Here are some impressions and lessons learned from their experience. The main point is that the kids like to blog! We really need to hear what they have to say too! They need some help making that easier. See below for ways to sign up to make that happen.
The XO roll out started in May in Villa Cardal with 150 children. Phase 2 is underway now. Targets for deployment are 150K XOs in 2008 and 300K in the field by the end of 2009.
It went better than expected for the first 150 children and 6 teachers. The level of teacher engagement is critical to generate excitement and XO use by the children. Children used the XO much more when the teacher was motivated. Classes with younger children used it less than older children.
Teachers had the choice about when they wanted to use the laptop. The only directives were:
- The teacher chooses the moment the laptops are used. However, they are encouraged to use them.
- The laptops are used as a tool. They don't substitute books and notepads, and the curriculum doesn't change.
The training is done by the IT department and teachers with specialization in ICTs for education. The emphasis is on how to teach with the XO, not the technical aspects of how the XO works. The teachers don't want to be technicians and are not comfortable with technology. That said, they have to be comfortable using the tool (XO).
The best way to train in technology is to start with small groups. After initial training they created working teams to visit school during class time. After a few training sessions, the teachers felt comfortable with the XO and didn't need further technical support.
There is a vision of school based portals and regional and national sites for collaboration. Some may be cached or served from the school while others are served centrally. They have open issues with managing teacher accounts and needing too many passwords so the portal design work is ongoing.
There was a lot of interest in blogging. A technician created the blog and only one google account. Then, teachers and children could post by themselves. See the Villa Cardal blogs here
The kids want to keep on blogging! However UI issues are a barrier. Pablo and I wrote up an overview of the challenge and a set of requirements to address them. Please comment and add to it as needed.
They want help from the community to build new software to address these needs. I want to create a team of supporters for this deployment.
If you can participate sign up at our Uruguay XO Coordination group. We need developers, project managers, artists, UI designers, Spanish speakers and anyone else interested in helping out.
If we can be responsive to this first request we can develop a close relationship and we can learn a lot from each other about how to make the XO a success around the world!
Other technical and infrastructure comments:
- School server must be the gateway for all internet traffic as for security (firewall/NAT and filtering). The filtering is done by Dansguardian.
- There is no web caching done on the school server right now.
- Each school in the project must have internet access. Most schools have 1 Mb/s. Cardal has 2 Mb/s. BW is set depending on size of the school. So far, no problems reported with internet access or bandwidth. That said, not all children can be connected at the same time. That problem was solved by teachers coordinating so that classes take turns using the WAN.
- The mesh was not worked well but it is getting better with each build. They just started to use some mesh capabilities but in general it has not been a critical need and they don't currently use activities that require a mesh.
- They have updated the laptops a few times using the automatic update. The updating system is not so easy... They're still working on it. Now, some updates are automatic, others not.
- There has been a lot of demand to support Flash.
- Main project blog
- Main public project page
- Uruguay based volunteers group working on the next roll out