Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
The event – highly publicized and attended by several popular leaders, including Senator Balinda, who is also the founder of the Independent University of Kigali (ULK) – was covered by Rwanda Television, and showed the country some of the things that ULK and The UNGANA Foundation are doing to enable progress.
We got the chance to showcase some of the XO laptop activities that the children at the E.P.GI Primary School have been working on over the last couple of weeks, and it was honestly amazing to hear the reaction of the crowd when one of our students logged onto her XO, opened the Web browser, and searched for images of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame. She then wowed them with her ability to copy an image to the clipboard and paste it in a text document, then write a sentence about the President.
That’s after two weeks of having the XO for one hour per day.
This is a perfect example of the limitless opportunities that come as a result of the XOs. The kick-off event began a process that – with the guidance of The UNGANA Foundation, the teachers, school officials, and the entire community – has the ability to transform these children’s education.
Power into the hands of those that crave it.
The UNGANA Foundation
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
The deployment in Goma (Congo) is coming along as well. Although many officials and members of the media are excited for the project, it has been a wild two weeks in Goma.
This week, President Kabila arrived in Goma and will be here for two weeks. Kabila is the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and it has been quite the spectacle. Kabila is rarely in Goma and the streets are lined with thousands of soldiers armed with AKs and rocket launchers. June 30 was the Independence Day in Congo and these soldiers were in formation as a part of a parade and celebration on the streets of Goma.
Despite the hectic environment, the planning for the deployment has been going quite well. A classroom is available at the district offices and the Education Privet (Director of Education in Goma) along with UNHCR is helping with a choice of the initial primary school.
The Ungana Foundation and students from the University of Kinshasa (involved in OLPC Corps) have extensive plans for the deployment including the children designing their own schoolhouse on the XO computers that will then be constructed by the Ungana Foundation.
The Ungana Foundation
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Rwanda is quickly beginning its ascent into being the foremost technological country in Africa, and is committed to making it happen in all areas of the population, including in primary schools. This investment in the future is inspiring, and was seen in the children’s excitement as we handed them this new instrument. Right off, they began testing the XO’s capabilities; taking pictures, searching for more information in the Wikipedia activity, and drawing pictures of their houses. Until now, the children have been entirely dependent on others for their education, awaiting instruction from the overworked, underpaid teachers. With the introduction of the XO, a child can supplement the education given them in school with their own interest-driven activities, with a healthy dose of problem solving, hands-on discovery.
At the UNGANA Foundation, we appreciate this refreshing confidence in the future. We are devoted to making this endeavor sustainable. Education is not effective with a “flash-in-the-pan” mentality, but must be seen as a process that will continue indefinitely.
With that in mind, we will continue to work with the ULK Primary School, offering them tools and preparing them for the time when they will be able to proceed on their own, learning things that we aren’t capable of teaching.
The UNGANA Foundation
They’ll have no idea that with these new machines, they will be able to take education into their own hands. Right now, they have no idea that they’ll soon be:
• Writing the stories of their lives
• Adding pictures of themselves to the stories
• Sharing activities with their colleagues
• Drawing pictures of their favorite animals
• Learning English by creating their own memorize activities
• Surfing the Web for information on their own country
• Using an encyclopedia to learn more about the endocrine system
• Writing a report on the East African Community with research from various sources
• Learning along with their teachers
• Teaching each other
• Working in groups without even knowing it
• Emailing pen pals on the other side of the world
• Showing their parents how to use a computer
• Creating simple computer programming
• Who knows, maybe creating complex computer programming
• Playing problem-solving games
A whole new world of educational possibilities is waiting for these children to discover. In partnering with One Laptop Per Child, the UNGANA Foundation believes that, when given the right tools, children are capable of doing amazing things; even in the most remote places. Today we will see that seed planted, and we are committed to helping nourish it.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Here's how it works out. The primary school is housed in a separate building from where the internet connection comes in. Which means server in one building and routers in another. Which means, you guessed it, drilling holes through buildings, running wire down support posts, digging a trench and finally getting the wire to the router in the other building. Tomorrow is going to be a good day.
Here is a rundown of the equipment we will be using.
--WRT54GS with dd-wrt custom firmware installed on them. This is because the stock firmware on the WRT54G has connection limitations. At 30+ connections the router slowed down. With 40+ students in each class that wouldn't fly. The loading of the custom firmware was easy enough, James from the Cornell deployment gave a good post about it here [http://cornellolpc.blogspot.com/2009/06/flashing-routers-with-dd-wrt.html]
--Server with the follow specs
- SolidLogic GS-L02 Fanless Mini-ITX System
- Mainboard: EPIA LN10000EG 1GHz
- Case: Serener GS-L02 Fanless Mini-ITX Case - Black
- Memory: DDR2 667 RAM 1GB
- Hard Disk/Flash: Seagate Barracuda 3.5" SATA Hard Drive - 160GB
- Operating System: None
- Accessories: None
- Build and Test: Build & Test: Fanless - Standard (3-5 full business days)
- Power Switch: None - Unit will be set to Auto-Power-On
- Wireless: None
- Dimensions: 31cm X 21.5cm X 5cm
Random fact about the servers. They were put in an oven for a week at ~190 degrees Fahrenheit and they still survived.
The server is a great addition to our deployment. It increases the ability for collaboration. It backs up all of the XOs every 24 hours. It can act as a content filter for the internet.
--1,000 ft of raw cat 5e cable. I bought it because it was cheaper to buy 1000 feet rather than 300 or 400 (some marketing schemes I will never understand) and it sure as hell was ridiculous to carry over here. Though having been to our site now, I am glad for the versatility that the raw cabling will provide us.
--We bought 10 1GB USB sticks so we can flash the laptops to the most recent operating system. We also learned that instead of having to individually update the system software we can use the NAND blaster (it is as cool as it sounds). One XO broadcasts the system software while up to 100 other XOs can pick up that signal wirelessly update the software. That will make updates a lot easier to run.
--A Flip Video Recorder is being generously provided to us by OLPC. We aren't sure which model we're going to get, but since OLPC said that it was going to be HD, and I assume they want to save money, we're probably getting the Flip UltraHD. It's a nice bit of electronics :).
That is about it for now. The install is tomorrow. Wish us luck.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I am so excited to have the whole OLPC Corps coming to Kigali! I have been calling Rwanda home lately and I am thrilled to have some new friends come to visit so KARIBU (welcome). My name is Alyssa Callister and after getting a bachelors degree in business I founded an NGO called the Ungana Foundation that operates out of Rwanda and Congo. I believe that the OLPC corps can make a huge difference. I know that with the right motivation, helping kids to remove limits placed on them, these children can accomplish anything. Most people when they hear about the XO and OLPC think only about the innovative technology (which obviously is amazing). OLPC has not only provided an outlet in which kids will have access to the internet and a great learning tool to teach technology (the XO), but also provided access to accomplished and driven university students who understand and can see their future potential.
What continually amazes me about the children in Africa is their brilliant ideas. The other day I sat in on a class where the teacher was lecturing on the importance of the East African Community. The children were in P 4 (around 9 years old) and learning about the importance of business, marketing, and communications throughout the region. The teacher asked one of the students to stand up and speak to the class regarding his thoughts on the subject. The boy stood up and expressed that it was important for Rwanda to push technology and English so that they can help other countries in the East African Community. He went on to talk about the many affects that trade agreements and open communication lines will have on East Africa. By the time he sat down, my jaw was on the floor. He is 9 years old! When I was 9 my only concern was when we were going to get out for recess. Given the opportunity, these kids can be future GLOBAL leaders.
No matter what age, race, or circumstance an individual has the potential to set and attain goals large and small. This is the attitude and mentality that the corps members will bring to the kids and it is this added component that will create a unique learning environment. So, in conclusion, welcome OLPC corps members! I am excited to meet and learn from you all!