On Wed, May 11, 2011 at 15:21,  <jbalc...@laptopstolesotho.org> wrote:
> Hi, I'm a new subscriber to this list.  My name is Janissa Balcomb, and I
> am president and co-founder of Laptops to Lesotho Inc., a nonprofit
> organization established in 2009 to distribute refurbished G1G1 XO-1
> laptops we purchase on ebay to children in remote mountain villages in
> Lesotho.


> We are using what we think is a rather unique approach to setting up a
> computer program in a developing nation, and we would like to find a
> research partner to do an in-depth, long-term evaluation of the efficacy
> of our project.

Second the motion.

I would also suggest that you use the Free Software/Open Source
approach of publishing all of your materials and letting the community
work with them, try to improve them, test them, and so on. The new, in
testing, not quite yet public Replacing Textbooks server at Sugar Labs
is available for hosting training materials in addition to Free
digital textbook replacements, or Open Education Resources (OER).

> The first thing we did differently was we took 1-1/2 years to establish a
> grassroots organization in the local community before we distributed a
> large number of computers.  We started with just two Windows-based
> computers and two XO-1 laptops.  With the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer
> living in the community, we put two local educators in charge of the
> project at the very onset.  We mentored them, trained them, and made them
> responsible for all major decisions.  From the onset, we let them know
> that our role was merely as facilitator to get them started and that,
> within a matter of a few years, they would be solely responsible for the
> project.

Are you familiar with Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka? Your methods are somewhat similar.

> As we guided these two project leaders, we had a series of bench marks,
> unbeknownst to them, that they had to achieve before we moved to the next
> step. It wasn't until they reached the point where they had enough
> computer skills to supervise the project, where they were communicating
> regularly with us by email, where they had shown a serious sustained
> commitment to the project, and where the community had shown full
> investment in the project that we began delivering laptops.
> Another thing we are doing is moving at a pace of change that the
> community can fully absorb without disruption.  Our first deployment in
> 2010 consisted of 50 laptops.  Our second deployment with a similar number
> of laptops will be a full year later.
> During the first deployment, we met separately with all the teachers,
> parents/guardians, students, community leaders, religious leaders,
> government officials, and local police. After those meetings, we spent ten
> days helping the project leaders and school staff work out rules and
> regulations to govern the project.  These rules try to address every
> possible scenario we could foresee and establish a procedure to deal with
> situations we couldn't foresee.  From this, the school staff developed
> contracts for each student, parent/guardian, and educator to sign in order
> to participate in the project.

Did you record any of those meetings? Such recordings would be of
inestimable value to researchers and to other instructional designers.

> The regulations and contracts clearly define responsibilities, benefits,
> and penalties for all parties involved.  Penalties for violating the
> contract can be paid in cash or worked off by doing community service.
> (The English version of the Rules and Regulations, Contracts, and Fine
> Schedules is posted on our blog at
> http://olpc2010-lesotho.blogspot.com/p/2011-rules-regulations-contracts-fee.html)

Thank you.

> Originally, we based our project on the OLPC philosophy and guidelines.
> However, the leaders, educators, and community members felt that one
> aspect, child ownership, didn't fit well with their situation and the
> number of laptops we were providing.  They changed that to school
> ownership with a system that allows the children and teachers to check the
> laptops out like a library book.
> As part of this system, a student must earn the right to check out a
> laptop.  First, both the student and their parents/guardian must all sign
> contracts agreeing to abide by the Rules and Regulations.  Then, the
> student and parents/guardian must learn how to properly care for the
> laptop and display that knowledge to the satisfaction of the student's
> classroom teacher.  Lastly, the student must earn a set number of points,
> via a clearly defined point system, based on the student's behavior at
> school and at home.
> During the first deployment we spent three weeks at the end of the school
> giving all the teachers at the school and a principal from another school
> in the area intensive training on how to use the XO laptop, how to charge
> and repair the laptops, how to teach with laptops in the classroom, and
> how to develop lessons with the laptops to supplement the curriculum.
> Then we left.  Three months later, one of the project leaders, who is the
> school principal, was brought to the U.S. for a professional and cultural
> exchange.  During that time, he had the opportunity to visit a number of
> schools, observe classes, and talk to principals, teachers, students, and
> school board members to learn about the U.S. education system.  (The trip
> was paid for by FIPE, the Foundation for International Professional
> Exchange.)  He returned to his school with a new perspective and new
> ideas.
> Laptops to Lesotho volunteers will return to the village in December 2011.
>  In the interim, the school staff is running the program.  So far, the
> laptops are being used several times a week in grades 4-7 and periodically
> in the lower grades.  Most of the teachers are using them in their
> classrooms, though two are not yet comfortable teaching with them.  In
> order that all the students get a chance to use the laptops, those
> teachers switch with other teachers for some lessons.  A larger solar
> power system is being installed this month that will enable the teachers
> to charge more laptops at one time and that will allow them to use the
> laptops even more frequently in the classroom.

Is your solar power system design public?

> It is too early to tell what significant long-term changes this project
> will make, but in the short-term it has been very successful. Some of the
> short-term changes we have documented at this early stage include a 20%
> increase in enrollment at the school and a drop in chronic absenteeism to
> nearly zero.  Empirical evidence shows a vast improvement in student
> behavior and an increased rate of improvement in math and English skills.

I would be very interested to see a comparison of your results with a
one-to-one deployment. There are many other experiment designs of

> The project has also gotten the parents/guardians more actively involved
> in the school and has brought the community more closely together.  They
> have decided to start an annual cultural celebration, a tradition that had
> been lost prior to this project.  They will use the celebration, along
> with other community activities, to help raise funds for the project.
> The school staff has already begun to evaluate schools and school staff
> members in surrounding villages to determine the next candidate for
> expansion of the project.  They have also decided to spend part of the
> project funds to attend a grant-writing and fundraising workshop.
> We think that our process could be replicated successfully elsewhere.
> But, before we get too much farther down the road, we would like to
> establish a strict scientifically-based hypothesis testing research
> project to evaluate this technique both in short-term and long-term gains.
> If you are interested in helping to set up this evaluation research, or
> know of someone who might be, please let me know.

I don't have the resources of a researcher, and Sugar Labs is not a
research group. But as a Sugar Labs Project Manager, I would be very
interested in following your research, and suggesting some research

> Thanks,
> Janissa Balcomb
> jbalc...@laptopstolesotho.org
> www.laptopstolesotho.org
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Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.
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