2012 OLPC-SF Community Summit

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

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Give a Laptop, Get a Laptop, Change the World” and Change Your Life

It’s early morning at Logan Airport in Boston and it’s 3:30 AM in San Francisco, CA from where I’ve just arrived. I have 2 hours to wait for the “Coach” to New Hampshire’ my route home. With my bags in hand I exit the escalator on the ticketing level where I am headed for breakfast. I am greeted by this message. It’s so simple, it’s incredible but I think to myself that the billboard speaks the truth,. The sign could also read: Give a Laptop, Get a Laptop, Change the World and Change Your Life.

You don’t believe me? You can read through my entire blog and scroll through the photos in each of the 40+ entries and you will find the proof several times over.

"In 2007 I happened to see the "60 Miinutes" segment on OLPC. The mission and the precious kids moved me to participate in the G1G1 program. Actually, my donation was a little selfish too. I wasn’t very proficient with a computer and I figured that if the Get 1 was something that a child could figure out, maybe I could also.

I had been using my personal XO for travel and referred the many curious inquiries to the OLPC website. Until 2009, I did not know anyone at OLPC. I  viewed myself as a quiet ambassador for their efforts to bring education to “the world’s poorest children.”

A trip to Vietnam changed all of that! Our tour guide in Halong Bay saw me using my XO and said, “wait until you see the children in the floating fishing village tomorrow. They have a schoolroom but often there are no teachers. They don’t have many books or things to learn with.” I gave him a “tour" of the XO laptop and explained that each one is like a whole library! But I told him that I didn’t know anyone at OLPC and I did not have any idea of what might be possible or how to go about it. Give a Laptop, Get a Laptop, Change the World and Change Your Life.

Today I’m returning home from the 2012 OLPC Global Volunteer Summit in San Francisco, and many of our stories are similar. All of us doing this work are planting seeds that change the lives of children and adults worldwide, improving life in their communities in many small ways, and laying groundwork for brighter futures. You can read much about that throughout my blog, and there are many articles and videos in mainstream media about this as well.

You won’t find as much about the “change your life” part. I had a full and busy weekend in SF. The friendships I’ve made and the folks I have met from all over the world working together to bring education to children  everywhere, have enriched my life in ways too many to list. Everything I do with OLPC brings another adventure! There is always interesting and thought provoking conversation, I learn many new skills, I join in activities that I would not otherwise have ventured, and my “young friends” keep me young and on my toes! This past weekend was no exception.

What did we do in San Francisco? Some of us arrived on Thursday evening. We were staying out in Bolinas at the Kleider’s lovely home. When I say we, I mention that there were 8 of us spending the weekend there and 15 or more staying over on Sunday night after the lovely and lively End of Summit Party. 15 house guests and who knows how many party attendees? That’s a lot of food and a lot of work! June and Alex, & Tanya and Mike’s gracious hospitality included comfy accommodations and gourmet meals in a gorgeous relaxing setting. And Alex, the van "captain" for the 1 hour commute to downtown SF, took us on some of the most scenic roads in the area. For the Kleider’s, this was their 3rd year hosting. I know we all share in my sincere thanks.

This is the third year of the Summit.
OLPC-SF http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugarcamp_SF_2012#Photos  OLPC San Francisco, a volunteer group, dreamed up, planned and sponsored this event, partnering with San Francisco State University which generously hosted our event. The work of Professor Sameer Verma of the SFSU Business School enables the continued sponsorship of this event by SFSU and its student volunteers. Together with members of OLPC-SF, they ran a top-notch event.

The conference began on Friday evening with a meet and greet. Saturday and Sunday there were full days of sessions presented in one of three tracks, Education, Outreach and Technology, and included presentations from OLPC Boston and Miami folks also.

A highlight was on Sunday when we heard about the latest stories and data from “The Reading Project.” This is the famous recent “helicopter tablet drop” project in Ethiopia. Nicholas Negroponte still posits that children can figure everything out and learn how to learn without teachers. His plan to drop tablets into a community without prior exposure to any technology, and without instruction on how to use them, to see whether the kids in an illiterate village can learn to read on their own is a bold one. For its experiment, OLPC chose the Motorola Xoom Android Tablet (a touch screen) and loaded it with apps, both free and proprietary. 20 kids each in 2 remote Ethiopian villages received Xoom Tablets. One of the interesting things  about this project is that the tablets have an SD data card included and the “sneakernet” team of 2 visits the sites once a week to swap out the data cards. The cards are Fed Ex’d to the Cambridge office team for analysis. How much arer the tablets being used? Constantly. What are the children doing with them? Are they learning to read upside down or right side up? We had a fascinating glimpse and we await the rest of the story as it plays out.

The OLPC XO-4 with the touchscreen was available to see. We hear that it will be available perhaps in January, 2013. We learned that the Sugar Activities need to be modified to work with touch, but it has an on screen keyboard that pops up for use when text boxes appear.

I have a better understanding of how a school server can be designed and installed, and how content can be customized for installation on multiple XOs, very useful in larger projects and in projects localized in languages other than English. We heard about things that work well on all fronts, and we thoughtfully discuss obstacles and problem solving. Always in the forefront is discussion of the future of OLPC, the future of olpc, e.g., the role of the global grassroots volunteer community, and the mission to provide access to education to the millions of children worldwide who are still without any schools, teachers or formal learning means. With very few exceptions, this incredible global and usually online community works tirelessly without pay and we each pay our own expenses for equipment to improve the XO as a learning tool, and for travel to meetings and for our site work.

On Monday the Sugar Hacking Sprint began and continues through Wednesday. (link) The list of topics to be addressed was ambitious and I am anxious to see the products of the continued volunteer efforts this week.

As always, the story is in the photos! Huge thanks to Sameer, June and Alex and family, SFSU, and the members of OLPC-SF for all of your hard work and for the wonderful OLPC-SF Summit 2012!


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Harriet on

Thanks Nancie for your report and pictures...... the next best thing to having been there in person!

A long and interesting road travelled....and a long way yet to go. All the best.

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