In August 2008 a small OLPC XO deployment project was started in Russia. A group of Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogic University professors has taught 32 students from Nizhny Novgorod how to use XOs in a summer camp environment. The project was launched in a field facility of Nizhny Novgorod State University in Staraya Pustyn village in Nizhny Novgorod region.
The XOs were used in 1:1 mode and each summer camp student became an owner of an XO for 10 days. The XO based summer camp activities included taking pictures of the plants and animals met in field trip, writing stories about their impressions and experiences, collecting and processing GIS data in the camp neighborhood, measuring sound volume and programming in Scratch. All the stories and pictures were stored in a mediawiki run in a local wi-fi network. All 32 students registered in the mediawiki and used the hypertext environment to collaborate with others.
We taught the students how to use Browse, Write, Record, Draw, Measure and Scratch activities. Most of them found and started to use Chat through the mesh network in their free time. Several students studied Distance and Etoys themselves.
The XO proved to be a very effective device for a learning summer camp. Its design and display features allow its use in the field environment. Our students put XOs in small back sacks if they had to walk somewhere and used the handles carrying them around the camp. We still found some problems with the touchpad on one XO (we had to use a USB mouse on this machine). Sometimes XOs lost connection to the local network, which in all cases was solved simply by rebooting the machine. The kids loved the XOs. There was not a single case of XO loss or damage.
This summer camp became not only the first deployment of XOs in Russia (among 54 known XOs in Russia 53 were with us). It was the first full scale 1:1 learning project. It was supported by about 20 teachers, students and volunteers from Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg and Moscow and became an important step in building 1:1 teachers/learners community in Russia.
The project has become possible only because of generous support of a Dutch charity foundation "Making Miles for Millenium", which provided the project team with 50 XOs and the other infrastructural equipment.
Update: Thanks to Ton van Overbeek for pointing us to this Picasa gallery with many more photos from the XO summer camp. See the comments below the story for more links to reports, photos and galleries about the summer camp.
Boris Yarmakhov is a professor of Nizhny Novgorod State University and OLPC volunteer.