'$100 laptop' begins production

They’re starting to make them. I’ve read quite a few reports, such as CNET’s that goes on to comment on other low cost laptops. What really interests me, though, is the interface and the fairly radical approach to learning that the OLPC brings. It’s not really the hardware (interesting though that is), it’s the software and the collaborative approach to education.

Alt-C 2007 – Day 1

I’m now in Nottingham at ALT-C – which is a much larger conference than I’ve got used to! There are people everywhere – and a choice of 9 sessions to attend each time.

The first Keynote was Michele Selinger (link to Elluminate recording), who spoke about a range of different “chasms” – and how we might get over them. I was particularly interested in the north/south issues. She also mentioned podcasts quite a few times, though not really how she saw them being used. From what I’ve seen, and other posters that are here, etc., I’m not sure that many students would want podcasts as an alternative to a lecture; though as a revision aid/ catch up tool for missed lectures, I can see that they’re useful.

The majority / Western divide came up again in a later session, when Alanna Fitzgerald discussed the “Overcoming Poverty project”; which aims to have a range of case studies looking at overcoming poverty, through initiatives such as the Grameen Bank.

Sue Rivers looked at the ideas of “Online Silence”. It’s an interesting concept, as it seems that as academic staff, we can cope much better with students who listen to class discussions, only commenting occasionally, but in the online environment, students who are reading but not writing are seen as “lurkers”. A friend, in a different situation, has used the description “listeners”, which I prefer, as lurking does have rather negative connotations. She said that few of the students partipated (Sue herself was both student and researcher), though the students were working in the eLearning field. The question that I would have asked, had there been the time, was if any of those non-partipating students were intending to use discussions with their students…

One session that I found particularly interesting was Michael Cameron’s. He discussed a History Unit, where the lecturer, in the past, had had good student participation on the discussion board in Blackboard. Suddenly it had declined. Jo had, therefore done some investigating and had discovered the students were using Facebook. She joined, and, because the students liked her, she was invited to join the group that was set up for the unit. That gave her an insight into the things that they were discussing. While some were “What a boring lecture”, others were discussing the sort of things she wanted them to discuss; albeit rather informally! She was able to act as a broker – to get those students to refine and then post to the discussion boards.

In several papers, this same idea of drawing in things that students are doing outside, rather than moving out to join them seems to be coming up. I, too have an account on facebook, which some students have found & some have made me a friend. (Facebook doesn’t have a “I taught …” as reason for knowing another person)

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New report shows increased use of internet by women and older people

Graham Attwell summarises Ofcom’s recent report into online usage. The actual report is very long & covers radio and television as well as Internet. (I heard this morning on the news that TV usage is down 4% & radio 2%, while Internet is up (c.150%); I’m assuming this survey was the source.
Some care does have to be taken with the raw data. The Guardian has some graphs, which on first glance make the over 65s seem like very heavy net users. However, on closer examination, it seems that if they go online, they do it for longer, but, the report notes that while 2/3 of children do not believe that they could live without mobile/the internet, only 16% of the over 65s actually use the net.

$100 laptop goes into production

It seems that the $100 laptop is finally hitting the production lines. . The BBC also have a handy guide to the machines, which seem to be pretty robust. I like the idea that there are some 400 combinations of design – so that children can identify their own.
Intel, who have developed their own low-cost, child friendly laptop, aimed at the majority world, have now joined the OLPC group. It also looks as if the OLPC could, after all, be available outside the majority world – with a “buy 2 get one” offer.

Global Action Week for Education – April 23rd – 29th

Following on from my post about the $100 laptops (and linking to quite a few of the comments in Will Richardson’s post)…
As quite a few of you know, I spent over two years in Papua New Guinea, working with children with disabilities (on page 4, you’ll see an article about Imelda – who I worked with when I was at the centre. It’s fabulous to see her progress!).
To return to the present VSO (who I went with) are taking part in the Global Campaign for Education week which has has the focus:

JOIN UP: Education Rights Now!
In 2007, more than 6 million campaigners in over 120 countries will ‘JOIN UP!’ and create the world’s longest ever people and paper chain, asking for ‘Education Rights Now!’ As part of this campaign, evidence on the violations of education rights will be delivered to world leaders.

Campaigners will ask why after so many promises and commitments by world leaders, 80 million children and 800 million adults are still being denied their right to education.

While we can get excited about the prospects that the $100 laptops can bring – we still have the issue of 80 million children (often girls) who are not in education at all.
Gapminder, while not having a variable for % in school in total, can show the proportion of girls/boys in school.

$100 laptop – in the hands of kids

They’ve finally started getting into the hands of children. The post is worth reading, as they’re commenting on the article that most other bloggers have linked to C|NET’s set of photos.
Will Richardson’s comments have triggered an interesting debate on his site, looking at the pedagogy, whether or not they should extend the project to the US. etc.

Via: Stephen Downes

The Gapminder World 2006

Fascinating! From the Google labs. There are a number of variables that can be graphed against each other (e.g. Child mortality, population, Internet Users) – scales can be linear or logarithmic. The size of dot for each country can also be related to one of the statistical measures & finally the colour can be set to either an indicator (I couldn’t get that to work though), or a category (region/income group). If you prefer to have the dots on a map, rather than as a scatter diagram, then you can.
Finally – you can either select a single year, or see the changes between 1975 & 2004 as an amination.
Informative & fun!

There’s more information and downloads etc on the Gapminder website.

Via: Tim Lauer

Did you know …

Scott McLeod has uploaded several versions of Karl Fisch’s presentation “Did you know?”. I’m currently using a PC that’s not got sound, I’m not sure what extra you’d get with sound, but the Powerpoint slides have the main information on (and, they’ve done it with limited text on each slide :)).
It’s US-centric, (though England gets an honorary mention) – but makes the point about what’s facing our current and future students in terms of information & competition from places like China well.

It’s pretty obvious that the UK education system is going to have to look more and more at language learning (not just French) – and how to information use, rather than learning facts.

Offline Wiki

Socialtext Enterprise Wiki is a wiki that can be synchronised, so that it can be worked on offline. I can see quite a few uses of this – and of other offline software. I’m currently also looking at a discussion board that VSO have for volunteers, both before they go, and while they are in placement. One of the issues is clearly that some volunteers may well have very limited internet access – both through financial constraints & practical issues.

I could see that something like this would have uses. Clearly there could be the issue of someone else having changed something between you downloading it, and reconnecting, but there are uses. I’ve also pondered the thought of synchronisable discussion boards. One of the great points about email is that it’s possible to read & write offline. Bulletin boards, on the other hand, offer a structure that it can be hard to get in email – and an archiving potential. But, downloading a bulletin board for later use would lead to issues re. versions. I’m still not sure; I feel though that a tool that’s between email & a bulletin board could be really powerful; I just can’t think how you’d do it!
Some boards (e.g. Moodle) will send you all the messages, but you still have to go online to compose & upload answers (unless you want to reply just to the sender). I guess though that’s better than having to read online as well.

OLPC Human Interface Guidelines

Interface Guidelines for OLPC . A wiki, that’s clearly still being worked on, as some areas are just notes. Though still very much in note stages, I like the idea of the Journal – and I can see it tying in well with the “PLE” computer use I’d like to get students to move towards.
The Zoom Metaphor is nice and easy to understand, and I love the look of the example bulletin board, though clearly it might have to be adapted for older users.
The interface is called “Sugar” – and it’s possible to emulate it – or you can just watch a video.

Via: Yishay Mor who comments:

OLPC guidelines work out of the assumption that people use computers to *do stuff* and they do it in a *social context*. Vygotsky is dancing a foxtrot in his grave