Monday, June 11, 2007

The Mero Sano Saathi Song is out!

It is amazing how OLPC inspires people. Some Nepali musicians and poets were so inspired by this project that they approached us to create a song for it. Please enjoy the Mero Sano Saathi song.

The name of the song is "Mero Sanu Saathi," Nepali for "My Small Friend." Mero Sanu Saathi is the Nepali name that OLPC Nepal founders Shankar Pokharel and Ankur Sharma gave to the XO. This name reflects the constructionist philosophy behind this project. The XO is like a friend in that it helps you explore and create.

Some people may be bothered by the fact that we are personifying the XO. We ask them to realize that people and children personify anything they care about whether it is their car, pet, or even computer. We hope that children treat Mero Sano Saathi like a friend, that is both play with it and protect it.

All of us at OLPC Nepal want to say thanks to the artists who made this beautiful song.

Song Credits:

Musicians: Mr. Shyam Nepali (Sarangi)
Mr. Babu Raja Maharjan (Modal)
Mr. Kiccha Chitraker (Guitar/Mixing)
Mr. Raman Maharjan (Flute)

Songwriter:Manjul (poet/songwriter)

Singers:Bishno Nepali
Kriti Nepali
Prezol Nepali
Prince Nepali
Rahul Nepali

Studio recording: Virgin Voice Recording Studio, Naxal

Organizer: Meredith Moore Adhikari

Mero Sanu Sathi Song lyrics

मेरो सानू साथी, राखी छाती माथी
फुरुंग भै घुम्छू, फुरुंग भै रम्छू

my small friend... let me put it on my chest
i am pleased i am delighted


कैले लेख्दा लेख्दै, कैले पढ्दा पढ्दै
दंग भई चुम्छू, दंग भई हेर्छु

sometimes while writing, sometimes while reading
hapily i touch it, happily i see it


मेरो सानू साथी, राखी छाती माथी
फुरुंग भै घुम्छू, फुरुंग भै रम्छू

my small friend... let me put it on my chest
i am pleased, i am delighted


चित्र बनाउछू, खेल हरु खेल्छू
मेरो साथी संग, रमाई रमाई खेल्छू

I draw drawings, i play games
i joyfully play with this small friend

my small friend... let me put it on my chest
i am pleased i am delighted


कथा सुनाउछू, गीत गुन्गुनाउछु
मेरो साथी संग, लुकामारी खेल्छू

I listen to stories, listen to the songs
I play with my small friend

सुखद भविश्यको, सुन्दर तारा संग

with the shining star of bright future

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Developer Drill #2

Last Friday, May 11th, OLPC Nepal hosted its second developers' drill. Five new developers attended in addition to Prasanna, Shankar, Ankur, and Himali Kiran. ShankUr and Himali Kiran organized the drill. All involved were quite excited.

Record of events
11:30 Shankar gave a general of overview of OLPC project
12:00 Ankur gave a basic introduction to programming in Python
13:00 Himali gave a tutorial on Sugar, dbus, localization, and activity development. He also covered how to create SVG icons for activities
14:00 Prassana gave a tutorial on building activities with PyGames. The newcomers got a chance to write a tic-tac-toe game.
15:00 Distributed LiveCDs and snacks
16:00 Ujwal gave a presentation on his work on the Karl Pearson Coefficient Method for Handwriting recognition. He would like to port it to the Jotpad activity. You can access some of his source code here. It has not been Sugar-ized yet.

For the next drill, we would like to have educators present to work directly with the developers. We also need more computers for our office so the developers can work hands-on. Also, they would like to give tutorials on dbus, avahi daemon, and mesh networking.

Point from Ankur: "This drill was quite successful because we made it simple and not overwhelming. We tried to get them excited about the possibilities."

We are currently working in a very crowded office. We hope to move into this bigger room once we get the financial resources to buy more computers and furniture. This room may not look like much but it would be a huge improvement over our current space.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

An Amazing Educator

This week we managed to attract one of the most respected educators in Nepal to our project. Christine Stone has worked in the education field in Nepal for over twenty-five years. She has taught primary school, written Nepali textbooks, and now primarily trains teachers in the rural areas of Nepal. Here is a great article in the Nepali Times about her.

Christine focuses on child-centered learning and until recently all her learning activities were done on paper. When we showed her the XO, she immediately saw its potential. She was especially excited about the opportunities for math and science education. She loves Gcompris, TamTam, and eToys. We are very excited that she has agreed to lead our education team.

We intend to work with her develop a set of learning activities, a teacher-training program, and work with her network of teachers and kids to test our activities.

Christine has written literally hundreds of different paper-based learning activities. After reading about the GameJam this weekend at Olin College, I would love to see future GameJams focus on adapting learning activities like Christine's to Sugar. Gamejam participants likely could not implement her Nepali language activities but they could easily implement her English as a Second Language and maths activities.

Ankur, Himali Kiran, and Shankar will soon start collaborating with her on Activity Development. Meredith is also looking forward to work with her.

In other news -- Presentation Slides
I am excited to see the great # of sets of presentation slides on the wiki There are some great presentations up there from Mike Fletcher, Rafael Ortiz of OLPC Colombia, and Ian Bicking.

Ankur, Shankar, and I have probably spent over 30 hours developing our presentation slides. We would have much rather spent that time on developing activities. The presentations on the wiki will help folks around the world promote OLPC without having to spend a big chunk of time formatting pictures and checking their grammar.

We still need presentations on the following subjects. Some of the subjects are not yet mature in OLPC.

  • Technical
    • For software Developers -- How to build an activity
    • Power Mechanisms for OLPC
  • Education-Specific
    • Introduction to Constructivism
    • Role of the teacher in OLPC
    • Teaching art and the XO
    • How to create content for OLPC and how not to

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kids In Jiri Love XO!

Jiri is located in a beautiful valley in the Dolakha district of Nepal, around 200kms east of Kathmandu. It is known by many as 'Nepal's Switzerland' due to its landscape being similar to that of Zurich. It has also achieved fame as a good cheese producing area. The journey to Jiri from Kathmandu also provides a fantastic opportunity to see Nepal's national flower, the Lali Guran.

The locals of Jiri recently organised a film festival with assistance from nepa~laya. nepa~laya is an organisation created to support/promote the arts in Nepal and to use this medium to increase awareness of social issues throughout Nepal. Shankar and Ankur of OLPC Nepal were invited and sponsored by nepa~laya to attend the festival to show the XO to school children and also teachers from some of the schools in the area.

A single bus managed to carry a team of about 42 people including film makers, journalists and crew on the 9 hour journey. For obvious reasons of space Shankar and Ankur chose to ride on top of the bus but nonetheless arrived safely with 4 XOs in tow!

For many children the first response was "what is that green box?". Rather than an explanation, a simple demonstration of how to move the cursor and click on things was all that was needed before the first batch of experts were on their way! It wasn't long before these kids were then eagerly teaching their friends whilst the OLPC team simply sat and watched in satisfied silence.

Jiri has 3 primary schools, a local secondary school, a community run higher secondary school, and a technical college which runs courses in nursing and veterinary science amongst others. Mr Tek Bdr Jirel, the motivated and enthusiastic principal of Jiri Higher Secondary School, assisted nepa~laya to arrange for each school to have at least 2 representatives attend the presentation. It was very exciting and in many ways a relief to find that the teachers were extremely interested in and supportive of the XO and it's prospective uses and potential.

All in all, the day was a huge success and another significant step in raising awareness of XO and just how valuable it can and will be to the children of Nepal!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stimulating Content Communities

Stimulating Open Content Communities for OLPC

This is Part III of the Grassroots series. I am skipping over Part II "Teambuilding" because it has proven harder to write. I will come back to it. Thanks to Xavi Alvarez for reminding me to work on it and the wiki

OLPC seeks to provide every child with a powerful learning platform and an-ever evolving array of powerful learning activities. To accomplish this, OLPC must not only build and distribute the base platform, it must nurture and encourage three groups of people:
  1. Software Developers

  2. Educators

  3. Artists

These communities may be international and have sub-groups by nation or linguistic region. Here are my suggestions for comprehensive programs to stimulate the development of these communities. I have put special emphasis stimulating communities in developing nations.

Developer Program

Engineers in developing nations need more financial incentives to participate in Open Source projects than engineers in the developing world require (often none), typically due to the financial pressures placed on them by their families. We need to convince both student developers and their teachers that they should switch their academic focus from J2EE to Python.

Benefits for Core Developers:
  • Certificate from an internationally recognized technical university -- ideally MIT.

    • Other possibilities are the MIT Media Lab or Open Source Lab at Oregon State. Certificates are a big deal in the developing world.

    • Certificates could be based on amount of code contributed to, participation in code reviews, hardware development etc.

  • Discounted internet access and possibly provide extra UPS -- this benefit would vary country by country and a grassroots organization would have to coordinate it.

  • Free hardware -- important step, OLPC is already doing this

  • Discounted or free examinations for related IT certifications for accomplished developers

    • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
    • A Python programming certification -- I know this doesn't exist but OLPC is a good enough reason to start one

    • Internships -- We intend to offer internships at OLPC Nepal but this may not be feasible in a country without an active OLPC organization.

Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Regional and international events to stimulate interest in development, should emphasize commercial value of skills learned from working on OLPC, for example: "learn Python and you could eventually work for Google, Red Hat, etc."

    • Regional and national programming contests with significant prize money, for example in Nepal $2000 USD would be a substantial prize and huge incentive

      • Separate contests for Activity Development, hardware development, and power systems development, could be organized similar to CSIDC

      • Pie-in-the-sky idea -- regional Google Summer of Code style summer camps focussed on OLPC

    • Regional or national programming hackfests and sprints

Educator Program

The term educator includes many types of individuals including working teachers. I refer to an educator in the OLPC context as anyone who generates instructional content and/or facilitates learning with kids.

It will be hard to convince veteran teachers to use a radically different method of instruction. However, we can convince the next generation of educators who have recently graduated or are still in university. If we can win their support they will ensure that OLPC is an integral part of their respective national education systems in the long run.

We especially need to recognize individuals that digitize histories, literature, other academic works under the creative commons license.

Benefits for Core Educators
  • A Certificate from an internationally recognized Education Body or Academic institution -- a certificate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education would be ideal.

    • Unfortunately, a certificate from Brazil's Ministry of Education would mean little in Nepal

    • Possible Certificates: Certified Teacher Trainer, Certified Curriculum Developer

  • A Certificate from an educators local Ministry of Education recognizing their contribution to OLPC

  • Points towards academic tenure -- We will pursue this in Nepal

  • Free hardware

  • Discounted Internet Access

Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Regional and National seminars to develop different kinds of learning activities

  • Regional and National awards for learning activities

  • Teacher Training Seminars

Artist Program

We need artists to help develop the creative possibilities of the XO. Specifically I am thinking how to involve musicians, photographers, and graphic designers. Frankly, I am at a loss how to best reward this community as I don't have a creative bone in my body and I only hang out w/ computer geeks. However, we really need to stimulate this community. Please contribute your ideas for the artist program.

We need artists to 1) generate learning activities around art and design and 2) Digitize paintings, music, photos, etc. under the creative commons license so that children around the world can enjoy them.

Benefits for Core Artists


Events to Stimulate Interest in OLPC

  • Etoys Art Competition

  • TamTam and SynthLab Composition -- Could be run through TamTam website

    • Students could post their composition to the Tamtam site

    • site visitors could vote for their favorite composition

    • We need some kind of competition to spur digital musicians to implement different instruments and rhythms into TamTam
  • SJ Klein's idea -- create a drop-in center where storytellers, musicians, and graphic artists could get their work digitized.

Friday, March 09, 2007

How to Start a Grassroots OLPC Organization

I intend this to be Part One of a multi-part series on how to build a grassroots organization for OLPC. We at OLPC Nepal are ourselves still figuring out how to build a grassroots organization. I have put down some of our ideas and some of the problems we face. Nepal's government has yet to commit to OLPC but we are working hard to change that.

Disclaimer: OLPC as yet does not have an official policy or guidelines on how to create a grassroots organization for OLPC. The ideas presented here are my own. Before starting a grassroots organization I highly recommend you e-mail Lindsay of OLPC.

OLPC has created the OLPC foundation specifically to foster grassroots organizations. You can submit funding proposals to OLPC Foundation for specific initiatives.

I have created a wiki page on this subject in the OLPC Wiki. I will try to include some of the ideas on the Rollout and Community Building entry.

One Laptop Per Child is a huge global initiative with many aspects. A number of people criticize this project because it lacks this plan or that feature. Where is the testing engine? Recycling Strategy? Digital curriculum? OLPC has a full-time staff of only 15 people. They are doing a damn fine job by the way. If you think OLPC is a sound concept, it's time for you to roll up your sleeves and contribute. Got a good idea for OLPC? As they say in the Open Source world, Show me the Code. I believe that Grassroots organizations are a good vehicle for people to contribute to this project.

What a Grassroots Organization can't do

Grassroots organizations can't implement OLPC in a given country. Most children attend government schools. Most teachers are employed by the government. If you want to affect change on a mass level you are going to have to work through the government, no matter how effective you believe your respective national government to be.

If you try to go it alone you may alienate the Ministry of Education and actually slow the adoption of OLPC in your country. You may get lucky and implement OLPC at a few schools in your country-- if OLPC will provide you w/ XO's--but you won't succeed in changing your country's education system.

A successful campaign for OLPC in your country will require diplomacy. If you tell the education authorities in your country that they are idiots if they don't accept OLPC, you could set back OLPC in your country indefinitely.

What a Grassroots Organization can do

  • Promote OLPC in your country/region to the press and community groups
  • Contribute to software and curriculum development
  • Contribute to hardware testing and peripheral development
  • Educate your Ministry of Education about OLPC and its benefits
  • Software and Content Localization -- People didn't believe that the XO could support devanagari script until we implemented it and showed them.
  • Contribute to pedagogy and curriculum development
A lot of the above activities are non-technical. In fact, most of them are Marketing and public relations. Most early enthusiasts, like myself, are techies w/ no marketing background or savvy. You need someone on your team who understands marketing. I intend to cover this in a future post on Team Building.

Whew! It took me an hour and a half to write this introductory post. In future posts I hope to cover:

  • Organization Structure: Volunteer community or become a non-profit?
  • Promoting OLPC -- How aggressive should you be?
  • Team Building -- Curriculum team, technical team, marketing, etc.
  • Fundraising -- ugh -- we're still working on this part
  • Building the int'l OLPC community -- I've got some wacky ideas on this, but mostly I like Ubuntu's structure for LoCo teams
Here are some links on Community-Building for OLPC

OLPC mailing Lists
Tuquito -- GNU/Linux group in Argentina
OLPC Spanish America
OLPC Foundation

Special thanks to Rafael Ortiz Guerrero of OLPC Colombia. An e-mail conversation w/ him inspired many of the ideas in this post.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

XO As A Tool To Preserve Language/Culture

The development team at OLPC Nepal have been working hard on developing various learning activities for children using the XO. A significant area in which they have been making progress has been in creating activities to help children learn their local dialect.

The first dialect to be setup for use on the XO is Limbu. This is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by more than 300,000 people in eastern Nepal as well as parts of Myanmar, Bhutan and India.

This is a really exciting development and is a positive counter to concerns that the OLPC project will only serve to homogenise indigenous cultures. In fact, the project may aid the long term preservation and viability of minority dialects and culture which are no longer part of the curriculum in the traditional school teaching models.

In the long term it is likely that the majority of dialects and other cultural features of the many and diverse groups throughout Nepal will find their way into the XO system. The reality is that more children across the country will have more access to information about their heritage, language and traditions than traditional teaching methods and materials could ever have provided to them.
Another great leap forward for the dedicated team of OLPC Nepal - well done guys!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Live XO Demo in Nepal!

Last week, three trailblazers working on the OLPC Nepal project made the journey to Butwal, about 250 kms southwest of Kathmandu. This town is very close to Lumbini which is known as the birth place of the Buddha. Last week however, the majority of the visitors to the area were there for a regional IT Exhibition/Conference. This was the perfect place to give a live XO demo to help spread the OLPC word.

Himali, Ankur and Shankar, three of OLPC Nepal's key members, made the arduous bus journey without incident, spurred on by their excitement at the opportunity to show off the fruits of their months of hard work.

Shankar gave an excellent presentation of the XO features as well as delving into some of the content that has been specifically designed for Nepal. The audience contained several hundred people from various industry sectors including IT and Education and the presentation was very well received. Nepal's State Minister of Science and Technology Man Bdr. Visworkama, who was the chief guest of the event, also took a separate overview of the XO curiously.

This was the one of what we hope will become a regular promo activity for OLPC Nepal in the coming months. There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges in making a project like this one work is in obtaining the support and involvement of the community and we hope that by giving them as much information as we can on XO that we will be able to achieve this.

Having said this, its not clear how often Ankur and Shankar will be wanting to take bus rides with goats and chickens around the more remote regions of Nepal! Although when greeted by smiling faces like the one below it is hard not to be motivated to keep trying to do more. Thanks guys!