Archive for April, 2009

Planning, forever.

We’re deep into the planning stages. We’re dealing with electrical issues, potential Internet use (we had originally thought we might have to just be without internet and use the XOs’ mesh network, but we may be able to get some access), and assorted other things – like a yellow fever vaccination shortage (we all need a yellow fever card to get into Madagascar because we’re going to Rwanda first). We’ll all need a YF vaccination, and a few of us need assorted others – tetanus booster, Hep A (we can only get the first short, though, as the second is given 6 months later), typhoid, and for sure anti-malarials. I have an appointment at a travel clinic on Tuesday, and I’ll get the YF + anti-malarials.

We’ve booked our tickets – we’re going DC to Atlanta to Johannesburg, where we spend a night, then Kigali, where we spend 10 days. Then back through Joburg to Tana! We’re leaving the States June 5. I have no idea how to occupy myself for that long of a flight – I read really quickly, and definitely will not have space for a lot of books. That’s probably the least important issue for the trip, but oh well. We return home on August 25.

We had a really productive conference call with the MSP folks (who are all great) on Tuesday, and everything’s starting to seem much more real. It sounds like it’s going to be cooler than I thought – I suspect Ambatoharanana might be on a massif (is that a word in English? I can only define it in French). Oh, on French – it seems like a lot of important people in Ambatoharnana will speak French, so that’s easier for us. I got a Malagasy dictionary and phrase book, and while the grammar seems manageable, I’m totally lost on pronunciation. We also need to investigate more of the cultural norms – that’s for the next call!

I’m hoping to start applying for grants and start actively pushing our fundraising.

We’ve updated our fundraising page (see the ‘Donate’ tab above) with new ways to donate. If any of these seem too complicated but you still want to give, please let us know – we’ll do anything we can to facilitate a donation.

April 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm 2 comments

T-43: The Very Beginning

This will be a short update, and probably the only one for the weekend – we’re all headed out of town because of extracurriculur activities. Right now, we’re working on several things. Our first set of OLPC paperwork is due tomorrow. We’re also trying to book the cheapest flights we’ve seen in a while – it looks like we’ll have a lengthy layover in Johannesburg on our way to/from both Kigali and Tana, but we’re okay with that. It also means we’re routed through an anglophone country, which is a bit less daunting.

We just received our Malagasy visa applications. Fortunately, the embassy is very close (up on Mass Ave), so we can drop them off and pay in person next week.

We’re also hoping to receive our XOs next week – OLPC is sending us 4 (one each) – and begin to play with the software.

Still trying to find an efficacious way to fundraise online. Another OLPCorps group has set up a Facebook Cause; we’re hoping to do that as well. We also are trying to get a PayPal button.

April 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

The Proposal

GW / University of Maryland Madagascar Proposal

Project Summary

Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than half its population living on less than one dollar per day. We will deploy the XOs to two primary schools serving children 6-10 years old run by the Madagascar School Project in the rural village of Ambatoharanana. We will give XOs to every student at both schools, achieving saturation of all primary school children in the village.

Though Madagascar has recently been the site of some turbulence, we believe deployment will still be effective and advantageous. The situation has calmed considerably, and unrest has been limited to the capital city. We will monitor the situation closely through the next few months but believe that the security situation should remain stable.

Project Site

Ambatoharanana is a small village located three hours north of Antananarivo; 96% of the population is economically dependent on agriculture. The village is home to two schools run by the Madagascar School Project . Together, the schools have just over ninety students between 6-12 years old. English is the teaching language of both schools. The children will be in school for the first two weeks of the deployment. However, they all live nearby in the community and will be brought back in small groups for focused training throughout the summer.

The schools are 500 yards away from St. Paul’s Theological College. The computers and equipment will be stored in a secure room at the college. Although the schools do not currently have electricity, they are in the process of being put on the grid and will have power before project implementation.

Local Partner

The Madagascar School Project (MSP) is a Canada-based NGO that operates two primary schools in Ambatoharanana. MSP is uniquely enthusiastic about an XO deployment and because they run all aspects of the two schools, we are completely assured that they are on board with using the computers in a way that is structurally and pedagogically consistent with OLPC’s mission.

MSP also has strong ties to the local community. The mayor of Ambatoharanana has offered to hold a parents’ summit and create a contract in which the expectations of both parents and students regarding the computers are specified (e.g., the laptops are the property of the children).

Sustainability

We will spend a considerable portion of the deployment working with teachers and MSP staff (some of whom already have a familiarity with computers) to enable them to maximize the children’s experience with the XO, educate the children on the responsible use of the internet and deal with minor technical problems on a day to day basis.

For more serious problems or infrastructure upgrades, we are speaking with various engineering and computer science students/faculty at the University of Antananarivo approximately three hours away. During the deployment we will involve students and faculty at the University so they have a meaningful stake in the project after our departure, and will be able to assist with any technical or infrastructure challenges.

Finances

We will cover all expenses involved in the initial deployment from the OLPC funding and already pledged contributions and then raise additional funds to create a trust to cover ongoing XO related expenses (internet and electricity) as well as unanticipated costs (e.g. equipment failures).

The entire deployment will be documented, emphasizing the effect of the XOs on children and the school. This media will be given to the MSP so they can use it to demonstrate the value of their project to potential donors.

Pedagogy

Giving these children laptops – with 100% saturation of both schools and complete ownership – empowers them, actively engaging them in learning.  Children are then not just “education receptors”; they are part of an active process, and can now explore topics, ideas, and the world beyond Madagascar. We will engage both teachers and students in creating a unique curriculum for learning inside and outside of school.

The laptops will provide individual access to vast information, eroding the political isolation of rural communities in Madagascar that contributes to political unrest.  We will also facilitate the exploration of language skills (Malagasy, French, and English), conservation (which is particularly important in Madagascar), and health. During our time in Ambatoharanana, we will work directly with students and teachers in a “summer camp” format to ensure the XOs will be integrated appropriately.

You can also find our proposal here on the OLPC wiki.

April 23, 2009 at 1:56 pm 2 comments

First Post!

We’re the OLPCorps team from the George Washington University and University of Maryland. We’ll be deploying 100 laptops with the Madagascar School Project in Ambatoharanana, Madagascar, a small village north of the capital, Antananarivo. Watch this space for updates!

“Ampitso” is the Malagasy word for “tomorrow”.

Our goal is to use this page to update on our progress both before, during, and after our time in Mada, as well as provide documentation of our work to provide future insight into OLPC small-scale deployments.

April 23, 2009 at 3:25 am 1 comment


OLPC Ampitso

This is the OLPCorps team from GWU and UMD. We'll be deploying 100 laptops to a rural village in Madagascar this summer. Stay updated by subscribing to our feed and checking back regularly. For more information on what we're doing, use the tabs above!
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