Wednesday, June 30, 2010

TXT from Nicholas in Uganda

hey im in the dorm in Fort Portal and everythings good Bus ride was long
but awesome scenery Still amazed Im actually here
This is from a message-forwarding program - contact me directly at nick AT
DigiLiteracy DOT org

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bonjour from Montreal

The Montreal customs guy asked me questions in French because of my name.

I managed to participate in the Uganda conference call. I need to make doubly sure to document all of my projects, which activities interest students, and find more ways to connect our sensors and mapping to a future conservation project. But that's been my intention from the start - all of my materials are linked on the blog's right sidebar.

Then I patch my research work maps sites, and send them in over e-mail. I'm on the XO and need to do all sorts of crazy workarounds to code and then submit the code over e-mail. The software should allow direct selection of files to upload (instead of the sanitized view which is called the Journal). Journal confuses students too - I saw a Vietnamese school attach the file which said they'd run Record, instead of the photos they took with it.

I'm about to make frantic edits to wiki pages for my Boston-area non-profit, in the last 20 min before boarding the flight to Brussels. Unfortunately I'm missing some of the sensor-using action shots I took earlier, but I ought to have a whole lot of new ones, right? ;)

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Logan Airport

I'm sitting at the gate for Air Canada, taking care of some final about-to-leave business. I promised my Boston-area non-profit, DigiLiteracy, that I would be posting some lesson plans for Measure and Get Books. I also have some coding to do for my early summer research project. Putting this all together on the XO is an extra challenge, but it's still quite possible.

Once I get to Quebec, I will be calling in to a OLPC Uganda strategy conference call. There are a few large projects underway and several volunteers traveling in Uganda this summer, and if we work together we can maximize the laptops' usefulness and perhaps encourage more schools to adopt them. Sustaining a few isolated schools is quite difficult, but when more schools get computers and digital lessons, it will be easier to get support from teachers, businesses, and the education ministry.

Monday, June 21, 2010

TXT from Nicholas in Uganda

This is a test of the email and txt blast system I will use to text home
from Uganda Do not reply to this number
This is from a message-forwarding program - contact me directly at nick AT
DigiLiteracy DOT org

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Exploring Caves in Uganda

So I'm reading about some places to explore near where I'm going in Uganda

Amabera ga Nyinamwiru caves in the western Uganda town of Fort Portal are a marvel and a sight to behold even for a seasoned traveler... The whole place smells of mystery... Every room in the cave looks different and has different folk tales about it, For example, there is a room where it is said that the dogs belonging to the Bachwezi used to sit and the roof in that room is shaped like dogs' paws. There is a constant hum of the water fall inside the cave as one part of the cave has a water fall at its opening.

Very cool. Adventurous and all. Then a tip from The Daily Show leads me to discover this:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urged Ugandans and tourists on Friday to avoid entering caves after a Dutch woman returned home with deadly Marburg [Ebola] haemorrhagic fever. She is believed to have been exposed to fruit bats in the python cave in the Maramagambo Forest... but had also visited a cave in Fort Portal.

... ... =-o

Exploring caves

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sensors from (and for) Scratch

Last week, I had the chance to visit the OLPC offices in Cambridge for a sensors workshop. I was there to represent this project and meet Tiffany, a fellow member of the Digital Literacy Project.

Claudia Urrea, Education Director of OLPC Latin America, showed us how to make sensors and integrate them into lessons. The XO laptop comes with Scratch, a programming language for kids, and the engineers at OLPC and SugarLabs have programmed it to work with sensors. Connecting to Scratch makes it possible for kids to have the microphone or other sensors trigger sounds and animations, or use a program to count and calculate the sensors' input.

I had no experience with Scratch before this workshop, so I modified Measure to put a step between the students and the untamed sensor data. Using Scratch lets students decide how to measure and respond to the sensors on a fundamental level, so in the long run it's the right activity for schools and class projects. But the moment I break out Scratch, it becomes a programming class. We are using real-world sensors so that the class can be hands-on and working with the real world - would programming make it too abstract and esoteric? Hmmm...

Claudia Urrea also told us about some homemade sensors, like making the pressure pads from Dance Dance Revolution with paper plates and aluminum foil. Tiffany suggested that the mesh network could be used to let students play a game together or compete using their sensors. This DDR/game idea, and a technical concept, kept me thinking the whole way home. The students should definitely make some different sensors in the class (LEDs will work, too). And if they like connecting their inventions to the laptops, this would definitely be something to add to Measure and/or Scratch.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Appfrica: Great African Singularities

Stirring words from Jon Gosier at Appfrica:

The fact that [Yahoo,Google,Facebook] can rest comfortably as some of the biggest companies that history has ever known with little input from Africa paints a bleak future. The fact of the matter is, if one sixth the planet is being shut out of controlling or, in any meaningful way, contributing to the technologies and tools that are re-defining the future of the human race. Then they are in-turn being shut out of the future.

[Tech companies] need to be constantly reminded that they need you with cold hard facts. There are no other arguments. Show them the numbers, the patents, the inventions, the talent, the enthusiasm, the courage…the success stories

The only way to overcome irrelevance is to do things that unequivocally matter.

Read more at Appfrica

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OLPC Mesh Network

The laptops connect to each other over their own mesh network. This means several people can collaborate on a report, drawing, or map at the same time. An internet connection at one part of the network is extended out to all users. As humanitarian work and disaster relief goes high-tech, this type of network has a lot of applications beyond the classroom.

Here is a video from OLPC explaining it -- the first 2 minutes covers it and then they go on about hardware specs. One of the engineers uses the figure "300 feet" but the laptop's wireless can reach up to a kilometer with the ears up.

One of the reasons I posted this video is for an upcoming mapping project in Bangladesh.