[OLPC India] India Digest, Vol 22, Issue 19

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Mon Sep 22 11:49:14 EDT 2008

On Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 10:08 AM, Marc Valentin
<mvalentin at oeuvredespains.org> wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 4:31 PM, Sameer Verma <sverma at sfsu.edu> wrote:
>> On Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 3:43 PM, Satish Jha <sjha at vsnl.com> wrote:
>>> I am overwhelmed by the kind of support this project is receiving from
>>> everyone.. from individuals to institutions and corporations and
>>> governments.. they have all been trying to do their best..
>>> My corporate relations adviser informs me that an airline has agreed to give
>>> a number of free tickets for the staff, a business house is willing to offer
>>> office space and support for all the schools it runs and the children they
>>> have run up in six figures and so on..
>>> However, our goal is to reach out to those who cannot help themselves.. And
>>> our efforts are focused primarily in that direction.
>>> While individual initiatives greatly contribute to the cause, aggregating
>>> them in an organized way may get a lot more out of them.
>>> We should also keep in mind that our production batch size is 50,000 at one
>>> time and unless we can scale up, the program will have different kind of
>>> management challenges.
>>> In this listserv, if we can focus on how to aggregate to large numbers, it
>>> will be a great help indeed.
>> Maybe what we need is a simple list or table of people who what small
>> batches of XOs in their school, village, neighborhood etc., organized
>> by location, etc. That way we can combine small batches into a larger
>> order. If 50 schools of 1000 children each speak up, we get 50K. It
>> could very well be a simple form that people fill out with all these
>> details and contact info, potential donors (whether they have any or
>> are seeking, etc).
>> This could even scale worldwide...
>> Thoughts?
> I think it must be very exciting to see all the children of a school
> roaming around with XO laptops but I don't see the educative aspect in
> it. First, you need capable and motivated teachers, very difficult to
> find.

I disagree. First, you need capable and motivated *children* and
that's easier to do than to retrofit a thirty-something teacher with
new thinking.

> Second, children can easily share the laptops during the day,
> they are not going to spend the whole day using the laptops, isn't it
> ? It depends on the quantity of divisions in the school but with one
> division, 50 laptops are certainly enough so during a class using XO,
> each child can have his own laptop. (That was the source of the
> misunderstanding in a previous message : we have 35 laptops and 50
> would be just perfect).

I am tempted to say that I find your lack of faith disturbing :-)
(subtle Star Wars humor)

I've seen children work with the XO. Yes, you need teachers to keep an
eye on things in a classroom, and yes you will need to educate them
about the project and process, but give the children some credit. I
don't know how old you are Marc, but I am willing to bet, the kids are
a lot younger :-) They learn faster and in much better ways than you
and I can. I started KinderGarten with chalk and slate. Why should we
subject the children to chalk and slate if we can bypass it?

So, kids walking around with XOs is educational? I think so. Every
time they learn that multiplication is addition done several times
using Pippy, they learn. I didn't learn that until 11th grade (not
very sharp, was I?) when I learned to write BASIC programs. Why?
Because the nuns at my convent school never bothered to teach me. They
surely did a good job of beating it into me (all the way up to tables
of 14), but that's another story. See more at

> If you consider the budget aspect only : 1000 laptops means $200,000
> only for the hardware. You still have to count the training and the
> maintenance. It is a very big amount, too big for a 1000 children's
> school.

Yes, that number is true. In fact, if you look at Habib Khan's
spreadsheet, you'll see what some of the real costs are.

We have to be realistic. The idea isn't doing this cheap. The idea is
to get someone who *can afford it* to pay for it. The XO costs are
still less than $350 or so for an ASUS EEE PC. All other costs will
remain the same, if not increase.

> I know donations can come from abroad but local people will
> feel you mis the point, the main problem in India is the lack of
> infrastructures

Lack of infrastructure can be bypassed or circumvented by the XOs
bringing their own infrastructure with them. If we wait to build the
infrastructure, that might be another ten years gone by.

> and the poor attendance of the teachers and the
> students.

I believe this has improved dramatically once the children have a
reason to be there. In Bhagmalpur
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_India/Bhagmalpur), the school has a
near 100% attendance. The real reason? Free mid-day meal from the UP
government. Post lunch, the school looks empty and the kids raid the
village backyards and gardens in search of mischief.

I don't intend to discount your opinion in any way. After all, you
have a school of 35 XOs. Your input is valuable. We are all on the
same team here. At least, I hope so. However, some of the thinking
with this project is incredibly disruptive, and will require us to
think in disruptive ways. Otherwise, the XO Speak will dictate "Two
one za two..." and the children will repeat.

Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

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