E-learner Platform 2.0 Proposal to Google

So this is the quickly written proposal to Google regarding getting them to help with the OLPC. Hopefully this works out. The proposal reflects the project latest development. We’re taking an Agile approach so things may change depending on conditions.

E-Learner Platform 2.0
1. Introduction
1.1 Vision Statement
E-Learner Platform 2.0 envisions connected, independent and personally developed young learners who are capable of living and working in an open and web-based environment
1.2 Overview of program
E-Learner Platform 2.0 is about leveraging existing open source software and Web 2.0 technology to help children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds learn about the incredible learning tools that are available free and accessible for public usage at low cost. We aim to pool together physical resources and human capital and help deliver a training program to the poorest schools.
1.3 Uniqueness of E-Learner Platform 2.0
1.3.1 Weakness of status quo
Many shelters and schools for disadvantaged kids in Vietnam lack sufficient resources to build an adequate computing program, even in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City. Existing computing curriculum (if any) focus on vocational skills and quick fixes. While the practicality of this approach is indeed legitimate, we believe more emphasis should be placed on personal development. Also, existing computer labs in shelters/schools for the lower strata of society predominantly utilizes pirated software, which we believe promotes a culture of piracy and erodes integrity.
1.3.2 Goals of our model that address the problems
a) Holistic education (consider also referencing the ‘constructivist’ learning paradigm/approach)
By this we mean a holistic approach that encompasses both personal development and practical training. Personal development encompasses proactivity, creativity, collaboration and sharing, and vocational training includes practical goal-oriented skills to help students in their future vocations, including word processing, internet and email usage. We are convinced that a child should be given the opportunity to explore, to imagine and garner the tools to concertize those imaginations, rather than to learn what we think are best for them. Therefore, a bottom-up approach should be taken and our role is to facilitate their personal development, which in time will bring vocational training skills naturally as anyone well-versed in self-learning can easily pick them up along the way.
b) Use of open source software
Not only will this establish integrity and law abiding, but it is also the direction we believe the technological world is slowly heading to: a shift from proprietary and OS-based environments into a more open and online platform.

2. Background

This project was inspired by Project Vietnam 2008, a project by the SouthEast Asian Service Leadership Network (a non-profit organization founded at Stanford University), of which we  were members of. A huge component of Project Vietnam 2008 was to develop a computing curriculum for a school for underprivileged kids in Ho Chi Minh City, and after the completion of Project Vietnam we decided to expand the development of computing curriculum to various schools, utilizing the latest approach in the world of IT education: Web 2.0 technology.
The project was initiated by Hung Nguyen, a Foreign Trade senior student in HCMC and Matteus Pan, a University of Pennsylvania sophomore majoring in Computer Science and Finance. As we were developing our project, Ms Nhu Truyen, Google’s former Adwords Account Strategist at Google Dublin joined the team as an Advisor. Paola Di Maio, an information systems and education specialist currently working as lecturer and researcher for a university in Thailand, and John Tim Denny, Advisor of the International Development, Education  and ICT and Executive Director of the PC4peace http://www.pc4peace.org have greatly contributed to our project.
3. Proposal
3.1 Initial Proposal (prior to OLPC)
3.1.1 Initial Objectives
- To build/renovate computer labs within existing schools
- To deploy an Open Source OS
- To put a vast number of decommissioned computers/components to good use
- To choose the most cost-effective yet efficient networking models (thin client/fat client/etc)
- To build an appropriate teaching curriculum for children at their respective academic levels, focusing on primarily project-based learning
- To train teachers and internal staff for the running of the curriculum
- To build an Open Platform and network to gather technologists, teachers, volunteers, partner organizations and those interested in Vietnamese education development
3.1.2 Initial Approach
a) Suggested OS: Edubuntu, because of its many educational applications and overall comprehensive learning environment
b) Suggested Applications:
- Mail + IM: Gmail + Gchat
- Information: Google Search + Vietnamese Wikipedia
- Office skills: Google Docs (Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentation)
- Creativity Suite: Built in Edubuntu applications, and team is currently in process of exploring more web-based applications including dabbleboard.com, drawgreetings.com.
- Blogging + Web publishing: Joomla/Wordpress
c) Hardware
We will collect decommissioned computers, perform maintenance and simple upgrading, and convert them into usable and effective computers.
d) Mentors + Tutors
We will work with training centers, educational experts and corporate volunteers to have our tutors trained. As more work will be done on the student side, less hours are required from our mentors. We hope our mentors can provide the kids with not only technical assistance but also real life knowledge.
Proposed tutors: Existing teachers, or older students (because of increased motivation, more awareness of effective teaching techniques, and more student ownership of project); all of whom will be financially compensated. We firmly believe that for any project to be sustainable, it has to be from the people within.
e) Publicity
We will design a website/online platform for a few purposes
i) For promotion of our program, sponsors and partners
ii) For the generation of advertising revenue as for funding and project sustainability
iii) For a collaborative platform for stakeholders — including financial, educational and technical contributors

We are thinking of asking our students to design a website for us after they’ve learnt how to design a website with Joomla/ WordPress. We believe the ones who tell the story should be from the story itself.

3.2 Current OLPC proposal
All educational objectives and approaches remain identical, with the only exception being the hardware/software used.
3.2.1 Benefits of OLPC proposal
a) From educational + technical perspectives
The XO laptops utilize the Linux kernel, which matches our initial choice of OS. Also, many additional hardware features are incorporated the XO laptops — including inbuilt microphones and webcams, the ability to convert the laptops into e-books or gaming devices — all of which provide the XO’s greater versatility than our initial choice of thin/fat client model. Applications-wise, all the different aspects of our educational model, i.e. the focus of wordprocessing, graphic design, web publishing, music composition are inbuilt into the XO’s, making the XO the perfect educational tool for our purpose. Also, the inbuilt Journal application, while also being an important way of recording progress and interaction history, will also provide a means to safely monitor the student’s computer usage, aiding the process of facilitating safe and responsible computer/internet usage. As a whole, these laptops provide an excellent learning environment for the students.
b) Matching emphasis and goals of OLPC and E-Learner’s Platform 2.0
The ultimate goal of the OLPC to provide educational opportunities for the poorest children for collaborative, fun and self-empowered learning is highly similar to ours, thus we believe OLPC is a perfect match for our project. The easy and convenient inbuilt networking features are also very much in line with our vision for increased collaboration and information sharing among children, placing them in a stimulating educational environment; likewise the large emphasis on holistic personal development where job empowerment is not the final goal, that the children may learn, grow, think and express themselves in their own unique ways and not merely execute assigned instructions.

c) Child ownership of his/her education

Providing a laptop to each child accomplishes something even the best computing programs struggle to achieve: empowering the children to take ownership and responsibility over their own education, and providing the child with the sufficient tools to continue self-learning without being limited by the finite resources of the school (early closing hours, insufficient computers etc). We believe it is highly motivational for children to possess a computer for themselves, and will greatly enhance and accelerate their learning experience.

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2 Responses to E-learner Platform 2.0 Proposal to Google

  1. Seth says:

    twittered here: http://twitter.com/OneLaptop/statuses/965813415

    Interesting proposal. what do you think are the biggest supports of this idea? IE what resources/materials exist would make this project easier?

  2. PDM says:

    hay Seth
    thanks for asking – is your question related to the whole project, or just the OLPC part?
    I attended the first OLPC workshop in Asia, and have a mailing list of local people to tap into -
    also there are plenty of resources here
    and we may also need your help, got ideas/suggestions?

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