Back in 2002, I had grand plans to bring the Internet to Bhagmalpur. Along the way, I learned about all the problems with power, connectivity, content and learning. Then OLPC came along in 2007 and I jumped on that train. There were so many possibilities! In 2008, I was in India, visiting several places including Khairat (India’s first OLPC pilot) and Bhagmalpur. At the local school in Bhagmalpur, I realized that equipping the school with computers to serve the 1100+ children wasn’t going to be trivial. So, I switched my approach to a “One Laptop per Child per Home” model. I had some very interesting conversations with Mary Lou Jepsen and Barbara Barry at OLPC SF Community Summit 2010. In fact, Mary Lou pointed out that my approach was similar to Grameen Bank‘s except I was using a laptop and the ownership was with a child as opposed to using a mobile phone sold to the woman of the household (Grameen’s model).
Then came the issue of teaching the kids. Who was going to be the trainer and who was going to be the trainee? So, we went through some basic training on the phone (its tough to train on the phone!). I also printed a copy of the Sugar manual and send a paper copy to the village. All that was helpful to get the process going.They understood the Zoom metaphor, the Journal, the Control Panel and such.
Next came the interesting part. Interesting because we’ve seen this in other projects such as OLPC Jamaica as well. After giving the children a starting point, they quickly took over. In fact, they took over so rapidly, that the people who were trained fell behind quickly. Now, we simply use the meeting time so that the children can work with each other and teach each other how to work the Sugar interface. The birds have flown the coop!
So, pay attention when I say to those who think that this project can only be successful via structured teacher training: “Ha!”