OLPC Thailand - A Recent Summary

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2016

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Roger and Rinda, the invaluable OLPC Thailand volunteers at Chiang Mai University were so full of helpful information when I met them for lunch. I promised to share some of what I learned, for others interested in OLPC Thailand and working with small deployments elsewhere. My summary follows. I don't remember everything, and I apologize in advance for the errors and omissions.

On the XO, the number 1 application (Activity) for the kids is "Scratch." How the teachers use the XOs in the classroom, and how they integrate the laptops into the prescribed required curriculum and exams is the greatest challenge. There is no standard recommended curriculum or group of Activities in use. Each location uses the XOs differently. The projects that have been most successful are the ones that envision the role that the XO project can play in the community as a whole. When Activities for the XOs are designed or tailored to contribute to specific community desires or needs, the reception, support and enthusiasm for the laptop projects has been greater.

Recent news:
During the last weekend in November, 2009, the Chiang Mai University OLPC Volunteers hosted a "retreat" for teachers and volunteers from around Thailand. The report from this weekend is that the teachers work so hard and such long hours already, that time to learn the XOs and to develop curriculum for teaching with the XO is by far the most difficult obstacle. The teachers using them are motivated and usually spend alot of  time for which they are not compensated. 

Equipment Report and Repairs:
OLPC Thailand projects have 500 +/- XO-1's, some are early beta machines. The Chiang Mai University group of volunteers headed up by Roger and Rinda comprise the technical support and repair team. As of the recent retreat, there were about 75 "broken" XOs that attendees worked to repair. Most of the problems are software related which can be resolved. The teachers need to learn these tricks. There is a problem with dead batteries! There has not been a resource from which to obtain replacements. The high number of failed batteries are very likely traced to improper shutdown procedures. Running multiple activities without closing some, and shutting the computer off with just the power button, or not at all; e.g. just closing it where it "sleeps" until the battery requires a complete charge; these problems contribute to permanent battery failure. 

There are 7 projects in Thailand:
1. Ban Samkha, Lampang Province 40 XOs
Ban Samkha piloted the first XOs in Thailand. They received 20 beta 2 XOs at the end of 2006. This is the earliest deployment that I have heard of, preceding the Beta deployment of 100 machines in Uruguay by about 5 months.  There are 40 XOs being used in the school. Each chld owns their own laptop and brings it home.  We have seen the photos of the Ban Samkha children using their XOs for music and for photographing nature. The most successful curriculum project in Ban Samkha is by far the "Household Accounts Project." Many community residents were overextended with credit, and so were unable to pay their bills or even by rice seeds or plants for their small farms. The children have been taught basic household finances, how to make budgets, and to record income and expenses, to help the families plan and budget responsibly. The XO does not have an Activity that will perform the calculations on data entered. Internet and Google Documents spreadsheet is working well to perform this function. The Ban Samkha Community is solidly behind the OLPC Laptop Project.

2. Tessa Ban 4 Municipal School, Lampang City 40+XOs

3. Ban San Kampeng, Chiang Mai, 300 XOs since 2008.
This is a public school of approximently 1000 students. This project has classes of students in grades (forms) 1-5 in which each student owns their laptop, uses it in class and takes it home. These students are being tracked in XO classrooms. With parental permission and enrollment in the XO track, students in each grade will continue in an XO class during the following years. Academic success isbeing monitored and compared with the students in the non-XO classes. There are learning qualities, unmeasured also; e.g., motivation, learning excitement and creativity. The XO classes are very popular and are over-subscribed and difficult to get into.

4. Nakhon Nayok (about 1 hour north of Bangkok). 100 Beta 2 XOs.
This is Prateyp's Project in a school that the Princess has specifically chosen for an XO project. This project began following a visit by the Princess to Boston, and to MIT, with a personal meeting with Nicholas Negraponte. For this project, NECTEC, a Suksahpat Pattana Development of Learning Foundation provided software translation services which resulted in software used by OLPC Thailand Projects.

5. Ban Kayeng Hill Tribe, Chiang Rai, 20 XOs.
The XOs are used in a 6th grade classroom taught in the Thai language. The children bring the computers home. In this pilot, the children were asked to choose a topic that interested them, to research on the Internet and make a related project. This worked very well. One child researched "sushi." He created a "sushi game" using the Scratch Activity, on his XO where the player chooses the ingredients and creates the "sushi" delicacy being ordered in a "restaurant." These children are already learning advanced computer skills with their XOs.

6. & 7. ???
Kudos go to OLPC Thailand for keeping the XO laptop dream alive and growing there. Thank You Roger and Rinda!

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