Jumping into 2009: Little Things and a Jam

Banner for January 17, 2009 Meeting

First, I’m so sorry I had to miss the last meeting due to the flu. Thanks especially to Sarah Elkins, Kevin Cole, Jeff Elkner (as well as all our regulars) for running the show!

Before I get into what I mean by “little things,” there are some big things to mention. This week was a sad one for the OLPC movement as the association had to lay off 50% of its staff and contractors. The current state of the global economy certainly was one of the causes, but also, sales of the Give One Get One program through Amazon declined 93% from last year and OLPC had to end the program abruptly on December 31st. There’s much coverage on the implications of these developments elsewhere, so I’ll leave it to those venues. We’ll certainly have a lot to discuss at upcoming meetings.

For our first meeting of 2009, our theme is “little things” followed by a post-meeting special event called a “jam.”

What: Family XO Mesh Meetup
When: Saturday, January 17th, 2009, 10 am to 1 pm
***Special “Jam” session open to all from 1pm – 6pm
Arlington Career Center
816 South Walter Reed Drive,
Arlington, VA 22204
Contact Page, Map, Bus Info)

The small size of the XO laptop tends to attract accessories that are smaller. As mentioned in previous meetings, LEGO has created a smaller robotics kits for young children called WeDo. Mine arrived early and I’ll start the meeting with a demo of it. The WeDo runs on the XO as well as PCs and Macs. The $139 WeDo kit consists of a USB interface box into which motors and sensors can be coupled. Software on the computer presents an interactive story that guides children through the process of animating several pre-designed motor- and sensor-enabled LEGO sculptures. And naturally the kit comes with a pile of little things called LEGO bricks.

In the last 18 months, the OLPC XO has inspired a new product category of little things called netbooks. Like the XO, netbooks are tiny laptops with wifi, color screen, serviceable keyboard, USB ports and minimal solid state memory for the operating system and file storage. Unlike the XO, which was designed for use in the least developed countries, netbooks are positioned to be very appealing to first world consumers. They are so appealing that an estimated 14 million have been sold worldwide this year by a rapidly increasing number of companies. With all this new competition, a company claims to have achieved a $100 (wholesale price) laptop. This laptop is being resold under the Alpha 400 brand (and several other names) at a street price of $149 – $189. We’ll have an Alpha 400 on hand so you can judge whether it is worthy of the first $100 laptop award.

Instead of a raffle this month, I am pretty sure a shipment of my XOView viewfinder accessory for the XO camera will arrive before the meeting. I will have enough that I can offer one to all who attend the meeting for a special Learning Club price of $5.00 each!

Lastly, the Jam. Many club members have expressed an interest in working on a group project. OLPC conducts what they call Jams, which are intensive work group sessions focused on producing a piece of content for the XO. These Jams can happen for a few hours or over several days, but do not span weeks. We have the added challenge in our Learning Club that very few members can program content for the XO. So Jeff Elkner and I decided to do a Jam where anyone in the Learning Club can help adapt some XO-compatible, but outdated content.

The distance learning web activities on the NASA Connect web site seemed like a perfect choice. They are a set of 17 or so downloadable interactive lessons that can be run on the XO in Etoys. But recent major changes to the Etoys interface introduce small problems in these web activities, some of which date back to 2002. We contacted the author of these activities, Randy Caton, and he has excitedly suggested that we help him do a qualitative review of the activities. This involves those of us participating in the Jam stepping through an inventory of the activities on XOs and logging bugs, usability issues, and most importantly, brainstorming how the activities might be improved for children in developing countries. Randy will use our review findings as input to issue an XO-friendly update of the set of activities.

We will start with an introduction to Etoys and the web activities, assign the activities to individual workstations for review, and then regroup to reflect on our findings. The jam will start right after the meeting and run through the afternoon until about 6pm. We will be providing a pizza lunch for the user group meeting at noon, and we’ll provide dinner to the Jam participants. We’re not requiring formal registration for the Jam and anyone can participate. The next blog will have more detailed information about the Jam.

Questions? Email Mike Lee, curiouslee [at] gmail [dot] com.

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OLPC Learning Club - DC Sugar Labs Goes Into Orbit!

[...] about his work at NASA developing Etoys lessons and his hopes for the future of learning. At the January meeting, we some of us participated in a Jam session to review and collect feedback on his existing Etoys [...]

Posted Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 12:16 pm in: