Sunday, June 28, 2009

Highlighting IU OHOT

OLPC recently asked our team to send them basic information about the following topics so that they can create a one page "At A Glance" that will be used to promote OLPCorps. This will give anyone who is interested an overview of several different areas of our deployment.

Deployment: Haenertsburg, Limpopo, South Africa


One of our schools, Katane, is on the power grid, so we only needed to provide power strips and outlet converters to get the Katane laptops fully powered. The laptops are charged during the school day and then the students can take them home at night. Our other two schools, Mmaweshi and Driehoek, were not on the power grid when we came last year. To mitigate the problem, we purchased generators and arranged for gas to be delivered to the schools regularly. The schools use the generators to charge the laptops during school and then the students can take them home at night. Unfortunately, most of the students do not have power at home, so even when they leave school with a fully charged laptop, they only have approximately 2 hours of use each night. In order to provide the students with more efficient power, our team purchased 160 solar panels to distribute to students who do not have power options at home. This way, the children will be able to use their laptops outside and conserve the battery for using the laptops later in the evening, after the sun has gone down. We also hope that providing individual solar panels to the students will drastically cut down on the amount of time that the generators are used at school, cutting down on fuel costs. Our solar panels will arrive in mid-July, so we will distribute them when the students return to school from winter break.


Our end goal is to saturate the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students in our three schools. We achieved saturation in 5th grade and partial saturation in 6th grade at all three schools last year, providing 20 laptops to Mmaweshi, 36 laptops to Katane, and 34 laptops to Driehoek. This year, we are providing laptops for the new 5th grade students at each school, again achieving saturation in the 5th grade class. After this summer, the 5th and 6th grade classes will be completely saturated, and they share their laptops at certain times with the 4th and 7th grade students during school hours.

With our old and new laptops combined, we have 200 laptops to use at our winter XO camp this year. We sent letters to each school that could be sent home with their students, inviting anyone who has an interest in the XO laptop to attend the camp. Our goal is to provide training to as many people as possible through these training sessions. At this time, we are not sure how many people will attend, but we believe that 200 laptops will more than provide saturation at each session.


One laptop was stolen out of Driehoek school. The school immediately reported the stolen laptop to the police, and the police are currently investigating the theft. They have made several trips to the school and appear to be taking the case very seriously.

After one year, we were given 8 broken laptops from the schools. Four of the laptops have broken screens, which could be fixed, but we do not currently have the spare parts necessary to make the repairs. The other 4 computers had broken batteries to the point that the computers would not turn on (this is different from a simple charging problem), so we replaced the malfunctioning batteries with extra parts from the 4 laptops with broken screens. This leaves us with 4 laptops that need to be replaced. We are going to keep the broken laptops for additional spare parts in the future.


Our internet situation is somewhat confusing at the moment. Two of our schools (Katane and Driehoek) receive donated internet from a local provider, Procom. To make the internet work on the XOs at these two schools, we need to plug an Ethernet cable into a router, which makes the internet wireless so that all of the XOs can get online. We needed to purchase new routers this year, which have not yet arrived. We believe that internet will work at both Katane and Driehoek once we receive the new routers.

Our third school, Mmaweshi, is different because it is in a location that does not allow it to receive internet from Procom. Mmaweshi receives internet through an MTN card which we have to pay for.


Ownership was a key issue that required a lot of deep thought last summer. Our goal was to make one child the official owner of one laptop, while also providing a system of oversight and accountability. We ended up writing contracts that were signed by each student who received a laptop. These contracts stress that the students are the owners of the laptops, but that owning a laptop comes with certain responsibilities , such as caring for the laptops and not abusing them in anyway (pulling keys off, hitting them, breaking the screen, etc). It is explained in our contract that One Here… One There (our organization at Indiana University), Thusanang Trust (our local partnering organization), and the schools have the power to take the laptops away if they are being abused. This system has worked very well. For instance, one student was found pulling keys off of his XO. The school was able to take the laptop away for one week and then have a detailed discussion with the student about why his laptop was taken away and how it would feel to be the only 5th grade student without an XO. The laptop was returned after the student promised to properly care for his laptop in the future, and there have been no further problems.

All of the students are allowed to take their laptops home in the evening after charging them during the school day. We distributed surveys last month to all of the students who received XOs last summer. When asked how many days each week the students use their laptops, they overwhelmingly responded 5-7 days. When asked how many hours each day the students use their laptops, nearly all of the students said at least 2 hours, and some students (presumably those with power sources at home) said up to 5 hours. The students do not take the laptops home over extended breaks for safety reasons, and because most of the students would not have the means to charge the laptops at home. Now that we are providing individual solar panels to the students, this issue could be readdressed so that the students could take the laptops home over breaks.

Goals for 2010:

We have 3 main goals for the coming year:
1.) One of our schools, Katane, has an established after school program where the students meet once a week to use their XOs in a constructionist learning environment. We would like to establish similar programs at our other two schools.

2.) We would like to achieve saturation in the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students at our three schools. This would require us to deploy approximately 100 more laptops next summer.

3.) Lastly, we would like to increase local community involvement. This could include more community members being involved in the after school programs, or simply more community leaders visiting our schools to see first hand the benefits of these projects.

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