Archive for May, 2009

T-8

A really short post, as I’m leaving for the embassy to get visas.

A new post over at OLPC News courtesy of yours truly! The underlying theme: HELP (s’il vous plaît).

We met with OLPC LCDC (the DC learning club) last night. These guys are awesome; I can’t really put it into words. Incredibly helpful, with tons of knowledge and expertise to spare. We’ll continue to be in contact / involved with them, as well as OLPC News, during the deployment; keep your eyes open for cross-posts and unique analysis over there.

Days left before we leave for Kigali: 8. Days needed: about 100.

For all my panic, I don’t think we’re hugely underprepared, except we are. I don’t think I could ever feel prepared enough for this, and I don’t think we could ever be prepared enough. I’m trying to learn all I can, particularly on teacher training. I’m not the techiest person on my team, and I feel hugely lacking there – but that’s fortunately the benefit of a team: you don’t have to be good at everything. I’m focusing on pedagogy, teacher training, and cultural “stuff”.

Je suis la seule francophone de l’équipe, et je ne suis pas très bien. J’étudias la langue depuis sept ans, mais je n’ai pas de grande vocabulaire technique, et je deviens nerveux quand je parle aux autres. Nous verrons comment je ferrai. J’ai entendu bien des «podcasts» (je ne sais pas le mot juste) en français pour améliorer mes compétences écoutants. Zut alors.
(I’m the only French-speaker on the team, and I’m not very good. I’ve studied the language for 7 years, but I lack a decent technical vocabulary, and I get nervous when I talk to others. We’ll see how I do. I’ve been listening to a lot of French podcasts to improve my listening skills.)

We’re hopefully going to have a professional solar install, or possibly grid energy. Either would be awesome, but I am not so optimistic it will be in place when we get there. Again: we’ll see.

I’ll post a revised schedule of our in-country timeline later. I know it is essentially meaningless, as there will be 800 issues, problems, or changes once we get there. No matter – as one of my professors always said, “It’s not the plan; it’s the planning.” (Note that this aphorism was generally in regard to national security decision-making, so its applicability is dubious.)

To the Malagasy* embassy!

*the denonym is Malagasy. There’s no such word as “Madagascarian” or any variation thereof.

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May 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm 3 comments

T-10

I cannot believe we’re leaving for Kigali in TEN DAYS.

The lack of updates may make you think we’re not doing anything. Au contraire. We’ve been hugely busy coordinating with MSP (in Canada and in Mada), OLPC, and others. We’re working on developing learning projects, which are cross-application (utilizing more than one XO activity) and multi-subject projects that engage kids in a constructivist project. We’ve been playing with the ideas of a conservation / biology-based project, as well as a family history one. The kids we’re working with are between 6-12, but most are on the younger end of the spectrum. That means we’ve got to make sure the projects are as simple as possible.

We unfortunately did not receive the BP solar panels (we applied for free ones), as there were none available for the next few months. Shipping was prohibitively expensive, so that wasn’t necessarily the most viable option. We’d like to get on the grid, but there are structural issues in-country preventing that (the power company says they aren’t doing new connections, which is strange, to say the least). Our alternate solution is solar panels bought and installed in Madagascar.

Our other main issue is teacher buy-in. We know that this is probably one of the biggest variables re: sustainability. If the teachers don’t buy-in, the classroom impact of the XOs is lessened. The kids will definitely be able to learn a lot using the computers outside school, but the impact of them within the classroom could be huge. We’re planning on addressing teacher training first, and concurrently, with our work with the kids.

We’ll be updating the blog from Rwanda and Mada, hopefully fairly regularly. It seems like we should get okay dial-up in Madagascar in Ambatoharanana, which is good news.

We’re having a meet-up with the OLPC DC Learning Club tomorrow, which is really exciting as well. (More info here.)

OLPC Ampitso Meetup
Wednesday, May 27, 6:30pm
Looking Glass Lounge
Back Beer Garden
3634 Georgia Ave NW (map)

And welcome to everyone linked by OLPC News or by the OLPC MG listserv! We appreciate your comments and feedback. (Nous parlons français si vous voudraiez laisser un comment.)

May 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

T-18

We leave in 18 days! We’ve been pretty busy these past few weeks, between finals, graduation, and OLPCorps, every second is full. We’ve had more OLPC learning seminars (they’re twice weekly), some conference calls with MSP, and a private meeting with our OLPC team mentor, Bryan. We’ve hit a few snags – we’re still having power issues, and we just found out that the Malagasy legislature passed a law keeping the kids in school through mid-July. The latter is not a huge deal; we can use the extra weeks for after-school programs, teacher training, and tech setup (not in that order). The former – hopefully, we’ll find a solution. We’re hoping the school itself will be able to get on the grid to allow for an easy, sustainable charging system, but there’s been some issues on that.

In the mean time, we’re studying Malagasy culture and Malagasy the language (as well as French) and working on specific learning projects. So far, we’ve got a basic outline of a conservation project, but we still need to work on adapting it for the age groups (some of the ideas might be too complex for the 6 year olds we’re working with). We’ll also hopefully have a family project; ancestors and family are very important in Malagasy life, and this project should integrate well.

I’m also following the French Sugar Camp and watching the OLPC Madagascar listserv – it looks like there will be a deployment in Nosy Komba (a small island on the north tip of Mada, about 500 km from us, by Nosy Be) this summer, and potentially one in Réunion and in another village in Mada. We’ve been in contact with a few of these deployments. We’ll also hear from a company about a donation of USB sticks and money designated for internet.

For three of the team members, we’re leaving June 5. We’re doing IAD -> Atlanta -> Joburg -> Nairobi -> KGL for the Kigali workship, then KGL -> NBO -> JNB -> Tana for the deployment. The final team member leaves later in June, and he’s just flying IAD -> ATL -> JNB -> Tana. We get a ton of visas – Kenya requires one for just the airport, and we’re spending two nights (one each way from Kigali) in Joburg. Add that to Tana and Rwanda, and my passport will be a lot fuller than it is now.

May 17, 2009 at 8:23 pm 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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