Laptops for kids

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Rise of 4P Computing Solutions for the Developing World

The often critical Wayan Vota of OLPC News is defining the new wave of small solutions in terms of Power, Performance, Portability, Price

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

network speed monitoring for school sysops under GILAS project

The Compostela NHS system showcases how to set up a network for a campus of 2000 high school kids. There are 207 high schools in the provincial division alone, and hopefull all of them will be connected to the Internet by the GILAS initiative. The quality of the connection is something that should be monitored, I recommend that GILAS organize all member schools to measure the quality of their network on a monthly or weekly basis. This could be done using the tools at Broadband Reports (, they even have a mashup application of Google Maps, so decision makers can monitor the progress in each region.

used PC's for public schools

I visited Compostela National High School again, and they are in the process of setting up 80 PC's they acquired through a Peace Corps project, sourcing them through World Computer Exchange. They have some Pentium 1's that they have set up as terminals with LTSP, I saw 8 in the library working with two Pentium 4 servers. The performance using a browser and a spreadsheet was quite good, not noticeably slower that a typical new desktop, and they only had 64 k main memory. The shipment brought in another 250 units for the Cebu Provincial Schools Division, and there are another two containers with 800 units that are waiting to ship.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tom Coates, on reviewing the OLPC

He wrote a review for design magazine Icon, now he publishes his reflections and an unedited versioin.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

YouTube - Awesome Tech Podcast!!! OLPC $100 Laptop Episode 2

YouTube - OLPC $100 Laptop Episode 2 The XO uses "activities" rather than "applications", the emphasis is on sharing and interaction.

YouTube - OLPC $100 Laptop

YouTube - OLPC $100 Laptop Published May 20, this video gives a face to some of the people behind OLPC.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Exclusive: Negroponte on his Intel triumph - Jul. 27, 2007

Exclusive: Negroponte on his Intel triumph - Jul. 27, 2007 As I predicted to Intel personnel here in the Philippines, the rift with OLPC didn't last. This is a significant development, which solves with a single stroke a dilemma I have about one-to-one computing. The XO design is attractive for a number of things, such as its low power and innovative screen, but the barriers are entry are still too high: an initial order of 250,000 units from a government department. The Classmate PC can be introduced more incrementally, and it is possible to start with private schools, which in the Philippines often have greater flexibility, innovation capability and leadership. Now we don't have to choose one option or the other, in the future it should be possible to make orders combining both machines. Also, I think the more conventional Classmate PC may be better in the near term for the high school level, while the XO seems to be targetted more for grades 1-6.

Monday, November 20, 2006

constructivism and problem solving

I gave a talk at a conference on ICT and Education. I met Walter Fust, from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and we discussed a project to do a pre-feasibility study to increase access to computers in Philippine education.

Monday, September 11, 2006

e-Skwela for non-formal education

I attended a meeting here in Cebu called by CICT (Commission on ICT) on developing community e-Centers for non-formal education. Specifically, they are in the process of converting 85 modules that provide training for high school equivalency. These are to be piloted in community e-Centers, including one at the Telof (Telecommunications Office, now part of CICT) premises in Cebu. One of the motivations is to provide content for the e-Centers. However, the educational goals are quite important as well. Apparently, there are 1.84 million children ages 6-11, and 3.94 million people ages 12-15 who are not in school. The Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems (BALS, which is mandated to lead non-formal education) is focused on addressing the needs of those aged 15 and above who did not complete high school, and I am sure there are tens of millions of them. The modules are focused on earning the participants a high school equivalency certificate. More jargon here: this approach is called A&E (accreditation and equivalency, the program is also called AEP) through the PEPT (Philippine Educational Placement Test). Roy Zapata of CITE (Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, one of the best Technical-Vocational schools in the region) also attended the meeting. CITE has been doing work on assisting schools in systems administration, I hope to tap their expertise (and training materials) to do some training for the Cebu Provincial Schools Division, incorporating material on LTSP developed by Neal Bierbaum (one of two Peach Corps volunteers who I hope will be collaborating with UP Cebu to assist public high schools in integrating ICT). There were also two representatives from the Cebu City division, Joy Young, a former City Councillor who is the cities consultant on basic education. He has worked with UP Cebu before on Literacy and Numeracy training. He has a reputation for not putting a high priority of ICT, but I think he can be won over to support practical uses of ICT to support educational objectives. Woodrow Denuyo, the recently appointed ASDS (Assistant Schools Division Superintendent) for secondary education in Cebu City. I met Woodrow when he was still a principal with the Lapu-lapu City division, and he is quite knowledgeable and capable about ICT. He was a scholar who earned a Masters of IT Education, so I believe he is a good person for leading the integration of ICT in Cebu City.

ICTs in Basic Education, 2nd National Congress

FIT-ED organized another national congress for educators. It was held here in Cebu (again) last week, and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave a speech (which I missed). It helps that her daughter runs FIT-ED. However, politics aside, I was able to establish some useful contacts during the congress. Specifically, I set up a breakfast meeting for the day after the congress between NISMED (the National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development, a University of the Philippines research and extension unit, located at the main campus in Diliman) staff and the Dean of UP Cebu College. I expect they will be able to bring to Cebu programs based on Intel's Teach to the Future modules here to Cebu. These modules are 80 hours worth of training on Integrating Technology into Teaching and Learning (computer literacy is a pre-requisite, and is not covered). This has been given at least 8 times in the Philippines, both for INSET (in-service training) trainers and for faculty at Teacher Education Institutes (TEI's, in the DepEd/CHED jargon) for pre-service education. I hope that UP Cebu will be able to integrate the material into their post-graduate Masters of Education program, as well as undertake a program of research and extension activities that involves sevearl departments of the college. Later, I will post a conference report on some of the sessions I attended.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Division Level Information Technology Planning

The public school system in the Philippines has divisions, which cover either
  1. all the municipalities (but not the chartered cities) of a province, or
  2. one city
In Cebu, there are 7 divisions, while in Region VII as a whole (which also includes three neighboring provinces on other islands) there are 17 divisions. I have been working with the Cebu Provincial Schools division, which is one of the largest in the country. I understand there are 14,000 employees, mostly teachers, and 300,000 students. I am focused on helping the 207 high schools of that division. Eventually, I hope the experiences we gain can provide a model for deploying IT in basic education all over the country. I hope we can learn what will be needed to successfully roll-out a very large number of OLPC laptops in 2008 or 2009. One thing that needs to be developed is a plan. Divisions already make an annual Division Improvement Plan, just like schools make a School Improvement Plan. At both levels, I am pretty sure there is usually no mention of IT. What would a Division IT Plan, part of a larger Division Improvement Plan, look like?
Part I. Policy and Strategy
A. (review of national policies, which are
   already supportive of integrating ICT)
B. (relate IT to the division Vision and Mission)
C. Strategy, a 4-part agenda
  1. Hardware and Networking - connect 125 schools, ensure that each school has at least 10 PC's.
  2. Change Management
    1. School heads need to provide leadership
    2. Sustainability, including resource mobilization with PTCA and local government
  3. Teacher Training
    1. Formal education
      1. Graduate programs, including distance education
        1. DOST-SEI e-learning for science and math teachers
      2. Linkage with Teacher Education Institutes on Pre-Service Training
    2. In-Service Training
      1. ICT Seminars
      2. model of School-Based Training Program
  4. Integrating into Curriculum and Teaching-Learning Practices
Part II. Capability Building A. Institutional Level: Schools, Division B. Personnel availability C. Competency Standards D. Human Capital Development plans Part III. Quality Assurance A. Performance Indicators B. Data collection activities C. Feedback on quality, external assessments D. Process Improvement Part IV. Execution and Monitoring A. Organizational structures and responsibilities B. Monitoring the deployment and use of computers and network services C. Development and monitoring of School Improvement Plans Part V. Resources A. Budget B. Additional resource mobilization efforts B. Sustainability Plan
I have no idea whether this kind of outline is appropriate for the information technology component of a division improvement plan. Perhaps I can work with Supt. Borgonia to come up with a more specific plan suitable for the Cebu Provincial Schools Division. With such a draft, I would propose a ICT Division Planning workshop, with the superintendents, assistant superintendents and IT coordinators of the 7 school divisions in Cebu. The workshop could critique the draft of the provincial schools division, and participants from other divisions could start drafting their own plans. If such a workshop is successful, the DepEd regional office may also want to plan another similar workshop for the other divisions (and staff of the Cebu divisions who missed the first one). Before finalizing the plan for the Provincial Schools Division, there should be some consultations with the high school heads, similar to the one conducted last July. Participatory planning is useful, especially since the school heads have to incorporate IT into their school improvement plans to make things happen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

PH Daily Inquirer covers OLPC and blogs

It seems OLPC is starting to creep into the local media. Maybe it is a good time to start a media campaign to bring it into the popular consciousness, and the minds of political leaders.

Sunstar Cebu covers OLPC laptop

There is also a mention of the Task Force for Basic Education of the Cebu Provincial ICT Council.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Teacher Fluency with IT for ACTIVE Learning

I've been developing the outline of a Trainer's Training Course that combines Fluency with IT (using Lawrence Snyder's 2nd Edition, and the BeneFIT site at UWash) with constructivist approaches to Educational Technology (using Grabe & Grabe, I only have the 2nd Edition, a 4th Edition is out), both adapted to the local situation in Cebu. Actually, it will only cover half of Snyder's book on FIT, up to spreadsheets and security. I am dividing it into four modules, I'll post details later when they are more stable. I have also met two Peace Corps volunteers, who I think can be very helpful in developing and rolling out the course. Neal and Rene Bierbaum are based in Compostela HS, but Neal comes into Cebu City two times a week to assist in one of five IT training centers that have been set up by the Provincial Schools Division. These centers have 30 teachers assigned to them to work as trainers for other teachers. I initially target them to be the guinea pigs for the (IT Trainor's version of the) course. Later, some of them will be able to help teach it I hope. I envision two other versions, one for Communications and certain Makabayan teachers (Music, Values Education, PE ... this will be less technical, and not teach Javascript programming but focus on presentation and Web skills) and another for Math and Science teachers (and selected Makabayan teachers, advanced Araling Panlipunan /Social Studies teachers, and some Technology and Livelihood Education teachers who are not prepared for the IT Trainers version, this will involve advanced spreadsheet skills and some programming for Databases and Javascript). All versions will incorporate principles of pedagogy for children, while the IT Trainer's version will incorporate principles for training and assessing adults. The textbooks I mentioned are too expensive to import in quantity, I hope Pearson and Houghton Mifflin might be willing to print local editions for the Philippines. Whether or not that happens, I am planning to author (preferably co-author) shorter texts for the 8 modules I am planning (four for the first course, and another more advanced course). Those module texts would be more suitable for in-service training, while the full textbooks would be better for graduate and undergraduate courses in Education.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Training for school heads in Cebu

Cebu province has set up a Provincial ICT Council, and established a task force on bridging the digital divide through basic education. The immediate priority is to improve the availability of ICT and the capability of teachers to integrate them into the teaching-learning process. I have been working with the provincial Schools Division Superintendent for Cebu, Recaredo Borgonio, and other staff of the division. We are trying to put together a planning framework for the next seven months, for the following year, and for the next five years. I hope that we can bring in 10,000 OLPC devices in 2008, and perhaps 50,000 in 2009.

One of the first steps is to update the inventory of data on computers in the schools. We have collected some general data, that show that about 80 percent of high schools have some computers, about 20 on the average. We are hoping the the governor will bew funding a major procurement soon, I have heard maybe 1000 units or maybe 7000 units.

Rather than have central office staff visit each school to get more detailed profiles, SDS Borgonia has decided to call a one-day workshop of about 300 school heads, where they can submit the data and get briefed on some of the emerging strategies. They can give inputs to ensure that the plans are responsive to their local conditions. We will meet on the 18th, at Ecotech in Lahug.

I am putting together a couple of presentations for the school heads, on on Management of Educational Technology, where I have been using an Indian book by S.M. Zaidi, Modern Teaching of Educational Technology, which I picked up in Hyderabad last year. I will also talk about Fluency with IT, just an overview contrasting the approach with more traditional computer literacy. Renante Manlunas, who teaches at UP Cebu High School, will also be talking about experiences with incorporating ICT into the curriculum at UP. Renante will be leaving end of this month, on a fellowship in Virginia, so I am trying to tap his expertise while he is still around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Negroponte More Positive on Teacher Training

“One Laptop Per Child is key, making learning more seamless with living, play and family life, versus being limited to school. Teacher preparation is important, in parallel with peer-to-peer and self-education,” I never thought Negroponte was seriously ignoring teacher training. Many people I have spoken to in the Philippines react to OLPC with skepticism, and suggest that it might be better to stick with the lab-based shared-user computing model currently being rolled out slowly. However, I think there is a big difference between getting 1-3 hours lab access a week, compared to access to computing and dynamic global knowledge sources 16 hours a day. Personal-mobile computing is a completely different thing from shared-use computer labs.

Transforming the roles of teachers

Negroponte has minimized the importance of teacher training:

'Once children have the laptops, they'll teach themselves, he predicted, making teacher training beside the point. "Teachers teach the kids? Give me a break," he said. "Give any kid an electronic game and the first thing they do is throw away the manual and the second thing they do is use it." ' = ZDNet

Certainly for some of the brightest students, perhaps all the teachers need to do is get out of the way. However, even for that, many teachers will require training to change their approach to teaching and not become obstacles. However, for many students, especially the majority who have almost no family exposure to reading or English, I think a certain kind of training is essential.

At the least, I think teachers need to be trained for a transformation of their role. I believe they will need to go through a process of rethinking what it means for them to be a teacher, and if they can be simultaneously get assistance in acquiring competencies to play their new roles.

There are at least three important dimensions to such a role transformation that I have been thinking about. Many teachers stop growing intellectually after they graduate from university, and at least in some schools (and many public schools) have never learned to innovate in their knowledge or skills. Transformation 1): Teacher as Life-Long Learner. Of course there has been a lot of talk about continuing professional education for teachers, and for public schools there is always some in-service training programs. However, a connected digital robots gives them a tool to take personal responsibility for their continuing intellectual growth. I fear that many will not take advantage of those tools without at least some training, and some effort to build teacher networks.

I have read a number of articles that express skepticism about OLPC meeting the needs of the developing world. I think one reason that it is an exciting and important prospect is that it make possible Transformation 2): Teacher as Knowledge Worker. Many professionals of all sorts (marketing, journalist, researcher, practically any field) have seen the nature of work transformed with the surge of the World Wide Web around 1995. In many cases, the work has become more knowledge intensive, building on the infrastructure of global networks. Many traditional jobs are turning increasingly knowledge worker jobs. Many professionals, and increasingly non-professionals, have acquired first a desktop then a laptop, and the availability of those tools has expanded and transformed their daily work in many ways. Those people, many of them with kids in school, know instinctively that the teachers job also needs to go through such a transformation into modern knowledge work. Unfortunately, in most schools in the Philippines, such a transformation is barely beginning, and needs to be given a jumpstart to prevent it from stalling completely.

The third transformation is related to the OLPC educational philosophy of constructivism. This approach is also promoted in the Basic Education Curriculum recently instituted by the Philippine Department of Education, but not yet very successfully I hear. Transformation 3): Teacher as Facilitator. Unfortunately, a lot of teaching in Philippine schools is a narrow, even authoritarian, role of presenting content without ensuring there is a meaningful learning experience for all kids in the class. I suspect some of this teaching style is linked to language and communication difficulties. Once connected digital notebooks are in the hands of many students, and also their teachers, the opportunities for independent learning expands enormously. Many kids will learn no matter what the teachers do, but I fear that many will get left behind. Specifically, those kids who are already disadvantaged and have inadequate language and reading skills will suffer more than kids of the wealthier families. An OLPC roll-out will undoubtedly have a big effect on any digital divide, but I don't think it will automatically bridge the gap between the marginalized classes and those from "knowledge-rich" families. Many, probably the majority, of students in Philippine public schools will need some adult facilitation, to point the in a good direction, help define appropriate goals, to give them encouragement and feedback. To some extent, help can come from contacts over the network, but the role of an adult in the classroom, where they can actually observe how the kids respond to various learning experiences, will remain very important.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Spoke with heads of teacher training schools

I spoke briefly about OLPC at a meeting organized by DOST-SEI.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Six constraints on ICT for development

A group called Aidworld works on ways to spread the internet. From field research, they have identified the following constraints as limiting access to communications and information:
  1. Power
  2. Communication Infrastructure
  3. Skills
  4. Reliable and Maintainable Hardware
  5. Appropriate Applications and Content
  6. Affordability
OLPC is directly addressing 4 and 6, and part of 5. A big responsibility for 5 must be with the developing countries, to create localized content. 1 and 2 are infrastructure problems. The basics are there in most parts of the Philippines, but somebody I spoke to at DepEd's Bureau of Secondary Education said that 20% of public high schools have no electricity. And even if communication infrastructure is in most places (cell sites, for sure) that doesn't mean that an Internet connection is available in local schools. When it comes to having servers and connected classrooms, most public schools are near zero. These need to be budgeted into any OLPC plan for the Philippines. Issue 3 on "skills" is an area where I think careful intervention can make a lot of difference. There are actually a fair number of classroom teachers with relevant skills, but it is probably much easier to organize initiatives in private schools. I am starting to think that we should target that in the first few years half of OLPC laptops coming into the Philippines should be delivered to private schools, which will be asked to adopt a public school or two, to show them the way in terms of skills and curriculum. Decision-making in the public school system might get bogged down a lot on basic issues like accessing money and authorizing teacher's time. The list of 6 constraints was provided by hamis AT, originally in a comment at Quim Gil's blog post asking three questions about OLPC.

malleable platform against cultural imperialism

Some of the criticism of OLPC is suspicious about something originating in a country dominating the status quo. Benjamin Mako Hill points out that cell phones are already widespread in the developing world and are not programmable by end-user countries or interested communities.

Certainly cell phones are already widespread in the Philippines. I hope that once OLPC and other low-cost educational computers, local groups in the Philippines will be ready to program them and develop courseware. I don't think it will happen spontaneously, some promotion and orchestration may be of significant value.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


copyrighteous Benjamin Mako Hill is working on the OLPC team, and tells of a class they are organizing at MIT on how to get involved. I wish I could attend, maybe they will have a video cast, or a web seminar.

Hardware specification - MLPedia

Hardware specification - MLPedia