Latest trial of the One Laptop Per Child running in India; Uruguay orders 100,000 machines
Thursday, November 8, 2007
India is the latest of the countries where the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) experiment has started. Children from the village of Khairat were given the opportunity to learn how to use the XO laptop. During the last year XO was distributed to children from Arahuay in Peru, Ban Samkha in Thailand, Cardal in Uruguay and Galadima in Nigeria. The OLPC team are, in their reports on the startup of the trials, delighted with how the laptop has improved access to information and ability to carry out educational activities. Thailand's The Nation has praised the project, describing the children as "enthusiastic" and keen to attend school with their laptops.
Recent good news for the project sees Uruguay having ordered 100,000 of the machines which are to be given to children aged six to twelve. Should all go according to plan a further 300,000 machines will be purchased by 2009 to give one to every child in the country. As the first to order, Uruguay chose the OLPC XO laptop over its rival from Intel, the Classmate PC. In parallel with the delivery of the laptops network connectivity will be provided to schools involved in the project.
The remainder of this article is based on Carla G. Munroy's Khairat Chronicle, which is available from the OLPC Wiki. Additional sources are listed at the end.
The Mumbai team (OLPC-India) In setting up the first pilot of the project in India, Carla and the OLPC team worked with Navi Mumbai telecommunications specialists - referred to as the Mumbai Team - who located the school for the XO laptop trial and established a relationship with the staff, students and community of Khairat school. Liaising with a local who sponsors schools in the area, Mr. Iyer, Carla's chronicle states, "it turned out that they struck a gold mine in terms of kindness and pro-activity of the teacher, children, and community."
According to the Khairat Chronicle report the Mumbai team was in two parts, but with little to separate them. A strategic team, working for OLPC-India in general and getting the project off the ground, started up in July, with the team's Mr. Joshi visiting the village with Carla's group on a number of times. He attended parent's meetings and acted as an advocate for the OLPC project, stressing villagers' involvement and explaining the role of Carla's team.
Amit joined the team in September, bringing a technical background on the Linux operating system. He was introduced to the educational aspects of the project and assisted greatly with the technical aspects and community-building efforts.
On the whole, the Mumbai team were based in Navi Mumbai.
The OLPC team
In India from Late September, Carla was working on the educational side of the project, helping out as needed on technical issues and relations with the community. Carla was joined by Arjun and Manu early in October, working with Amit from the Mumbai team setting up the network infrastructure and testing it. Work on Marathi fonts was also carried out with Amit. After a little over two weeks during which the children were given their XO laptops and introduced to them the OLPC team left, providing long-distance support to the Mumbai Team and the Khairat community.
Khairat is a small village with around 200 people, placed near Mumbai in Maharashtra state. Carla described houses in the villages as "spacious and minimalist in their furniture." A section of each of the 20 or so house is set aside for cattle, only an outside door is present on each house, and cooking is done with a wood-fired stove. In most cases a partial second roof or attic is where people will sleep.
The town school
Children go to school 5 days in week, from Monday to Friday, from 10.30 AM to 5.30 PM and they attend also on Saturdays from 8.30 AM to 10.00 AM. The students are from 5 to 10 years old.
Khairat school (Vastishala Khairat-Dhangarvada) is a one-room schoolhouse, it is years old. The land to build it was donated by a villager. Carla was told that she used to go and help the construction workers with the building of the school. She also came to help organize the digging of the hole for grounding the server. The building itself was sponsored by a villager who has a lot of land in the area. He also supports, on a continual basis, with other items the school needs.
The schoolhouse has three cabinets. The one with glass panes is where the children keep their textbooks, and it also contains reading books that children can grab to read. On the top shelf, there is a statue of Ganesha, to whom children bring some fresh flowers. In one corner is the water bucket, glasses, and dishes. On the other, is the raw rice bucket and the server cardboard box that sometimes is a desktop for the teacher and other times a table to drink milky, sugary Indian tea. This arrangement is recent though, because he volunteered his desk for setting up the server.
A broad black strip is painted horizontally across all the walls, on which varied learning stuff is colorfully sketched with colored chalk, such as the Marathi and English alphabets, the water cycle, Mahatma Gandhi's face, the numbers in Marathi. Hanging from the ceiling, there's a fan and a few light-bulbs, which are rarely used because the sunlight that comes in through the door and the three grated windows is enough.
The first girl to arrive to school early in the morning sweeps the floor. The second girl to arrive helps her remove things from the corners. Other children help by taking out and placing at the entrance two small palm trees they keep inside when the school is closed. The older girls go to the village well for water to refill the water bucket and have water to drink during the day. They also count the rations of rice to be cooked for lunch and take it to the person who will cook it. Three rows are made with mats on the floor. The floor is the seat where the students sit, the surface on which they write, the boundless space they can use to adopt any position they find comfortable as well as to work in pairs or groups, and a classmate—or the teacher—can come and sit next to anyone to help.
The school is multilevel. Children from first to fourth standard take classes in the same classroom with the same teacher. Sometimes they all listen to the same explanation or work on the same assignment, but the teacher usually assigns different tasks to each level, and when the younger ones get stuck and he is busy working with other students, children from third and fourth standard help the first and second standard ones. They learn so much by always being in touch with the 'basics' and previously learned facts, knowledge, or skills, and by teaching others, they reinforce their knowledge. With the XO, they help each other by explaining or by pointing a finger at the screen or keyboard or by checking the work done. And it's not necessarily the older ones who help the younger, nor age or grade level what determines how they group together. You can also see children by themselves, focused on their work, oblivious to what is going on around them, even to what the teacher is saying or doing—and in this case it is perfectly alright to not pay attention to the teacher.
Although the teacher conducts the activities and is the leader and most knowledgeable one in the room, there reigns an atmosphere of independent work and independent grouping and consultations. The smaller ones are natural scouts and keep on exploring the laptops on their own, and when they find something interesting or need some help, they go to others to show them their findings or be helped out.
The people in the village speak Marathi. The teacher speaks some English too. The children and the villagers talk to me in Marathi. Carla keep the communication channel open by smiling, which is easy and effective. Amit helps a lot by translating.
|The teacher is a very proactive person. He loves learning and is very committed to OLPC. Everyday he comes with a new idea or a new discovery of how the XOs could foster children's learning in a more fun way.|
—Carla G. Monroy, OLPC Wiki
Older children, teenagers, and villagers
The plan was to just work with the teacher. However, as soon as he got his students back in school, the teacher started working with them and teaching them how to write their names in English and how to do several other things on the laptops.
The work with the teacher was on how to best use laptops as a tool to “learn learning” by expressing, constructing, designing, modeling, imagining, creating, critiquing, debugging, collaborating with the children, carrying out hands-on activities and project based work, retrieving specific data from the Internet, and publishing content and collaborative production of content on Wiki pages shared on the Internet.
Przykuta: What do you think about education system in India?
- Carla G. Monroy: The educational system in India is similar to those of many other countries I've been in. There are many issues that we have to work on. However, we can be part of that evolving learning environment.
P: Zana Brisks "Born into Brothels" film show that children have problem with their education, cause their mothers are prostitutes, but they take photos and they want to be photographers. Do you think that collaboration between OLPC, Kids with Cameras (children from Zana Briks documentary) and Wikimedia Foundation (I think about Wikimedia Commons) is possible?
- CGM: I haven't seen the documentary. However, the collaboration between children, the laptops (which have an integrated camera), and some Wiki-solution for sharing content is doable.
P: Media don't want write about 3rd World's problems (too often). How can we change this situation? Is it possible?
- CGM: Today, we don't need the traditional media to document for us. Each child, teacher, villager,... with a laptop and connectivity could be a Journalist by posting on a blog, wiki, YouTube,... just like you ;)
Oct 3. Mr. Joshi came to Khairat school and organized a small impromptu parents' meeting. Few parents came because of such short notice. Basically, the idea was to explain the project to them and to invite them to take part in the learning of their children. The teacher explained the potential of the XOs in class and of all the relevant stuff that was now at their children's fingertips for them to learn or do, to which they had no opportunity before.
Grounding the server
Every child at school
The students' names in this article are pseudonyms.
- Carla and OLPC Wiki users. "Khairat Chronicle" — ,
- Carla and OLPC Wiki users. "OLPC Peru/Arahuay" — ,
- Htk, Arnans and OLPC Wiki users. "OLPC Thailand/Ban Samkha/trial-200705" — ,
- OLPC Wiki users. "OLPC Uruguay/Cardal" — ,
- OLPC Wiki users. "OLPC Nigeria/Galadima" — ,