One Laptop Per Uruguayan Child

   
   
   
   
   
olpc uruguay
OLPC XO in Uruguay

Congratulations to Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay. He was able to fulfill his dream of joining Argentina and Brazil in OLPC trails. Last Thursday he inaugurated the first Uruguayan one-to-one laptop school in Ceibal, Uruguay.

The small community school of 150 children was overwhelmed with media and interest as the computers were rolled out to the students - a great fanfare that will assuredly be short-term "energy" in schools. Walter Bender has already found an interesting success story:

Despite the fact that none of the teachers have had experience with computing, they diagnosed a bug in the software: a few of the machines were hanging - nothing could get them to boot fully. The teachers discovered that this was only happening to children with a tilde or ñ in their names. An impressive example of teachers learning to learn! (The bug has been fixed.)
While the One Laptop Per Child team is basking in the publicity, they shouldn't get too excited by all the positive press. As OLPC - Ceibal reports (via Google translation):
In front of them the 3 models of laptops were exposed that are selected for the project (OLPC/XO, Classmate and ITP-C)...Soon it was explained that the equipment purchase will be defined in calls to international solicitation, being made first next. For the pilot of Villa Cardal 200 equipment XO will be used that was donated. It confirmed that as much Classmate as ITP-C also donated equipment.
That's right, Presidents loving laptops doesn't equal Minister's buying OLPC's, the Children's Machine will have to prove it worth against other one to one computing options. Slashdot reports there could even be direct OLPC educational testing:
As adviser and local guru Juan Grompone stated, 'who will ultimately benefit from this is education?' This will be an interesting test to see if the OLPC project meets its intended goals of 'learning learning'. Let's hope this project is the means that will foster among some of the children the desire to learn and to tinker."
olpc Uruguay
Cute kids & laptops but ugly ties
Especially if Uruguay is going to spend $15 million on student computers. A budget that would only cover 85,000 children with $175 laptops, or only 10% of Uruguay's students. At least the OLPC XO recipients will have a shot at using Sugar. Slashdot reports that Intel is pushing another operating system:
In a press conference, Intel manager for the southern cone Esteban Galluzzi went as far as to compare the XO to a Pentium II, and stressed that the Classmate is able to run Windows XP.
Hmm.. maybe now you understand why Negroponte says Windows XP runs on the OLPC and yet Miscorsoft does not. I say he's playing to some purchasing minister somewhere, like maybe Uruguay.

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23 Comments

Wow!
This is just a great way to begin a week!
Guys, please have a look of this 'iconic' photo of Uruguayan children with the XOs in their hands
http://picasaweb.google.es/pflores2/EntregaDeLaptopsEnVillaCardal/photo#5063721216115103522

Beautiful.
The whole series of pictures and the news I read in the Ceibal blog made me return to the moment I decided to fight for this cause.

Seeing those kids’ faces just makes me deeply happy. I know some of you will be soon commenting on the many failures and unanswered issues related with the OLPC project, but believe me, none of those concerns really matter to those kids now. At least for today, I'm joinning them. Their happiness and the hopes that this event triggers is the most important consideration.

Have a great week,

LR

These pictures confirm my own personal experiences here in Nepal. Once parents, teachers, and kids actually get to use an XO, they really appreciate them and they really use them.

Maybe Uruguay hasn't committed to OLPC over the ITP-C or Classmate, but OLPC is making the big splash in Uruguay and Brazil. You don't see those kids excitedly holding up Classmates. Why aren't there pics on the web of kids excited about their Classmates? Intel certainly has the cash for a big PR effort. I suspect it is because the Classmate and the applications that ship w/ it just do not excite people (and kids) like the XO does.

Can anyone post a detailed review of the stock applications on the Classmate? A lot people are very critical of OLPC for various aspects, but at least OLPC let's us know what it is doing. As Roland noted, collaboration is at the heart of OLPC. I feel that we know very little about the Intel Classmate, specifically the learning applications it has and that Intel intends to deploy.

While some criticize OLPC for not having a standard implementation plan, does Intel have one? and are they willing to share it w/ the rest of us? Even if they intend to sell them in small units, they would need an implementation plan to integrate them into classroom activities, digitize the national curriculum, etc.

"the Children's Machine will have to prove it worth against other one to one computing options"

Intel has allocated $1B to push the Classmate. XOs have to be bought for a real price. Sounds like it might become a tough match.

To my paranoid mind, I interpret this as indicating that Intel themselves do not see their own Classmates as real competition on merits alone.

But a comparison is always nice (still, I know of too many rigged tests to be very confident of the quality either way)

I have some questions about the Classmate (I don't seem to be able to get at independent information). Anyone here knows more about it?

- I am not sure about the school server needed for the Classmate (or the third option). The XO needs a server at school, but can use an XO as a server. Can the classmate do that too?

- How about internet access? The XOs have a wifi range of ~1000m with mesh capabilities. How is internet access organized for the classmate?

My fear is that the Classmate will be effectively a school-only solution, ie, students won't be able to use them at home. (eg, no internet, no anti-theft properties with a standard laptop, other safety and security considerations)

- With XP, security and student safety might become a problem for the Classmate. Let alone the environmental and safety problems of ordinary PC components.

- For instance, there was a lot of extra work to produce an XO display that did not contain poisonous substances and battery selection was based more on safety than on capacity. But the Classmate looks just like a rugged, stripped down standard laptop. Has this been evaluated?

For a real comparison, it would be necessary to collect relevant information on maintenance, parts, and (educational) software and training for the Classmate. All areas where the XO has drawn extended fire. But I have difficulty finding this information.

I could find these links, but they stall at the price and HW specs. Nothing about the questions that would make the real difference:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070305-acomparison-of-olpcs-xo-laptop-and-intels-classmate-pc.html
http://www.itweek.co.uk/vnunet/news/2185212/intel-targets-low-cost
http://www.itweek.co.uk/vnunet/news/2186476/intel-ships-first-olpc

I am really sorry, but reading this material still makes it sound as if the Classmate is a me-too project without much thought of the needs, education, and safety of the children.

I can't even find ANY reference to localization of the Classmates for the children. That is, many of the children most in need won't be able to use it in their own language. Maybe THAT is the reason Intel took RH on board of the Classmate (next to software security).

Winter

Luis,
of course it is a nice picture to see happy kids. You could also achieve this by giving them a piece of chocolate or play a game with them. But don't let their smiles cloud your judgment. An education project is not about short term happiness but about letting the children become happy people for their whole life, which of course does not prohibit the kids to be happy in the short term, too. But I know, you are aware of this and just got carried away by those happy faces.

Bryan,
of course you are right that Classmate and others have so far shown even less hard facts than OLPC and they should be required to show the same facts as OLPC. I also think that the Classmate project is not that far progressed as OLPC. They are maybe one year or more behind. Of course they would not admit that because they want to slow down OLPC by making the countries to invite for public tenders giving them time to catch up and getting their foot in the door.

The positive side is that the countries get a choice and with it a stronger position to require answers for their questions. OLPC's rather arrogant attitude towards such questions in the past can finally be broken. This way OLPC gets the (involuntary) chance to prove its superiority by hard facts what could become their final break through.

Was a paragraph clipped from Bryan's comment? The logical conclusion to his last statement would be that OLPC will also need an implementation plan, etc.

And what of the fact that "we know very little" about Intel's "learning applications" - how much do we know about OLPC's learning applications? The fact that they not only have none, but state that they don't need them, because the students will "learn learning" with no involvement by adults, should give Bryan pause in his uncritical support of OLPC.

Yes, the pictures show the kids smiling as they hold up the cute laptops for the camera. This does not mean that the computers are of any use to the kids - specifically that they are of use to them in a way that furthers the educational goals of their societies.

Walter Bender seems to equate "learning learning" with describing a problem that causes the machines to freeze. He is delighted that even teachers can display this behavior.

I have a strong suspicion that anything short of the laptops bursting into flames would be cause for ecstatic pronouncements from uncritical OLPC supporters as to how all claims have now been justified.

Lee Felsenstein wrote:
"I have a strong suspicion that anything short of the laptops bursting into flames would be cause for ecstatic pronouncements from uncritical OLPC supporters as to how all claims have now been justified."

But how would this equate with, eg, the Classmate, which seems to have nothing for it except $1B of Intel and XP? And we don't even have proof of those two. Has anybody actually seen XP running in a useful fashion on the Classmate?

We DO know a lot about the OLPC, even the things some argue are missing.

We do NOT know anything about the Classmate except it is hardware shipped into classrooms. We cannot say anything meaningful about whether or not the Classmate could be useful, or is even USED by the kids&teachers as we know litterally NOTHING about it.

We even do not know whether they are prone to bursting into flames. And at least THAT problem has been openly studied by the OLPC project (they even switched batteries to prevent it).

Talk about being open and up front about projects. Please, can anyone explain to me why a completely open project like the OLPC draws all the fire, while a completely closed and secretive project like the Classmate is hailed? Is it my ignorance of propaganda and politics that I don't understand this?

Winter

OLPC has tons of learning applications and content. There actually is tons of info about the applications for OLPC on the wiki. There are a great number of books, knowledgebases, and learning applications. Etoys, TamTam, Block Party, are only a few examples. I recommend you check it out at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Educational_content_ideas
and dev.laptop.org

As far as implementation plans, it really should be up to countries themselves. A group of Nepalis are working it out for Nepal right now and I have a birds' eye view of their work. It has convinced me that an outside group would not be able to marshal the available resources and deal w/ the political realities of a specific country.

I know this is not a complete answer but I have to get back to work. will try to answer it more fully later

Wayan, I have to be sincere with you: I just don't understand what you say in most of your posts. I don't know if you are trying to focus the discussion in politics and corruption. I don't get which are the good and the bad aspects you find in 1-to-1 computing for education. In fact, I just don't understand your approach for education. I've read many of your posts, and get confused once and again.
However, most of this stuff just doesn't matter for the children we gave laptops last thursday. I don't say it because they were happy and excited - anyone could expect something else?. But in mid-term and long-term, what may change their lives or not is the experience they get in the classroom and the way the rest of the society - their parents, their friends, their authorities - help them to have a better life.
1-to-1 computing is here, let's face it. Is it an experiment? Of course it is. So, instead of just critizising what adults are doing, I prefer working for children within the project. Everyone can do it, that's one of the adventages of OLPC open conception.
By the way, I think that being close to children is an experience that cannot be transmited in a blog, so I encourage you to experiment it personally.

Pablo,

I too think one -to-one computing has promise. What worries me is that communities, countries are confusing hype and hope with actual results, spending multi-millions on mistakes already learned in the process.

Every single successful technology introduction program has the same lesson learned: focus on people, process, outcomes, not the technology. OLPC is disregarding this long-standing guidance, risking your dreams and mine.

Pablo,
I did not quite get what you are saying.
Is it as follows?:

> Don't criticize OLPC because it is going to happen anyway. We have to accept that 1-to-1 computing in school is a reality whether we already know how it works out in the end or not. Instead of criticizing we better spend time with the kids and help them. <

Isn't this pretty fatalistic?
It is like saying: I don't know what the consequences of our actions are and I don't care. And those, who want to find out, better stop and help to make it happen faster.

That's like closing your eyes and hitting the accelerator in your car? That's not a good recipe for getting to your destination without hurting anyone.

"focus on people, process, outcomes, not the technology."

I think the OLPC has been doing that to levels never seen before in the IT industry.

They build a tool directed at children. They also made sure the software was useful and safe for small children. And everyone seem to agree that the tool is indeed captivating to children and adults alike.

What you are criticizing the OLPC for is for not implementing an educational policy.

But even my own neat and clean country came on the brink of a civil war over governement influence over schools. Do you really think MIT can even hint at educational policies without all hell braking loose in the target countries?

Winter

Pablo, to stretch that car metaphor a bit more you should imagine it with the kids on board that you have to drive to their destination and the car was funded by poor tax payers. If you crash the car and hurt the kids you will never be allowed to drive again and nobody would ever fund you and your car again.

I.e. if OLPC or a similar project fails computers will be banned from classrooms for a long time and the children have the disadvantage. If such projects miss their goals but nobody recognizes it or dares to admit it then the children also have the disadvantage.
So its better to plan the journey well before you blast off.

I'm glad to see countries taking the time to investigate the several options available to them. It is the smart thing to do.

As always, there will be hype, lies, misrepresentations and lots of hot air from the different sides, but at least there is some sort of due diligence taking place.

Those are good news.

Not educational policy, Winter, but implementation guidelines.

We have, from years of integrating technology into countries both developing and "developed", a body of knowledge that says if you give a technology to a community, you need to spend much time, effort, and energy on adjusting that culture to the technology for it to succeed.

This process is exponentially more important if its a technolgoy driven by a top-down approach, where the technology is owned by every single member of one cohort in a community that is unfamiliar with the impacts of the new technology.

Guidance that would be offensive if at the micro level or dictating educational content, is invaluable at the macro and mid-level to make sure that the confidence boost felt by a community when they first spy the flashy-shiny thing from the West, is transformed into broad, long-term success.

So far OLPC has hid behind national sovereignty to escape responsibility for implementation guidelines. A focus on laptops, not education: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/press/debate_laptop_education.html

Winter,

May I remind you that the OLPC has an educational policy behind? All the debates about the "Trojan Horse" comments are about that: they are trying to change education into what they consider to be the right way.

I agree with Negroponte that this is not about the computer, not even about 1 to 1 computing. It is about changing the fabric of education itself. And that's precisely what I dislike about OLPC. It's pretty rich to say that you want to change education and then state that implementation is a matter to countries.

Also, I have to concur with Lee about the silliness of Walter Bender's comment about "learning" and the ñ bug. C'mon... That can be done even with an IBM XT running DOS! I've seen it happening and the ones that realized that there was a problem, and even fixed it, are not necessarily better for that.

I guess Walter Bender's comment about "learn learing" due to the ñ bug is not to be taken literally. It is rather a defense tactics because he might fear that the critics eat OLPC alive for still having such basic bugs. And because it is already public and true he can't hide or deny it either. So he tries to make a success story out of it. That's propaganda tactics (nowadays called PR).

As Lee has commented:
"I have a strong suspicion that anything short of the laptops bursting into flames would be cause for ecstatic pronouncements from uncritical OLPC supporters as to how all claims have now been justified."

This may look smart for the short term. In the long run OLPC looses credibility because with every further OLPC statement everybody will first have to check whether this is another twisted story and what has been hidden. That makes everything harder for OLPC not easier. They will be questioned about every statement and are forced to prove every small bit by hard facts otherwise nobody will believe it.

Hi,

The official info about Classmate PC can be found here. I'm pointing to the anti-theft technology which as I said before, looks stronger to me than XOs
http://www.classmatepc.com/classmatepc-system-software-theft.html

As you probably remember I have with me both machines so answering Winter's question: the Intel laptop works great with the XP on it. Not sure what they did to make that miracle happen, but I don't perceive any performance difference compared with my other computers running XP. However, the Classmate I've using doesn't have any of the " heavy" applications of more standard laptops.

One cool stuff I didn't mention in my previous evaluation http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/chile/olpc_and_classmate_pc.html was the NOTE TAKER. It's a device that allows you to write in any paper with a pen that send your writting to the machine. Here's the official description :
"Students use a real pen to draw, sketch, and take notes that are viewed and stored in digital format."

Anyway, now you made me talk about technology again. And I hate it. I prefer to talk about how kids are getting involved in this project. So thanks Pablo (from Uruguay) for bringing the good news from the front line.

lr

Wayan, I just don't think that having some guidelines from the MIT would help us much. Computers are good, software is well conceibed but... if the adopting countries don't have a real commitment with the project and work hard to make it go well with their own reality, project may just fail. This is not a problem of Negroponte, it is a problem of international politics. So, before saying ironically "Congratulations to Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay. He was able to fulfill his dream of joining Argentina and Brazil in OLPC trails.", I expect that you really have analyzed how things are being done here.

I've been asked many times "what you think of inserting international education programs in your schools", and that's exactly what no country should do. These laptops are a great tool. We are starting to use them, and we have the great challenge of making it good. So it's great analyzing all previous experiences. Personally, I also expect Uruguayan experience to help other countries to make things better.

If you want to know where would I put the focus of discussion in this moment, take a look at this post: http://olpc-ceibal.blogspot.com/2007/05/competition-between-laptops-software.html

I'd like to draw attention to Roland's comment:

"...if OLPC or a similar project fails computers will be banned from classrooms for a long time and the children have the disadvantage."

Those are indeed the stakes here, notjust our egos. Bryan, I'm on record as suporting the approach taken by OLPC Nepal, but we don't seem to see OLPC telling candidate countries that they will need one or more such efforts (there's no need to be exclusive) inorder to implement OLPC. They're just trying to gain "mindshare" quickly by showing picturesof smiling kids.

Luis Ramirez wrote:
"I'm pointing to the anti-theft technology which as I said before, looks stronger to me than XOs"

It is very reassuring that the Classmate is secured against theft. The system used looks a lot like the one at the XO (as far as I can see): Locking up the bios if it doesn't get a signed certificate.

Remains to see how XP will stack up. However, the Classmate can be gotten with Linux, so that would also help a lot.

Winter

What is the Classmate's anti-theft technology? pls let us know.

Although the Classmate can run Linux, how committed is Intel to Linux and what applications have they tested on the distribution they intend to use? and what Linux apps do they intend distribute out-of-the-box?

"What is the Classmate's anti-theft technology? pls let us know."

For what I understand about it:

Both the XO and the Classmate have BIOS (ie, flashed boot programs) that check for cryptographically signed certificates. These certificates are time limited. Before the certificate expires, the laptop should have contacted a server computer to obtain a new certificate.

If the certificate is revoked by the server, or expires, the BIOS will lock up the computer. The computer has to be reinitialized with a valid (actually, the same) user id and a new certificate.

This works BEFORE the operating system is loaded. The only way around this security is to replace the BIOS (actually, the firmware to run the motherboard). Flashing new firmware is tricky, and in the XO requires cryptographic keys related to an ID burned into the hardware (I don't know the classmate implementation).

To get around this security, you will have to open up the laptops and flash alternative firmware directly to the chips with special (expensive) tools. This is doable, but only profitable if you can do it on an industrial scale.

Of course, security is a process, not a product. There will inevitably be holes found in this security. This is an arms race, in which the white hats currently have the initiative.

Bitfrost documentation can be found here:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Bitfrost

Winter

I should have checked before I posted. My previous post contains some factual errors.; Here is the link:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Bitfrost#P_THEFT:_anti-theft_protection

The XO is locked down by a special deamon process that cannot be altered by root. You need a laptop ID specific developer key to disable this daemon.

A developer key that can be requested from the OLPC, but will only be given out after a delay long enough to prevent stolen laptops from getting the key.

The firmware (BIOS) is indeed cryptographically signed and the XO won't flash new firmware without a certificate.

Winter

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