Archive/Current Events/2009-09-21

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Sugar Digest

1. At the urging of Yama Ploskonka, I went to Washington, DC to the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB) to attend a seminar, “Reinventing the Classroom: Social and Educational Impact of the Incorporation of Technologies” as part of an ICT for education program.

The stated workshop objectives were: (i) Understand development experiences and case studies of national projects for the integration of Information Technology and Communication in education systems, (ii) Discuss how these projects impact on student learning and in developing countries, and (iii) Share challenges of evaluation and monitoring initiatives at national and regional levels.

My objective was to catch up with people leading the various efforts in the region in order to acquaint them with what we are doing at Sugar Labs.

I missed the opening remarks, but was able to attend the panel discussions: one about implementations and one about “lessons and challenges.”

It seems that still too many people see ICT as a goal of rather than a means to learning, but it was nonetheless great to get a clearer picture of the various projects in the region.

Miguel Brechner, director of LATU and the force behind Project CEIBAL in Uruguay, gave a passionate talk about all that they have accomplished. The bottom line: It is possible, so what are the rest of you waiting for? Among Miguel's “Lessons from Uruguay” was a detailed break down of the total cost of ownership across four years: US$ 276 per child per year. This includes the cost of the laptop, connectivity—every child in Uruguay gets free Internet access ($31/child/year), servers, spares, maintenance, logistics, delivery, operating costs, et al. Uruguay has already distributed 380,000 laptops to more than 2000 schools and trained more than 18,000 teachers. They have 500 support teachers and 1500 support volunteers helping with training and deployment. In terms of evaluation, there has been little opportunity to report any longitudinal assessments of impact of the deployments, which are relatively recent, but the early indicators are worth noting:

  • The teachers are driving the change;
  • There is an increase in attendance;
  • There is an increase in overall motivation;
  • There is more motivation to do homework;
  • There is less time spent watching television;
  • There is an increase in parental involvement;
  • There is more motivation to go to school;
  • There is an increase in self-esteem;
  • There is an increase in interest in learning;
  • There is a dramatic drop in repeated grades;
  • There is an increase in the basic skills to use a computer;
  • There is an increased trend toward collaboration and sharing.

220,000 homes now have computers through Project CEIBAL. Computer penetration in the the poorest households exceeds the national average.

Jorge Pedreira, deputy minster of educational Portugal described Magalhães, which is being deployed nationwide in Portugal. It is a project of inclusion that is leaning heavily on telcom industry partnerships to provide subsidized laptops and connectivity. There is an emphasis on ICT training and school administration enhancements through ICT. For the elementary-aged students, there is a local spin of the Classmate PC. They have reached 370,000 students with a dual-boot machine: Windows XP and Caixa Mágica. (Sugar runs on their hardware—I made sure to show the deputy minister at the coffee break.) Their strategy is: ICT changes education and thus society, and this project is a way to get ICT into the classroom . Pedreira made the point that we need to assess assessment as the children have new competencies that are not part of the standard metrics.

Alicia Banuelos, Rector at La Punta University described the San Luis Digital Project in San Luis, Argentina. San Luis is a wealthy province—wealthy enough to self-fund a comprehensive program that includes connectivity and computing throughout the community. For the younger children, they have instituted 1-to-1 computing, also using Classmate PCs (~7000 computers) running Windows XP. She reported some improvements in language and math scores—she emphasized that the improvement was in both rural and urban schools. She also mentioned that every child is learning chess. Not sure how that impacts the control, but watch out Viswanathan Anand.

The final project review was by Alayde Maria Pinto Digiovanni, Superintendent of education in the State of Paraná, Brazil. Their program is classroom focused: no laptops, but large displays in every classroom. They use exclusively free software and free text books—which has caused lots of friction with the publishers.

Help wanted

2. Simon Schampijer and our amazing release team are in the final phase of the 0.86 release cycle for more details—the release is scheduled for Friday. Please test and please report any issues you find. The BugSquad is still available to triage bugs.

Note that we are now hosting our bug tracker at

In the community

3. Software Freedom Day is 19 September. There are celebrations from Boston to Bogota to Melbourne.

4. Donna Benjamin reports that Open Edge 2009: The Australian Open Education Forum is 9 October at SCEGGS in Sydney.

Sugar Labs

5. Gary Martin has generated a SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM).