We're getting down to it! Our team leaves on Tuesday for our trip to Kenya and we couldn't be more excited. Saturday morning we had our final meeting to discuss OLPC and our ideas/expectations for the trip.
We came up with a few predictions of problems we may run into while in Kenya & a few solutions for each of them. The first of which is the memory of the laptops. Each has approximately 550 MB of memory, which isn't really that much. From what we've gathered, the record activity is usually a favorite of the kids, and it takes up a lot of memory, thus making less room for other activities to be saved. The idea to bring a long a bunch of flash drives was brought up. We discussed this for a while, both the pros of adding memory and the potential cons being the fact that flash drives are hard to get a hold of in Kenya and giving a child both a laptop and a flash drive would potentially seem pretty backwards in that culture. In the end, we decided we'd bring a few, maybe just give them to the teachers, and play it by ear (this is slowly becoming our motto for the trip! haha). Other solutions that would fix the memory problem would be a school wide server, but without internet access this isn't really feasible. A third would be to encourage a few long term projects so there would be enough memory to store them all.
Power was also discussed as a problem. Charging the laptops will add a lot to the electricity bill of the school, something that hasn't really been budgeted in thus far. Regarding a solution to this, we're not really sure how it's all going to work. We're bringing over a few power strips so more laptops can be charged at once, but that doesn't really fix the monetary problem. Again, this is something we'll probably figure out how to deal with as the months pass. The lack of internet is another issue we can't really fix. While it's a major focus of the OLPC program so kids can use the laptops in & out of the classroom, it isn't readily available in Kenya. Kibwezi has one cyber cafe, but it's not a wireless network. However, this isn't exactly something that's going to stop OLPC from having a positive impact in the school, so we're just going to do what we can with the resources we've got and go from there.
Another concern is fear. We're worried that the community will over protect the resources, so to speak, and treat the laptops as precious, fragile things. As an answer to this, we're trying to make the OLPC program more public, letting the community know what's going on, and letting them know that it's okay if something happens to them. We're not going to come back and be angry because a laptop or two is broken. We want them to USE the laptops, not keep them under lock & key because they're scared of breaking them. They're computers. They malfunction and break sometimes, and it's no one's fault. And if the computers are going to be in the hands of children, which is what's intended, then things are definitely going to happen to them. We're going to also have them keep any laptops that might break for parts, incase, say, a monitor on a working computer breaks. Then they can replace it with the monitor from a laptop with some sort of hardware malfunction. If the computers are going to be in the hands of children, which is what's intended, then things are going to happen to them.
Some other concerns that have been raised in the past few weeks have been the fear that, since the curriculum is so very focused on education, they may be hesitant to introduce the computers into every day school. The teachers might think they would detract from learning in the classroom, especially in preparation for the standardized testing that occurs late summer/early fall. We've made it our goal to teach the teachers that the computers can be great teaching tools. They encourage collaboration between students & a constructionist view on education, rather than traditional direct instruction. If we succeed in convincing the teachers the worth of these laptops in education, I feel like we'll have left a lasting impression & increased the chance that the XO laptops will actually be utilized like we hope they will be.
Our notes from a previous meeting, brainstorming several subjects that are heavily focused on in the primary school and attempting to decide which programs could be useful for those subjects & how they could be used.
Dave, Krista, myself, and Greg exploring the laptops & trying to plan activities for the students and teachers.
Keep checking back for some history on the OLPC program itself!