Thursday, December 16, 2010

OLPC Freedom++

I watched a video this morning about Science Leadership Academy, a high school which "gets" digital media and cooperative learning. They even have a 1:1 laptop program. I did more research, and their Acceptable Use Policy for their laptops includes the note:

Agree to not attempt to change hardware settings or non-cosmetic system software settings.

It's disappointing to see a Science Leadership Academy so closed-minded about technology. On one hand, they want to protect the school's MacBooks. On the other, students should learn and discover their technology on a pre-college level. One student made Flash programs in junior and senior year as independent learning projects. A search fails to find other programmers on their website or students' blogs.

Making and watching media on Apple's software will only take someone so far. Treating video as a creative medium, and software as an immutable machine, does these students a disservice. I certainly don't expect everyone to be an expert. What I hope is, students will look at their next video game or a homemade gadget like MakerFaire and think "I could make this" or "I know someone in my class who would make this". Smart filmmakers can work with new, interactive canvases such as Popcorn.js, Palpable Video, or Arcade Fire after a course in HTML and JavaScript, the underlying code that makes the web work.

We use the web every day. Not everyone will be a mechanic, but we shouldn't keep future science and media leaders from looking under the hood. OLPC is open through and through. When I see Walter Bender's e-mail on a Sugar-hacking student in Uruguay, and Bernie Innocenti's photos of kids doing XO repairs, these (elementary school!) students have been given the right tools. So great.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

olpcMAP-an open geo-social network

Forty days after launching at the OLPC SF Community Summity - see

There are 350 volunteers and deployments on the website from nearly every part of the world. Several points were added by OLPC Mongolia, shining a light on their efforts. Yet we need many, many more of you. South America, home to three of OLPC's largest and most active deployments, is nearly empty.

As Sugar and OLPC are based on open technology, olpcMAP will be based on openness. Three main points make this a truly open network:

  • In addition to the typical map, you can link to map images and QuickMaps for slower connections. Use links to an individual marker, or to map projects near a city or within a country.

  • A data API lets other programmers create new maps using our data. Expect new visualizations of the global map and beautiful maps from individual groups and deployments. Each offshoot routes e-mail through, allowing you to set a single contact form for all of these websites.

  • The website and server is open source (MIT license). Project Homepage. You can run our AppEngine code with Google or by using the open-source AppScale platform.

This post would be lacking without my own olpcMAP links:

my olpcMAP Marker

projects in Uganda