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Monday, March 1, 2010

Interesting article in OLPC News today

Was OLPCorps 2009 an OLPC Failure?

When Beth Santos presented at OLPC Learning Club DC about her OLPC San Tome experience, her description of the OLPCorps deployment had me asking one very intense question:
beth santos
Beth Santos: OLPCorps savior
Was OLPCorps San Tome a failure?
When Beth first went to San Tome to volunteer with Step Up, she didn't expect to work with XO laptops. She just wanted to help the São João school. On arrival, she found XO laptops stored in a closet, unused since the OLPCorps volunteers left.
This should not come as a surprise. We predicted thatabandoned XO laptops would be one legacy of OLPCorps. Technology adoption, in any culture, requires enthusiastic supporters with a long-term commitment to change. By parachuting in volunteers for a few weeks one summer, OLPC was setting up OLPCorps to have a temporary impact at best.
Beth's surprising opinion
After Beth finished her talk, I asked her if she thought the OLPCorps program was a failure, especially since she found few XO skills or OLPC knowledge in the community when she arrived. She surprised me by saying OLPCoprs in San Tome was not a failure because they did the groundwork that made her experience possible.
OLPCorps found the local organizations, like Step Up, schools, and people that would be excited about an XO laptop deployment. They also did the initial hardware setup and XO familiarization that allowed the school to accept the XO laptops in the classroom.
But OLPCorps San Tome was not there long enough to get the XO laptops into the classroom during the school day. It took a follow up visit by Beth to get actual educator adoption and student ownership. It took at least six months of daily in-person interaction to effect change at Sao Joao
XO deployment critical success factor
Kim Toufectis asked Beth a great follow on question: what skill or knowledge did she bring to San Tome that was a critical success factor? While Beth didn't think she had any unique advantage for XO deployment success, I believe she had one that's the most needed in any XO deployment: determination.
She had the will and the drive to make things happen. She wasn't going to let 100 XO laptops languish in a closet even if she didn't have a clue about OLPC or one-to-one pedagogy. She's a go-getter and OLPC San Tome was lucky to have her.
She also proves that if OLPCorps is to be a success, it needs to invest in communities with the right volunteer for the long-term. It needs more Beth Santos to stay on site longer.

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