The website of the Presidency of the Republic [of Uruguay] takes the news. On Tuesday, in connection with the [Montevideo International] Book Fair, we held the pre-presentation of the book on Ceibal Plan and the OLPC model, collective work and shared invaluable colleagues in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, USA, and, of course, Uruguay.
Uruguay, through the Ceibal Plan, was the first country to adopt the One Laptop Per Child platform. Roberto Balaguer compiled an international, critical look into the initiative, that provides an extensive review. The following collaborators contributed to the volume:
1. Roberto Balaguer (Uruguay) “Plan Ceibal: Los ojos del mundo en el primer modelo OLPC a escala nacional” [“Plan Ceibal: The eyes of the world in the first OLPC nationwide model”].
2. Fernando Garrido (Spain) “¿Otra vez el mismo error? OLPC, Determinismo Tecnológico y Educación” [“Again the same mistake? OLPC technological determinism and education”].
3. Edgar Gómez Cruz (Mexico) “Domesticación de la Tecnología: una aproximación crítica al proyecto de OLPC” [“Domestication of technology: A critical approach to the OLPC project”].
4. Tíscar Lara (Spain) “Aprender a ser ciudadano desde las prácticas digitales” [“Learning to be a citizen from digital practices”].
5. Guillermo Lutzky (Argentina) “La Escuela Digital, un cambio obligatorio para los modelos 1 a 1” [“The Digital School, a change required to 1 to 1 models”].
6. Mónica Baez–Graciela Rabajoli (Uruguay) “La escuela extendida. Impacto del Modelo CEIBAL” [“The school extended: Impact of the Ceibal model”].
7. Alicia Kachinovsky (Uruguay) “La Universidad de la República en tiempos del Plan Ceibal” [“The University of the Republic in times of the Ceibal Plan”].
8. Octavio Islas (Mexico) “Retos que representa la enseñanza en el imaginario de la ‘Generación Einstein'” [“Challenges posed by teaching in the imagination of the ‘Einstein Generation'”].
9. Cristóbal Cobo (Mexico) “Aprendizaje de código abierto” [“Learning from open source”].
10. Raúl Trejo Delarbre (Mexico) “Un niño para cada laptop” [“A laptop for every child”].
11. John Moravec (USA) “¿Y ahora, qué?” [“So, what now?”].
12. Miguel Brechner (Uruguay) “Los tres si” [“The three yeses”].
I join many of the collaborators in dedicating my contribution to the volume to our colleague and co-author, Guillermo Lutzky, who passed away late last month.
OLPC may see a new competitor enter the market. Utilizing a new microprocessor technology that embraces probabilistic logic computing rather than traditional boolean logic computing, a team at Rice University is designing a digital, touchscreen, LED slate for deployment in developing countries. Probabilistic computing permits devices to provide correct answers most of the time rather than all of the time, allowing for dramatic reductions in power consumption while speeding-up computations considerably. The reduced chip-based power consumption will allow the device to powered by solar cells.
From Popular Mechanics:
What it is: The “I-Slate,” a solar-powered, stylus-controlled classroom aid unveiled at the IEEE’s 125th Anniversary event on Tuesday. The idea is that this LED slate will replace the chalk slates still used in much of the world, allowing students to learn basic math skills without the need for a literate teacher (something that is in demand in much of the world). The device is being created by Dr. Krishna Palem and his team at Rice University.
The slate will be able to download coursework using wireless networks. And because these chips should be far cheaper to produce than the high-powered processors found in most new products, making them practical for the third world.
Inspired by microfinance, the I-slate’s innovators intend to use social entrepreneurism to create a self-sustaining economic model for the I-slate that both creates jobs in impoverished areas and ensures the I-slate’s continued success regardless of ongoing philanthropic support.
The first prototype PCMOS chips were found to use 30 times less electricity while running seven times faster than today’s best technology. Palem’s PCMOS team includes researchers at Rice and at the Institute for Sustainable Nanoelectronics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where the first PCMOS prototypes were manufactured last year.
From the Tech Video Blog:
HiVision makes the worlds cheapest Linux laptop at $98 using a new cheaper MIPS based processor (perhaps the Longsoon or the Ingenic), WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, voice-chat, skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing. Automatic and secure online software updates. Their current model is running a smooth and pretty snappy Linux user interface. In this video, I got to borrow a review sample of the laptop overnight, and I try to show you all the browser and other software interfaces in this extended video review of this cheap MIPS based laptop. Embedded is the way that I hope that most cheap laptops are going to be based on in the near future, Google will hopefully make a great Chrome browser for this kind of Laptop and hopefully that OLPC soon will announce that they will work to improve Embedded Linux based laptops in the upcoming XO-1.5 and XO-2 designs.
More in their video:
At the OLPC’s Global Country Workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week, Nicholas Negroponte revealed mockups of the next generation One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) device: XO-2.
The dual touch screen design can be used as either a laptop, a book, or a tablet. Since it relies on the touch screens to provide key entry, it can be reconfigured for younger and older audiences. It also can be reconfigured for application-specific layouts. And, in an interview with Laptop Magazine, XO-2 designer Mary Lou Jepsen suggests the new machine will incorporate haptic technologies.
The XO-2 is scheduled for release in 2010.
Another OLPC competitor has entered the U.S. market. This time, Hewlett Packard Co. is releasing a lightweight “Mini-Note” line of notebook computers. Each unit weighs less than 3 pounds with a screen that measures 8.9 inches diagonally. A Linux-based model is available for under $500. According to an AP article, the devices are not being positioned for large-scale deployment in the developing world:
The Mini-Note will compete primarily with Intel’s Classmate PCs — which are designed by Intel and feature Intel chips but are built and branded by other companies — and Asustek’s Eee PC.
NPR reports that the One Laptop Per Child project will provide computers for kids in Birmingham, Alabama. The report highlights a key challenge of the project: Can a slow computer have an impact in a high-speed society? Maybe not.
Meanwhile, Nokia quietly announced the WiMAX edition of the N810 Internet Tablet. As noted here previously, it’s predecessor, the N800, has potential as an m-learning device. The N810 is based on the same hardware and software architecture, but incorporates a keyboard and can connect to both Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks. Can the expanded networking capabilities of the Linux-powered N810 WiMAX fill the low-cost (but highly connected) computing gap in U.S. education?
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) “Give One Get One” program is now open in the United States and Canada until November 26. During this time, you can donate the revolutionary XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, and also receive one for the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. The cost? $399 — $200 of which is tax-deductible. Another bonus: For all U.S. donors who participate in the Give One Get One program, T-Mobile is offering one year of complimentary HotSpot access.
Last month, I wrote on my latest handheld acquisition: the Nokia N800. I wrote a little on my initial experiences, and pondered its use in education. Now that I’ve had this for a month, it’s time for an update.
Unlike most electronics produced by Nokia, the N800 is not a phone. It is an Internet Tablet. It can connect to wifi networks, but it cannot connect directly to a 3G (UMTS) or EDGE network. Supposedly, a 3G version for Sprint is in the works, and should be released in 2008. For those who need telco network connectivity and cannot wait for the Sprint version, you can tether it to your cell phone via a Bluetooth link.
The N800 has a gorgeous display. At 800×480, the resolution is high enough for most applications. Because so much screen resolution is packed into a small space, smaller text on Web pages can be harder to read, but the devices contains well-placed zoom-in and zoom-out buttons to enlarge text and graphics.
The built-in Web browser (Opera) renders most pages beautifully. For those pages that do not render properly (or where certain features are missing), a Gecko-based (used in Mozilla and Firefox) engine is available through the MicroB project. The Gecko engine, however, is a little bit slower and more prone to crashes.
The device also contains a simple, but surprisingly capable RSS reader. Fresh content can be displayed on a home screen widget; and, the RSS application loads all needed graphics and properly renders all content in a highly-functional (and readable) interface.
The built-in email application is deficient on many levels, but it is possible to install Claws Mail through a couple clicks from the maemo.org repository list. Several Claws plugins are also readily available. For the uninitiated, however, configuring Claws can be quite painful.
The device can also be used for multimedia playback. Assuming you have the proper codec installed, video playback is good. MP3 playback is flawless. Again, by clicking through the repositories listed at maemo.org, installing additional codecs is quick and simple.
Finally, the hardware seems solid. With casual use, you can expect the battery to last a day. It can remain on standby for up to a week. The built-in wifi antenna is also superb, and does well at detecting and connecting to access points with weak signals. Whereas my laptop can only detect 12 wifi networks from my home, the N800 detects 23.
The device doesn’t boast full Java support. This means I cannot use Java-based applications such as Oracle Calendar (my university forces me to use it). Support for Java is a much-needed feature for a future OS release.
Although the device transfers data at a rapid rate, Web browsing is not as swift as I would hope it would be. As previously mentioned, the built-in Opera browser lacks compatibility with some Web sites. MicroB is more compatible, but still very buggy.
Although Skype released a client for the device, they haven’t provided support for the built-in Web cam. My guess is because, due to memory limitations, N800 code would need to be tight, meaning that Skype developers cannot get away with obfuscating their binaries with meaningless code. Failure to incorporate such a feature makes Skype look bad. Perhaps now is a good time for them to consider opening their standards? Video calls are still possible by using the built-in “Nokia Internet Call Invitation (Beta)” application, but you’re limited to calling other N800s.
As a traveling presenter, I would like a device smaller than my laptop to play PowerPoint (or OpenOffice.org) presentations. It would be great if a future edition of this device had a video-out solution. The onboard chipset already supports video output, but Nokia chose not to include the connecting hardware. Adding video-out support should be a small addition.
The device needs to ship with international character sets. Packaging Latin, Greek and Cyrillic characters are a good start, but Arabic and East Asian characters should be shipped in the base package, too.
Finally, upgrading the device’s firmware is a pain in the neck. Nokia and the development community periodically release new OS versions and fixes, requiring firmware flashing each time. Although most user data is retained, this causes most applications to disappear. It would be nice if Nokia provided an option to reinstall application and library packages (if available and compatible with the new kernel, etc.) after each update.
Does the N800 belong in schools?
Inspired by devices such as those built by Noah and Ozing (see also this EF article), I continue to evaluate if the N800 has a place in schools. In places with limited electrical or network connectivity, content and curricula can be distributed via SD cards and charged less frequently than laptops would need to be charged. The battery shipped with the device is sufficient to allow moderate use throughout a school day before needing a recharge.
The N800, however, is not designed for children. It is designed for hackers, technology mavens, and other nerds. Perhaps, then, it can find a home in higher education? Given the expanding developer community and (mostly) open platform, maybe successor products could become the OLPC-parallel, “$200 palmtop” for college students in developing and “developed” countries.
But wait! The N810 is coming…!
As my luck would have it, less than a month after my N800 arrived, Nokia announced a successor product, the N810. Apart from integrating a GPS receiver, a keyboard, and a swifter processor, there are not many differences from the N800. The built-in keyboard, however, should make it a much more attractive product to educators and other markets. More on that device once I get my hands on one…!
An element missing from media coverage of the One Laptop per Child XO is the ramifications of using mesh networking. This scheme allows for data to be passed through individual machines acting as nodes, where data hops from machine-to-machine until its destination on the network –or on a foreign network is reached. This allows for instantly reconfigurable and self-healing networks that can self-adapt to a variety of network accessibility environments.
This networking model has also been recontextualized into the interface and software design of the device which encourages as much co-teaching and co-learning as possible. Working with teams from Pentagram Design and Red Hat, OLPC created SUGAR, a graphic user interface that captures the students’ world of fellow learners and teachers as collaborators, emphasizing connectivity between people and activities. From OLPC:
Everyone has the potential for being both a learner and a teacher. We have chosen to put collaboration at the core of the user experience in order to realize this potential. The presence of other members of the learning community will encourage children to take responsibility for others’ learning as well as their own. The exchange of ideas amongst peers can both make the learning process more engaging and stimulate critical thinking skills. We hope to encourage these types of social interaction with the laptops.
As most software developers would agree, the best way to learn how to write a program is to write one, or perhaps teach someone else how to do so; studying the syntax of the language might be useful, but it doesn’t teach one how to code. We hope to apply this principle of “learn through doing” to all types of creation, e.g., we emphasize composing music over downloading music. We also encourage the children to engage in the process of collaborative critique of their expressions and to iterate upon this expression as well.
While the developed world is using new technologies to teach the same old stuff its been pushing since the 19th century, the co-constructivism allowed by OLPC could allow children in less developed countries leapfrog their peers in new knowledge production. Is this purposeful orientation toward the use of technologies the start of a new revolution in education?