Happy New Year from OLPC News


Resumen en español al final del artículo

photo by DustyDingo

As I sit here and go through our posts from 2013 instead of getting ready for tonight's celebrations I can't shake one thought from my head: It's been a weird year when it comes to One Laptop per Child.

And no, I don't mean that it's been a year in which nothing happened. However as you can tell from the low quantity of posts - in the past 12 months we've published only about two dozen articles - there haven't been too many things that got me excited enough to start writing about them. The reality is that much of what has happened has been somewhat depressing.

Even though many people within the global olpc community have denied it for much of the year it's now become painfully obvious that OLPC as an organization is very different today then it was back in 2012 and earlier. Of course different doesn't automatically mean worse but personally I can neither get excited about nor much believe in the value of the XO Tablet which is what OLPC Association in Miami largely focused on in 2013.

The core challenge that drives me remains figuring out how to integrate information and communication technologies in education in developing countries. We've learned a great deal about what works and what doesn't work through OLPC since it was launched all the way back in 2005. And I dare say the world is a better place thanks to the efforts of the organization, its employees and everyone involved in the global community.

However I feel that this year has shown that for many reasons we've reached an impasse.

OLPC Association as an organization is no longer looking at the right questions, doesn't come up with relevant answers, and has hence lost the capacity in terms of people and associated leadership role that the capital letter OLPC has had for the majority of the past few years.

As a lower-case olpc community and wider ecosystem we have not quite figured out how to deal with that change. Yes, people are working on interesting technology solutions, some of which might prove to be highly valuable down the road. But beyond that it's not clear who will solve - or at least try to solve - the tough challenges related to what I've called the six criteria for successful implementations of ICT for Education projects in developing countries:

  • Infrastructure
  • Maintenance
  • Contents and materials
  • Community inclusion
  • Teacher training
  • Evaluation

If we want to be successful we will have to address these challenges ourselves and head-on rather hoping for someone else to do it for us. After all that's the spirit that led to the creation of OLPC and everything that has happened since then in the first place.

The question - regardless of whether you're in Austria or Zambia - no longer is whether to use information and community technologies in education or not. It's about what technologies to use and even more importantly how to use them. If we want to have a say in answering these questions instead of seeing the world's classrooms filled with inappropriate devices and outdated pedagogy approaches we better up our game and focus on what's important. Else we'll find ourselves a couple of years down the road, standing on the sidelines, complaining about this missed opportunity, and wondering what we did wrong. And I don't know about you but that's not what I want to be doing come 2018.

With these thoughts in mind I wish all of you a Happy New Year and look forward to 2014! :-)

Resumen en español: Como ya estoy muy tarde para una fiesta no me queda el tiempo para hacer una traduccion al español pero si alguien tiene una pregunta que me avisan en un comentario o por correo electronico. Feliz año nuevo desde Austria!


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Has it occurred to you that the whole idea of providing computers instead of a traditional school environment is inherently flawed?

A third world kid with a computer and without a school reminds me of the guy wearing a Rolex while he waits for the bus at the corner.

Access to technology is good and necessary. The idea that every kid must have a laptop is just a sad fantasy. The OLPC nightmare has done more damage than good and it's time to put an end to the waste of other people's money.

I'm not too sure about that.

A couple of facts and thoughts to set some points of reference to delimit a space to make out if it makes sense or not to make sure every kid has at least a One Laptopschool Per Child or not.

1. Basic education is a universally accepted human right / right of every kid on the planet.

2. I'd love to see every kid in a good school. But reality is that trained teachers often disappear to the private sector because education is paid so low in many regions it can't pay for the teachers' living. A surrogate teacher steps in who has no teacher training, hasn't finished primary education him/herself, no blackboard or the chark is missing and a class of somewhere between 40 to 240 kids with no books and some have a pen.

3. Cost= € 162.60 for the XO Laptop pivoting and folding back into an ebook and tablet, incl. cover and ±30 € for the PV panel. With an average life-time of 7 years: #So, 1 XO laptop = about 190€ /7 years= ±27 €/yr= 2,26 €/month.student. With that he/she has ALL school- and exercise books for ALL its school-career in the form of ebooks as part of the 1000 ebooks the 9 GB flash memory can hold, and a touch screen & track-pad on which to exercise writing/drawing/etc. No, I don't think it looks like a Rolex on a person waiting a bus.

4. XO deployments are very attractive to statisticians who's organizations would pay partially for deployments, companies and governments that need CO2e certificates, etc. Several studies show that every 1€ invested in a kid's education comes out multi-fold the first year that now educated kid comes on the labor market in the form of additional revenues for the state in the form of taxes as the educated kid will start buying goods on which the state can levy taxes.

5. OLPC makes sure the best laptop for kids exists, and it's open source soft and hardware. It's not just a laptop for kids in developing countries. It's the best laptop-tablet out there for kids EVERYWHERE. And if your country, your kids don't have one ... your kids are on the wrong ship ! And the kids in Uruguay, Peru, Rwanda, several Island states and soon Australia who ALL have an OLPC XO-XS laptop are on another boat and it's not their boat that's called Titanic. What do you want: your kids to learn how to work with open source, or with microsoft? To read the wikipedia or to also be able to find out how the wikipedia comes about, how the images appear? THAT is the difference between OLPC kids or iPad/Microsoft kids. Our kids in the West are on the WRONG boat !

6. Several experiments have shown kids find out how these laptops work and for sure how to read a book on them, especially if they're in group one thing leads to another.

7. It's not only the kids. The kids take these laptops to home, to their parents, grand parents, uncles, etc. If there is not good "traditional" teacher at school, maybe there's one at the family level.

8. With a wifi-laptop-tablet and PV panel, you bring a VERY valuable instrument in the heart of every family: families all of a sudden find out what they're producing is worth 500% more than they thought, their family revenues increase, etc. Did you know this year 2014 is the UN international Year for Family Farming? I couldn't think of a better moment to make the connexions ...

I hope it's going to be a great year for OLPC and olpc.

As I and others have said many times before it's not about "providing computers instead of a traditional school environment" but integrating the former into the latter.

Hasn't it occurred to you that this is the 21st Century?

The brick-and-mortar school house model is out of date. Millions of students are enrolling in online education, high schools, and colleges. You and the Neanderthals can stay in the past with your pens and pencils.

1. The school library is no longer needed.

2. The Internet brings the great libraries of the world to one's screen, 24/7.

3. Text books are no longer needed because they are out of date by the time the students spend $100s of dollars on them.

4. Classrooms are a waste of time. Why travel to attend school when you can do it at home, at anytime, any place?

This is an important thought:
"If we want to be successful we will have to address these challenges ourselves and head-on rather hoping for someone else to do it for us"

With that in mind and since the X0+Sugar complete experience is still available, and personally the best machine around for learning;we need to tackle the 6 criterias for N=1 or N=1,000000 deployments in both poor and rich nations. That is my starting point for 2014, while mindful that future things are brewing up. The power is NOW in 2014. I am sure OLPC Association knows what the XO still have to offer. They need to make new decisions and strategy. Once the ROI of XO-Tablet is known with sales figure available minds will change.

In the meantime XO4All & XoD

Can't we have confidence in the kids in Uruguay, Peru, Ruanda, several Island States, and soon Australia who have ALL an XO-XS?
Getting those first deployments out there is always the most difficult. Frankly I can't see how neighbouring countries can stay behind when living next to a country where 100% of the kids have an XO-XS?!

Well said T.K.!

I think the focus on hardware and software of the OLPC (or the ideal version of the hardware/software) is only part of the system of helping educate children.

There is a need to also bring in the expectations, needs and motivations of the teachers, parents, and culture of the society in which they live.

Too often the headline is about the purchase of cool technology (eg. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-ipads-survey-20131202,0,2314290.story ). Good that there is an understanding of the need for hardware & software, as you say "The question no longer is whether to use information and community technologies in education or not." But there also needs to be thought and action on how to _use_ the technology to improve and enhance the lives of people.

My thoughts exactly.

of course and that's also one of the questions/stages to go through/foreseen to be taken into account in the http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Category:Deployment_planning

Thank you.
A good pen, sharp mind and a productive year to all here at olpc and OLPC.

Can you help out bringing a 100 candidate buyers of an XO together here in Europe? I've started an ordering list at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Europe


Where is the list? I want to buy 2 XO Tablets

I'm based in Brussels. I attend the EU Greenweek, the EU Development Days, the EU Sustainable Energy Week and the EU Culture Days ... there are all the respective open door days I'd call them from the Directorate Generals you can imagine that relate to them. I always talk about OLPC at these conferences. You can count upon me for doing that again in 2014. If you find any conference happening here in Brussels and you can get OLPC into a speaker position, you can count upon me. Getting in speaker positions where you can really show the project with slides and all is a matter of being early in submitting and contacting the organizers. That's not always easy as I'm just an individual and no organization supporting me for that. I still find it amazing how little high ranked people know about OLPC... we have to get the word and news out more and that's what I'm going to continue working on in 2014. All my efforts I try to find the time to document them on the wiki.laptop.org Hope to find you there !

The biggest problem with OLPC I have is that there is next to no possibility to support small projects with OLPC.
- No option to purchase small amounts of laptops.
- No option to buy spare parts in smaller quantities.

The OLPC organization only seems to be interested in BIG projects and counts per container instead per child.

What if all those smaller projects could benefit from OLPC? 100 times 50 also makes 50,000 laptops. (but that basic math seems not valid in OLPC headquarters)

I can understand OLPC very well, they and many other organizations/fund providers really don't understand that anno 2014 we stay soo long soo small. I mean in the USA, idem EU, there are about 250.000 not for profit organizations! All begging/applying/filling out forms for grants and money. 250.000 in the USA alone and about 250.000 in the EU. Try to deal with that as a foundation, USAid or EU. There is a BIG need for management in these 250.000 mostly microscopic ngo's to learn about scaling-up, opening up their organizations to people and teams, about mergers and creative compensation/remuneration formulas. Because let's be honest, many of these organizations are about a little group of people that need their organization to pay them a salary or they are hoping for that.

Sorry Sven, but going big like for instance USAid, isn't always the answer either.
In Senegal I was confronted with a MS Multipoint server with 6 USB thin clients literally _dropped_ in a school.
result: 6 clients NOT used for education and a server full of downloaded films and music for sharing among the teachers. Furthermore an operating system that didn't fit into the existing ict infrastructure of the school.

You don't need a bunch of servers and clients without any support. If organizations like USAid waste money like that, it is WAY WAY better to have some small foundations that give the necessary backup and support instead of a huge organization that lost track of its projects.

I don't need to be lectured about that. USaid and EUropeAid have budgets dedicated to them. They are very experienced. They do have to continue on a certain moment with those that DO fill-out their grant forms. I don't know the specific case, but I can tell you that MANY projects that receive grants from the USAid and EuropeAid and fail is because organizations that claimed they were going to deliver on the ground, go bust even after receiving the first funding and that is because they are too small. Internal fighting being one of the causes and teams explode with parties wandering out, not even making a report to get to the second slice of the funding to which they were entitled. Another reason is that the representative team from the specific country behaved EXCESSIVELY corrupt and that's why the second slice of funding never followed-up.
USAid and EuropAid are VERY frustrated about this. It has NOTHING to do about them. Mind before pointing arrows and reinforcing the image that these specialists at USAid and EuropAid are idiots.

Rob, you are from Europe. Try to explain to the small OLPC foundation who's only mission it is to make sure the OLPC XO-XS remains and open source and hardware project, gets upgraded, orders can be placed and if there's spare capacity to help out the poorest nations with an olpc xo-xs deployment. Try to explain to OLPC that you - an EU citizen with some 250.000 fellow not for profits in your European Union and some 375 million fellow EU citizens cannot - anno 2014 since the birth of little Jezus Christ - and all the communication technologies and networks you have at your disposal, can't make it happen that you/we European's get ourselves organized into ordering 1 little container of 20 feet that holds - boy oh boy - 3.000 XO's. That would be - let me check - Quantity:
*100+ @ $205/XO ±€145
*1.000+ @ $195/XO ±€143
*10.000+ @ $185/XO ±€135

so 3.000 x €143 = € 429.000 and change to get it shipped over here to rich Europe, and redistribute them in smaller quantities to the olpc community in europe and the eu educational landscape and the 250.000 ngo landscape in Europe.

So there is not 1 of these 250.000 EU ngo's that can be motivated to fill-out a grant form with at the EU DG of Education or EUropeAid or a national grant?

But let's all get our finger's up to what and how poor people and developing countries have to to/organize themselves?

Please team-up, put your names, I've even started a table where you can list yourself and the numbers of laptops you want from a container size order for the EU in: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Europe

I'm working on several tracks:
1. cf. the above initiative
2. I'm writing to all the big ngo's in Europe if it wouldn't make sense for them to develop an olpc dpt in their organizations
3. I'm contacting the leaders in the EU educational landscape, including the EU ministries of education, ALL of them.
4. The grants for Educational initiatives from the EU Directorate General of Education that is NOW, this month we have to fill them out.

But I could use a little help !

Sven, please refrain from using the f-word here!

where is the edit button? How can I edit my text?

You can't edit them but if you want I can log in and remove the two words...

Let me see if I get this right:

- USA: they won the XO-XS design competition
- USA: their rich and smart people e.g. MIT they set-up the OLPC foundation
- Asia: they mass produce the XO-XS and several xo-xs labs/seed/community deployments
- Latin America: Uruguay/Peru and several countries there are following the about 100% XO-XS deployment
- Africa: Rwanda, about 100% XO-XS deployment, several xo-xs labs/seed/community deployments

Can you remind me what the EU / EU Educational landscape / EU Open source community / EU foundations - ngo's - not for profits etc. are / have been doing?

Can the XO laptops and tablet PCs be simple and loaded with traditional primary school lessons only? Math, science, languages, and some beginning humanities?

Why load the the laptops and tablet PCs with unnecessary software programs that drive the cost high?

Elementary school children in developing countries are not interested in the modern conveniences (bells and whistles) that are offering too many services (apps) but cannot apply to their way of life.

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