During our May trip to East Timor (Timor Leste or TL) we met with some of the local team members (Warren, Soroya, Syntus) to move the OLPC deployment project forward. I had a list of questions gathered from the Adelaide side of the team, and used these to kick off discussion. Some fascinating “take aways” – important points that made the visit and this meeting very worth while:
- A deployment date just after Jan 9 2010 was suggested, just after school returns in TL (but before school returns in AU) to ensure all TL teachers are present. As the TL primary school day ends in early PM there is time available for XO training, and the consensus was that teachers would make themselves available for such an important project.
- Tetun books would be very useful in schools. I mention this as although Portuguese is the official language of TL Tetun readers (i.e. very simple and short books) etc are still very much desired. Syntus could help with the translation effort of a few simple books to get us started.
- Teaching languages are Portuguese, Tetun, and English from Year 4. So material (e.g. ebooks) in these languages would be great.
- Saturation and security issues: I introduced saturation (every kid in a class gets an XO to take home) by describing the XO core principles and why they were important (e.g. mentioning that the computer lab idea doesn’t work too well, even in Western schools). I used the metaphor of the text book – the student doesn’t own the XO, but is responsible for it for the entire school year (Thanks Bill and Joel for bringing me up to speed on the concept of saturation). After some thought both Syntus and Soroya believed that the take-home saturation model would work, e.g. it would be looked after like the family mobile phone (equivalent to a high end appliance like a Plasma TV or car in an Australian home). Soroya had some precedents with activity books and text books students already take home (and faithfully return) to keep them busy (and not bored) during holidays.
- Warren suggested that parents and community (Local government, police) should be invited to a community intro of the project which was great.
- Power: Hera has good power with just the occasional lapse outside of school hours. The news from the principal at Titilari is that they have a budget for a power connection, however no schedule is known. We will need to keep pinging Titilari on that one. If Titilari has power for a few hours a day it will make charging and powering a school server much easier (e.g. recharging a couple of 12V truck batteries from intermittent mains).
- Key XO application in Titlari remains text books – currently vast amounts of time are spent copying text from the blackboard. In the futures e-lessons could also be shared.
- It was agreed that XO menu translation into Tetun would be wonderful and have a big impact on marketing (and hence expanding) the project in TL, e.g. the local TV could show a “Tetun computer”. Syntus agreed to preform the translation if he has technical work. Action: work out what’s involved in a XO menu translation (Joel has already progressed this – thanks again Joel).
- Planning for deployment: We need to give the local team plenty of notice, e.g Syntus would need leave from work to participate as translate in 2 week deployment project. We also need to consider accommodation, hire cars, travel time to Titilari.
- We have a nice letter from the Principal of Titilari in the original Tetun and a translation to English. The letter highlights the need for teacher training and the principle application to supplement text books. Very good work (and 12 hours of travel) by Syntus and his wife.
- We also discussed the school server – they were very excited by the idea of storing large numbers of a e-books or an Encyclopedia, plus the ability to supplement the XO storage and perform backups. Action: locate some more Portguese e-textbooks and an XO version of Wikipedia in Portuguese.
- I demonstrated how to change the menus to Portuguese, as well as Portuguese ebook and English kids story ebook. Soroya is going to put the two new XOs in her class for students to start playing.