OLPCorps UPenn and Cornell Kenya
Shay Osler - Rising freshman at Cornell studying bioengineering. Worked at an orphanage in Kenya for the past six months.
Noah Ready-Campbell - Junior at UPenn studying computer science and management. Experience working with children and strong technical knowledge.
Dan Lindholm - Junior at UPenn studying electrical engineering and finance. Experience installing computer systems at schools and churches and teaching students how to use them. Also worked at an orphanage in Bulgaria.
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Our team is composed of a business and computer science student from UPenn, and a rising freshman at Cornell who is currently working at the Hope Children's Center orphanage in Kiamokama, Kenya. We collectively have substantial experience in a variety of developing countries, both in Africa and Latin America, an active interest in childhood education, and significant technical know-how, including experience with Linux and web development projects (e.g. http://www.searchekko.com/).
We will be working with students at the Mobamba Primary School, and with children from the Hope Children's Center in Kiamokama. The children are in school during the summer, except for a break in August. We have discussed the deployment with the school officials, and they have agreed to support the OLPC program during the school months as well as the break. In addition, they will help us handle the laptop shipment and provide storage of the equipment during the deployment.
In consultation with the orphanage directors and several teachers at the primary school, we have developed a preliminary educational plan as follows. Our overarching goal is to involve the children in research projects that are intrinsically interesting to them and that are also well-suited to technology-driven solutions. This will provide a motivating use case to the children, and will drive involvement and interaction. In addition, we plan to focus the projects on issues relevant to the local community. This will give the children a real role in educating and informing the community, and will engage the adults in order to create lasting and sustainable change.
One of the specific project topics that we are considering is the environment, especially topics such as proper land use, and the importance of clean water. These topics are especially pertinent to our proposed group of students because, despite an economy heavily focused on agriculture, poor land use has resulted in this area being a net food importer. In addition, virtually all water sources are contaminated -- mostly from human and animal waste. Many of the children are already aware of and involved in these issues, so we believe the project topic would be a good fit. Another possible topic is AIDS, which is obviously a major concern in the area. Many of the children at the orphanage are themselves victims of AIDS deaths in their families, and providing an opportunity to learn more about the disease may allow a healthy and constructive reaction to the tragedies.
Technology will be woven into these projects at every stage. Initially, we will simply spend a some time acquainting the children with the basic functions of the XO laptops, and providing some background knowledge. In this stage we will try to make the XO laptops as fun and engaging as possible, showing children art and music applications as well as simple games. After we have established a base line of technical competency, we will introduce them to internet research. This use case is extremely relevant to real-life technology-enabled work, and also makes use of a wide variety of computer skills. The students will research information related to their projects, and then will create some type of deliverable -- e.g. a multi-media presentation or a simple web page -- to share with the rest of the students, as well as the surrounding community. In addition, projects will be group-based, which, aside from providing team structure, will give the children an opportunity to gain experience collaborating in a technological environment. Some of the specific collaboration technologies that we will introduce to them are instant messaging, wikis, blogging, and email.
After the initial deployment, Kiamokama is well suited to continue using the laptops to their advantage. Power is available in the school, and low-cost internet access is provided by Safaricom (information available here http://www.safaricom.co.ke/index.php?id=613). In addition, most of the older children have experience with English, and all of the teachers are fluent. This will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the deployment, and will enable the students to take full advantage of the web technologies we introduce to them, as well as continue to teach other students using the project-based curriculum we will refine. Finally, the teachers and administration of the school are deeply interested in the OLPC program; this, combined with their close involvement with us over the summer, will guarantee that the laptops remain central in the curriculum. If necessary, additional funding of the deployment may be provided by the UPenn chapter of Engineers Without Borders.