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Happy New Year and My Reply to Recent Posts

Hello all,

Happy New Year! I hope that each of you had a very lovely TET holiday and wish you a healthy year. I would like to reply to the recent posts by (Vu Do) Quynh  and Mario Behling.

Quynh writes: I don't know what others are thinking.
For any project to be successful, it should fulfill some essential
needs, needs that have to be expressed by the beneficiaries of the

It was in fact the _expression_ of need and desire that was the seed for the VVV project.

In Vietnam, if you give something, people will take it, even if they
don't need it, because it could be played with, sold or given to
somebody else. If they have to give something as a counterpart, like
some money, or some efforts (that means time, energy), they won't take
it unless they have a strong interest.

There are also other cultural aspects that can be involved :
pupils-teachers relationships ; children-parents relationships that
are not in favour of promoting child initiative and discovery like it
is in western culture, excepted maybe in richer families of big cities
(that usually are more opened or embracing western culture).

I also observe the cultural difference as a great impediment to "instant success" of with the XOs in the VVV. In America, parents and teachers will sit together with children and say “lets figure this out.” It is ok for an adult to not be expert at something. In Vietnam, the teachers are expert in what they teach and I saw that they were uncomfortable as you said above, especially, when the children picked up the XO skills much more quickly than the adults. In your country, in traditional settings, I don’t think it’s “ok” for the children to be better at something than the teacher, and, that’s one stumbling block. In the future, this can be addressed by planning teacher training at the level of the teachers’ college or university or local education ministry.

It is not my prospect to discourage here. But when the situation is
not ripe enough for something to bear fruits, we need to analyze and
weigh out our actions because the time of everyone is limited and
everybody has its own personal agenda. This is clear from this silence
on the list : I waited until today to see whether somebody would react
or not before answering to this post. So, I think that the main thing we could do is sensibilization and increasing awareness about XO, Sugar and OLPC. Doing translations to Vietnamese is also something which will help towards a better awareness.

Yes. This would be very helpful. A starting point would be to have the Help Activity (XO user manual) translated, and to get the Write Activity (word processing) fully working in Vietnamese. OLPC receives inquiries from people who want to bring XOs to Vietnam. A recent inquiry asked how to begin a project to bring XOs to a library created in a small village. I don’t know exactly where. I can see that downloadable files of translated Activities, perhaps available on the OLPC VN website would be very helpful!

Because I'm living in Hanoi, having a pilot project nearby would be
more convenient to follow than in Halong Bay. But the key thing still
is to find local stakeholders, people that are interested and want to
co-operate. Ideally that would be a primary school where director and
staff are sensibilized and would like to invest their efforts in
applying OLPC concepts..

Unfortunately, I do not have any strong acquaintances with teachers in
primary education. I have tried one approach through the Ministry of Education and
Formation of Vietnam without concrete results : some interest but...
I think OLPC is not interesting them unless, maybe, there is a
donation of hundreds of XOs for a pilot project. Intel tried its way
with his Classmate PC (a concurrent to OLPC) not to be given to
children (like in the OLPC concept) but as class materials (ie to be
purchased in bulk by the education sector) : I don't hear much about
it now although they have certainly donated some consequent amount of
thses classmate computers. 

If other local members of OLPC-VN, in Hanoi, are willing to do
anything and have ideas, I'm in.

 This is interesting about Intel. OLPC actually has a similar business model, hoping that governments will purchase the XOs in bulk and commit to the open source software platforms.

When the Mr. Tuyen Luong from Indochina Junk, dearly desired the XOs for the VVV, my thinking was that if there were small successful pilots that Vietnamese government officials could observe, it might eventually bear fruit and benefit more Vietnamese children in remote areas. We have all learned a lot from the challenges presented by the VVV pilot and from Marina Z’s efforts in HCMC. One lesson is that adult/teacher training and guidance is necessary to get the children started, and encourage continuing interest until a basic skill level is attained. Internet is necessary for the children to learn about their XOs, for software and hardware updates and support, for access to more and relevant Activities (applications) and to connect with other child users of the XO.

Mario Behling writes in part: I am interested to push for education and IT and I believe it is great to engage people to join up, to use and develop for the Sugar
interface for example. But, we also need to realistically see what
resources in regards to Hardware are available from OLPC. Currently
the XOs (also version 1.5) are not always up to the tasks running
quite slowly for todays standards. There are much faster chips out
there now that are comparably energy saving for example. Looking at
interface development, there are new concepts that we can see with
Android pads and Ipads. The study of OLPC3 went into this direction
and I am looking forward to see what the future will bring. I am happy
to engage in it. In the meantime, I would like to continue to push for
OLPC in Vietnam - maybe we could term it Open Learning Project with
Computers in Vietnam?In the meantime, I would like to continue to push for
OLPC in Vietnam - maybe we could term it Open Learning Project with
Computers in Vietnam? To my mind we do not depend on the OLPC
hardware, we can also push for other energy saving and faster
solutions using the Sugar desktop. Having said, that the hardware is now a bit old, it is nevertheless a nice thing to play around with and we have a few people around, who
would definitely be interested in hacking on the devices. So, if you
have XOs available to educating students and getting them started and
interested in Sugar, we would be happy to keep some in our new
hackspace in Can Tho to be opened in April during the Open Design Weeks.

Regarding the comments about the XO hardware, I want to emphasize that the XOs are designed “as an education project, not a laptop project, for the world’s poorest children.” I agree with Mario’s comments about an Open Learning Project, that’s similar to OLE Nepal. I have no direct relationship with, benefit from or reason to push the XO in particular. And, it will be OLPC VIetnam or whatever our group morphs into that will decide this.

The way technology rapidly changes, I fully agree that for a particular time, place and child population the XO may not be the best choice. It is right for some but not all. For example, for children in the US in schools with fast conventional windows PCs or MACs, and with similar computers in their homes, plus game systems and cell phones, the XO is boring and won't hold interest. (The exception would be tech interested kids who want to hack, develop software and take the XOs apart etc.) For poorer children in rural remote locations in Vietnam and around the world, lacking city infrastructure, I still advocate that the rugged green XO laptop is child friendly, durable, reliable and repairable.

Last week, I was traveling in Jamaica and the wired and wireless Internet when available, was painfully slow. I used my XO outside in the bright sunlight, in wind, with blowing sand, with more success than that of colleagues with conventional laptops. (That said, wireless cell phone networks did work better but were more expensive and users had to seek shade.:) The important thing is that skills learned with Sugar on the XO (or other hardware) by the child ages targeted, transfer really well to the conventional computers and software in Internet cafes and workplaces that they will one day have access to.

I am not discouraged. My efforts and personal financial donations to bring the first XOs to Vietnam were from my heart. Knowing my limitations, (I’m not technically highly skilled, my location is in the US, I’m a non-Vietnamese speaker and more), whatever the future of that project, I believe that I have had a positive impact on at least a few children and seeded ideas for the future. My work has been worthwhile.  I do hope that Mr. Quynh is correct when he says  “that things will eventually get in place.”

I so appreciate every volunteer’s energy and efforts! I continue to be available as a liason to OLPC and to encourage OLPC Vietnam, which I hope will continue to grow from within Vietnam.

Warmest personal regards,