OLPC readies for roll-out

OLPC readies for roll-out

BY AINSWORTH MORRIS Career & Education writer morrisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 12, 2012

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A year after launching the pilot, organisers of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme are ready to have it replicated in basic and primary schools across Jamaica.

But for that to happen, the programme will need an increased level of supervision and investment — the precise details for which have not yet been revealed.

Still, with two schools — Providence Basic and August Town Primary — having already become beneficiaries courtesy of the pilot, they can at least make the case for more assistance.

They sought to do just that at a February 2 meeting with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders.

Craig Perue, programme manager of OLPC Jamaica, emphasised the importance of improved access to computers to development. He also noted that the computers they have on offer — called XOs — were ideal for Jamaican children, particularly those at the basic school level.

XOs, Perue said, are unique, hand-held, energy-efficient waterproof, hard exterior built and durable machines with an operating system called Sugar, which consists of software with the curriculum for language arts, mathematics and science subjects.

"When you have young computer scientists being developed from the basic school level... can you imagine years from now?" he asked rhetorically.

Perue's audience was comprised, among others, of:

* Adam Holt, global director of community support at OLPC Global;

* OLPC volunteer and master teacher Mark Battley;

* Errol Miller from LIME Jamaica Foundation, which has provided the two schools in the pilot with ADSL Internet connection;

* Dr Maurice McNaughton, director of the Centre of Excellence at the Mona School of Business which has been a major supporter of the programme; and

* Elaine Roulstan, director of the Ministry of Education Region One.

Roulstan has since said the ministry would be willing to help with the planned improvements, which will no doubt serve to give students a competitive advantage from an early age.

"This simple yet compelling mission that is increasing educational opportunities for some of our more disadvantaged children... will help break the cycle of poverty and violence that has depressed many families," she said.

Meanwhile, Perue said the pilot programme has met many of it's major objectives to which principals of both Providence Basic and August Town Primary have attested.

Among other things, the principals have said there is an increase of about 50 per cent in the scores of the students, who use the XO laptops.

Looking ahead, the OLPC team said they intend to have:

* continuous professional development and support for the teachers all year long, with an emphasis on creating classroom activities using software on the XO laptops or the special hardware capabilities of the XO, for example for measuring distance, robotics, other science experiments, and multimedia productions;

* develop an online portal to allow teachers, parents and other well-thinking volunteers to contribute teaching ideas, content, and lesson plans for use with Sugar-on-a-stick and XOs; and

* develop stronger partnerships with the appropriate units within the Ministry of Education, Early Childhood Commission, Jamaica Library Service, teacher-training institutions, and sponsors.

They also intend to develop a more comprehensive view of how the different partners in the ecosystem can work together to maximise student learning and development.

LIME has provided both institutions under the pilot programme, within the past year, with ADSL Internet connection.

Pilot projects of the OLPC programme's nature in Jamaica has always been implemented in Madagascar, Philippines, Kenya, Haiti, and Vietnam and have proven to be successful.

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