Scenes from the Learning Fields of Cambodia


OLPC XO in Cambodia via satellite.

OLPC Learning Club DC member Mike Cariaso popped up on my Google Talk one night last week to tell me he had arrived at the Elaine & Nicholas Negropnte School in Reaksmy, Cambodia.

This is the school featured in the May 2007 60 Minutes report on OLPC, and where Nicholas Negroponte first tried the one laptop per child idea. Mike is volunteering at the school over the next several months.

Mike had made the eight-hour drive north with Elaine from Phnom Penh the day before in great weather. After settling in, He was naturally eager to document his surroundings to post online.

The school has a satellite uplink and generators, so I was chatting with Mike as he uploaded some fantastic photos to Flickr. He even ran back outside to get a better picture of the kids using the laptops in sunlight.

Cambodia is exactly 12 hours offset from Washington, D.C. So while I was yawning in my easychair, it was the height of the day's learning for the kids in the school. Some of Mike's first observations (as a technologist) were that the kids were still having lots of problems with the XO trackpad and none of the machines were currently accessing the mesh or satellite internet due to technical problems.

Mike even managed to push up a full blog post the following day. Here's a snippet:

To date only 2 machines have been seriously damaged. One screen was cracked when the machine was dropped, the other was damaged when washed with water. Other students seem to have taken this lesson to heart, and it seems unlikely that mistake will be made twice. The Sugar interface makes it surprisingly easy to permanently remove activities from the xo, which can create some extra work.

As others have reported, the most common problem is the 'jumpy cursor'. Interestingly there has been much experimentation and some success putting scotch tape over the trackpad. Perhaps other sites will find this useful until the next software update. Long term this needs to be solved at the software level, as do several networking issues. In particular I'd hoped to be able to provide remote support, via an ssh tunnel into the xo. However even with a usb to ethernet dongle I'm still unable to have the machine simultaneously use mesh and internet. I hope to hear from anyone with technical experience related to xo networking who can help me to learn more about this topic.

Those sound like great first challenges to which Mike can apply his considerable skills as he begins his several month stay. We're looking forward to many more dispatches from the Learning Fields.

An earlier version of this post appeared on the OLPC Learning Club blog with a photo collage.

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