An Update on XO Laptops in Uruguay

olpc uruguay
Uruguayans love XO laptops

I am Gregg Smith and I had a call in February with Pablo Flores a lead on the XO deployment in Uruguay.

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.
From the start, the teachers requested training on the XO. They expect to be trained on any new educational tools. They found it important to include the XO training in the normal structure of the educational system. There are a lot of traditions on how to do things, role of teacher, supervisor etc. and those need to be respected in order to avoid conflicts.

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).

olpc uruguay
Uruguayan XO technology training

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:

olpc Uruguay
Looking for the Internets
  1. School server must be the gateway for all internet traffic as for security (firewall/NAT and filtering). The filtering is done by Dansguardian.
  2. There is no web caching done on the school server right now.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. There has been a lot of demand to support Flash.
Here are some other links on the XO roll out in Uruguay:Since his last post, Optimal XO Application Development Model Process, Greg Smith has been slowly gathering requirements and trying to implement his vision of a user - developer co-education process.

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Excellent overview Greg! very informative

This makes me soooo happy!!

Welcome, Greg!
Good news thorough, I am glad at the very positive outlook of this first massive deployment of OLPC. I am curious to hear also reports of issues that other deployments should prepare and brace for. Everything sounds fine in U-land. I find your report about the mesh problem having no impact because they use no mesh activities helps prove that the essential qualities of the cooperative / constructivist legacy OLPC model are overrated. I hope that interaction with locals there (I'm Uruguayan but US-based) will give us deep insights on how to further improve the XO and the project. Thank you!

Project Ceibal recently was awarded a microgrant from Rising Voices so that additional blog workshops can be provided using the XO in rural parts of Uruguay.

Thanks for the comments. Great to see that blogging award link!

I'm glad the report is encouraging but there is certainly a lot more work to do. One thing I learned recently is why there have been no more blog posts from Uruguay since November.

It turns out that there is some incompatibility between the latest XO browser version and

Its tracked in the OLPC bug system at:

Since it worked in XO build 385 but not later, perhaps some one who has time can get the source tree and do a diff between those versions to try to isolate the code causing the problem...

We're trying to get it resolved and have asked Google people to help too. The new educational blogger tool will allow us to work around it, but I hope we can resolve the core problem too.

In short there are all the usual challenges and issues involved in rolling out a major new computer system but the overall trend is still very positive.


Greg S