireless mesh more practical. No one we know of has been working on minimizing transmit power to reduce interference between mesh nodes. So we are very skeptical of these products.
There are now a rapidly increasing number of products out there with SQM goodness under the covers, sometimes implemented well, and sometimes not so well, and more as the months go by.
One major vendor put support for fq_codel/SQM under the covers of one product using a tradename, promptly won an award, but then started using that tradename on inferior products in their product line that did not have real queue management. I can’t therefore vouch for any product line tradename that does not acknowledge publicly how it works and that the tradename means that it really has SQM under the covers. Once burned, three times shy. That product therefore does not deserve a mention due to the behavior of the vendor. “Bait and switch” is not what anyone needs.
We have wind of a number of vendors’ plans who have not quite reached the market, but it is up to them to announce their products.
If you find new products or ISP’s that do really well, let us know, particularly if they actually say what they are doing. We need to start some web pages to keep track of commercial products.
As children use digital media to learn and socialize, others are collecting and analyzing data about these activities. In school and at play, these children find that they are the subjects of data science. As believers in the power of data analysis, we believe that this approach falls short of data science’s potential to promote innovation, learning, and power.
Motivated by this fact, we have been working over the last three years as part of a team at the MIT Media Lab and the University of Washington to design and build a system that attempts to support an alternative vision: children as data scientists. The system we have built is described in a new paper—Scratch Community Blocks: Supporting Children as Data Scientists—that will be published in the proceedings of CHI 2017.
Our system is built on top of Scratch, a visual, block-based programming language designed for children and youth. Scratch is also an online community with over 15 million registered members who share their Scratch projects, remix each others’ work, have conversations, provide feedback, bookmark or “love” projects they like, follow other users, and more. Over the last decade, researchers—including us—have used the Scratch online community’s database to study the youth using Scratch. With Scratch Community Blocks, we attempt to put the power to programmatically analyze these data into the hands of the users themselves.
To do so, our new system adds a set of new programming primitives (blocks) to Scratch so that users can access public data from the Scratch website from inside Scratch. Blocks in the new system gives users access to project and user metadata, information about social interaction, and data about what types of code are used in projects. The full palette of blocks to access different categories of data is shown below.
|Project metadata||User metadata||Site-wide statistics|
The new blocks allow users to programmatically access, filter, and analyze data about their own participation in the community. For example, with the simple script below, we can find whether we have followers in Scratch who report themselves to be from Spain, and what their usernames are.
In designing the system, we had two primary motivations. First, we wanted to support avenues through which children can engage in curiosity-driven, creative explorations of public Scratch data. Second, we wanted to foster self-reflection with data. As children looked back upon their own participation and coding activity in Scratch through the project they and their peers made, we wanted them to reflect on their own behavior and learning in ways that shaped their future behavior and promoted exploration.
After designing and building the system over 2014 and 2015, we invited a group of active Scratch users to beta test the system in early 2016. Over four months, 700 users created more than 1,600 projects. The diversity and depth of users creativity with the new blocks surprised us. Children created projects that gave the viewer of the project a personalized doughnut-chart visualization of their coding vocabulary on Scratch, rendered the viewer’s number of followers as scoops of ice-cream on a cone, attempted to find whether “love-its” for projects are more common on Scratch than “favorites”, and told users how “talkative” they were by counting the cumulative string-length of project titles and descriptions.
We found that children, rather than making canonical visualizations such as pie-charts or bar-graphs, frequently made information representations that spoke to their own identities and aesthetic sensibilities. A 13-year-old girl had made a virtual doll dress-up game where the player’s ability to buy virtual clothes and accessories for the doll was determined by the level of their activity in the Scratch community. When we asked about her motivation for making such a project, she said:
I was trying to think of something that somebody hadn’t done yet, and I didn’t see that. And also I really like to do art on Scratch and that was a good opportunity to use that and mix the two [art and data] together.
We also found at least some evidence that the system supported self-reflection with data. For example, after seeing a project that showed its viewers a visualization of their past coding vocabulary, a 15-year-old realized that he does not do much programming with the pen-related primitives in Scratch, and wrote in a comment, “epic! looks like we need to use more pen blocks. :D.”
|Doughnut visualization||Ice-cream visualization||Data-driven doll dress up|
Additionally, we noted that that as children made and interacted with projects made with Scratch Community Blocks, they started to critically think about the implications of data collection and analysis. These conversations are the subject of another paper (also being published in CHI 2017).
In a 1971 article called “Teaching Children to be Mathematicians vs. Teaching About Mathematics”, Seymour Papert argued for the need for children doing mathematics vs. learning about it. He showed how Logo, the programming language he was developing at that time with his colleagues, could offer children a space to use and engage with mathematical ideas in creative and personally motivated ways. This, he argued, enabled children to go beyond knowing about mathematics to “doing” mathematics, as a mathematician would.
Scratch Community Blocks has not yet been launched for all Scratch users and has several important limitations we discuss in the paper. That said, we feel that the projects created by children in our the beta test demonstrate the real potential for children to do data science, and not just know about it, provide data for it, and to have their behavior nudged and shaped by it.
Rethinking Learning & Seymour at MIT yesterday. It was called ‘thinking about thinking about Seymour.
We heard from Nicholas Negroponte who said “Children of the World are our Most Precious Resource. That teaching is empowering children to think for themselves, to build confidence in their thinking, and the way Seymour Papert kept this in the fore front of his work when he talked about ‘Powerful Ideas’
Here are some of the quotable messages:
Math is a language for understanding the world’.
Programming (Scratch) is a language for learning and doing math thinking.
Here is a link to more stories from the event: https://www.media.mit.edu/videos/seymour-2017-01-26/
# apt install ssh sudo vim
# add user [username] sudo
Then set the contents of /etc/apt/sources.list to:$ wget http://archive.raspberrypi.org/debian/raspberrypi.gpg.key
$ sudo apt-key add raspberrypi.gpg.key
deb http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/ jessie main contrib non-free
deb-src http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/ jessie main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/ jessie-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/ jessie-updates main contrib non-free
4. Install the PIXEL desktop. Run:deb http://archive.raspberrypi.org/debian/ jessie main ui staging
# Uncomment line below then 'apt-get update' to enable 'apt-get source'
#deb-src http://archive.raspberrypi.org/debian/ jessie main ui
$ sudo apt updateAfter this, I exited from the ssh session and rebooted the virtual machine, again accessing it through the Virtual Machine Manager. Here is what greeted me:
$ sudo apt dist-upgrade
$ sudo apt install desktop-base pix-plym-splash
$ sudo apt install lxde dhcpcd-gtk
$ sudo apt install pi-greeter pi-package pimixer pipanel
$ sudo apt install raspberrypi-artwork raspberrypi-net-mods
$ sudo apt install raspberrypi-sys-mods raspberrypi-ui-mods
$ sudo apt install chromium
For the last 5 years the Hands of Charity Team in the Bungoma County Bukokholo village have held Vacation or Term Break Camps open to any student who shows up at the door. The schools have three breaks a year between the terms .During these breaks, children are idle and can get in trouble. Our Bungoma Hands of Charity team has provided consistently engaging Project Based Learning activities during these time periods. These children continue to learn and apply their learning to real world problems.
The first year they would drop into a village in the area to bring computers at what they called Friendly Corners. In the next years they based their heavily attended programs locally and took students into the community to examine the impact of plastic trash, study the conditions and treatment of jiggers. They learned mathematics, used Scratch programming tools, and most actively studied endangered elephants, rhinos and lions.
For several the Hands of Charity teachers requested funding to take the students and teachers to a Wildlife Park to see the animals they had learned to love and passionately depict in their art. Their village is several hours from places where they can see these species in a park. We are hoping that the funds we receive from the sale of the student art and donations will be sufficient for a trip in the near future.