Archive for March, 2009

First OLPC-UK community meeting

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Thanks to Michael Jordan and others, we’ll soon be one step closer to having an OLPC community in the UK!

Our first meeting has been organised in central London, with the purpose of getting to know each other and discussing the possible roles and projects of an OLPC-UK community organisation.

Location: The Coach and Horses pub near Tottenham Court Road.
Date: Wednesday, 8th April, 2009, 6pm – 8.30pm

For full information, see the OLPC-UK wiki page.

The meeting open to the public, but please RSVP in advance.
Unfortunately I will not be attending this time, as I’ll still be in Paraguay, but I’m eager to see this succeed. Many thanks to everyone who can contribute and attend!

OLPCorps & Jamii OLPC

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

OLPCorps is a new student program being run by OLPC this summer. Groups of students team up to design, implement and manage deployments of 100 laptops in African countries.

I’m applying for the program through the Jamii OLPC team. Assuming our proposal is accepted, we’ll be working at a remote school in Tanzania. I’m looking forward to applying my experience on other OLPC deployments to this challenging project where our small team literally has to do everything from the ground up.

We’re looking for a pedagogial lead to head up our project on the learning and school-integration side of things. Are you interested, or do you know anyone that would be?

OLPC Paraguay: an overdue introduction

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

As I mentioned briefly before, I’m helping out with the One Laptop per Child implementation in Paraguay for 3 months. I’ve been here for a few weeks and have decided it’s time to properly introduce the project!

A dedicated new organization known as ParaguayEduca is heading up the operation. It’s mostly young people, full of energy and ideas. Within the organization there are people working on the educational side of things, there is a skilled technical team, and also there are people handling the many logistical/administrative/political aspects that surround such a project. They have all aspects covered and have been extremely helpful in helping me to settle, adjust to the extreme climate, and visit different parts of this lesser-known country.

The goal of the organization does not need explanation: to improve education by implementing One Laptop per Child for every child in Paraguay.

The launch of the project was made possible thanks to a donation of 4000 laptops from SWIFT. These laptops will be deployed in the city of Caacupé, the capital of the Cordillera department. Caacupé is usually a tranquil city but is well known for its church (Basilica de Caacupé) and livens up for some religious festivals.

We are working in 10 schools in Caacupé, approximately 3600 children and 150 teachers. This covers over 50% of the city. As is typical for OLPC deployments, the children get to take the laptops home and share with their family. The government supports the project and has installed electrical infrastructure at all the schools, and good relationships with Personal, a major telecommunications company, has resulted in full internet connectivity in all 10 schools. The organization also has great links with media, frequently appearing on the front page of national newspapers, and on national TV.

Caacupé teacher training. Photo by Rodolfo D. Arce S.The teachers are a major strength to the project here; they are very excited about the laptops, and even gave up 4 weeks of their vacations to attend laptop training sessions. The training featured a lot of internet-based activities, and was carried out by 20 “formadores,” local people recruited by ParaguayEduca in order to train the teachers.

So far, I have been mostly working on technical aspects – preparing the software image, networking, and harnessing the very latest OLPC technology to ease the deployment. I also worked on bundling up 300+ stories from local culture for distribution on the laptops.

The laptops have arrived in port, and we are currently preparing the warehouse for the mass installation of software. Laptops will be handed out to children in the next few weeks, and I’ll be sure to write more about the upcoming events as they happen!

Mythical tales of Paraguay

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

The organization implementing One Laptop per Child here in Paraguay has established many useful contacts. One such contact is Guillermo Sequera, a very experienced traveller-researcher who has spent more than 20 years in the Paraguayan countryside studying the native people. He has collected many short stories of their culture, some mythical and some more factual.

The OLPC project is a great way to share cultural knowledge and history, so we’re using this opportunity to share 300+ of these stories (translated from obscure local languages into Spanish) on the XO laptops that we’ll soon be distributing.

I have been enjoying reading some of these in order to practice my Spanish. Here is a sample story which I’ve translated to English:

Nuwÿr ahnápsÿro xy doxyt
told by Ramon Chuwehe Zeballos Bibi
Original language: Yxyr Ahwoso

All of the Ahnápsÿro people are sons and daughters of two fish named Tobwich and Delybyta. When these fish are out of the water, they convert into people, and when they are below the water, they are fish.

There is a fish named Alpuhu that emits a sound “oho, oho, oho.” There is another fish that says “hmau, hmau, hmau.” These are the Kykybo fish, for this reason I tell them that all of the ahnápsÿro people are fish and all of the fish are Ahnápsÿro.

In recent times, we are afraid when we see the fish, and when we don’t see them, we are not afraid. They also keep their distance from us, but there are some that poison us, as if to leave their mark in the form of a scar. And only the shamans are those that can remove the venom. These shamans are sons of Delybyta, and are the origin of the Ahnápsÿro people.

I have bundled these up and published an initial .xol content bundle called Relatos de Paraguay. Community involvement in cleaning this up would be much appreciated! For example, while some stories are on their own individual pages, there are other pages which include many stories, which is not ideal when you want to resume reading another time.