past laptop programs + content + wikipedia activity

Carlos Nazareno object404 at
Thu Oct 9 18:17:28 EDT 2008

> P.S. - On the same note, please recall that those of us who choose to
> accept and to pursue the historical goals of Sugar have our reasons [1]
> for doubting the viability of existing techniques.
> [1]:

Yeah, read that article ages ago.

As it says, there's a problem with tying the laptops to work with
existing curricula. I think with that, it's also more a problem of
appropriate content and maybe testing/quizzing software with which
students can sharpen their skills more outside of class.

Yeah, throwing tons of ebooks at students is great, but you have to
have a way of evaluating whether the students are actually reading
them and picking up anything from them.

If the laptops contained stuff like games a la't_Know_Jack or whatever that
actually tested their knowledge, they could have been more useful.

These things can also be put to good use by speeding up and automating
the tallying of quiz scores:

Students can log in via browser to a test/quiz server linked to their
account during class hours, then you can have multiple choice or true
or false tests that draw from a pool of random questions from a
dynamic backend like PHP/MySQL (each student gets a different question
rollout, thus reducing the chance of cheating). Saves the teacher time
in checking the quizzes individually and users can automatically see
their scores :)

It seems so far that the bulk of OLPC is going into engineering a
fantastic machine with a really great software platform, but from the
avaliable activities I've seen so far, there's not enough learning
content being developed for the XO platform that's relevant to
specific year-level curricula with apps that test these knowledge.

Maybe we can build generic activity game engines that can be localized
to different regions by just swapping the question-answer "database"
portion? For starters, how about stuff like word games. Like maybe
hangman? All you need for that is a dictionary list to pull data from
and it can be easily localized by swapping the dictionary list. I'm
thinking interface is browser-based then it'll pull question & answer
data from localhost via an AJAX or Flash/Gnash frontend.

I'm very interested in how the Wikipedia activity was developed. I
find it amazing how it was squeezed into a dynamic engine that
decompresses sections of a bz2 compressed file on an "as needed"
transactional basis to pull content for a browser. How does the
wikipedia activity work? Is it running a local server on the XO? I
noticed that the url is localhost:8000/static/

Maybe something similar can be built for quiz engines with a
question/answer database that can be easily be edited by content
contributors? Something as easy as editing an XML file, and yet
difficult enough for students to open up in order to peek at the

Stuff like this would be really great.


Carlos Nazareno

interactive media specialist
zen graffiti studios
naz at

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