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First Experiences with OLPC in European Classrooms

First Experiences with OLPC in European Classrooms

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Published by Martin
Pubication at E-Learn 2009 Conference
Pubication at E-Learn 2009 Conference

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Published by: Martin on Oct 30, 2009
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Originally published at: Ebner, M.; Dorfinger, J.; Neuper, W.; Safran, C.:First Experiences woth OLPC in European Classrooms. - in: E-Learn - World Conference on E-Learning inCorporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009),
First Experiences with OLPC in European Classrooms
Martin Ebner Social Learning DepartmentComputer and Information ServicesGraz University of Technologymartin.ebner@tugraz.at Johannes Dorfinger University of Teacher Education StyriaJohannes.Dorfinger@phst.at Walther Neuper Institute for Software TechnologyGraz University of Technologyneuper@ist.tugraz.at Christian SafranInstitute for Information Systems and Computer MediaGraz University of Technologycsafran@tugraz.at 
Abstract:
The use of laptops in educational settings is discussed by lots of e-Learning researchersfor years now. Since 2002 the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC-project) tries to bring digitaldevices to developing countries avoiding the increase of the digital gap. Austria has been one of thefirst countries in the European Union (EU) to start an OLPC-project on its own. The focus was onthe use of digital devices in education at a very early stage. Accompanied by a solid research team, bringing teachers, e-learning experts as well as software developer together, a first attempt wasestablished.This publication aims to carry out the description of the prework, the first real life setting andconcludes with the experiences of the whole research group. Furthermore it summarizes arecommendation for a transfer of the project to developing countries.
Keyords:
OLPC, XO, classroom, e-learning, digital literacy, digital device, children
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Introduction
Digital technologies begin to pervade our daily life through the ubiquity of Internet availability by a huge amount of different devices. As Mark Weiser stated in 1991 (Weiser, 1991) that the
most profound technologies are those whodisappear 
he described for the first time the idea of pervasive computing. Currently the emphasis and availability of the WorldWideWeb as well as computer technologies lead to a dramatic change how mankind is working withdigital data. These changes have a great impact on teaching and learning behaviors. After Tim O’Reilly introducedWeb 2.0 in 2004 (O’Reilly, 2005) Stephen Downes described the use of Web 2.0 technologies for education as e-Learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005). The Web turns into a community of loosely connected participants who share their knowledge and interests. Communication and collaboration became key factors (Tuchinda et al, 2008).In the sense of increasing connectivity through different devices the famous expression A
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(anytime, anywhere,anybody) reach a new dimension. Enhancing traditional as well as online teaching and learning standards byubiquitous devices is called: u-Learning. Zhan & Jin (Zhan & Jin, 2005) defined u-Learning as a function of different parameters:u-Learning = {u-Environment, u-Contents, u-Behavior, u-Interface, u-Service}It can be shown that the switch to u-Learning needs entirely new didactical approaches (Holzinger et al, 2005)(Ebner & Schiefner, 2008). On the one side it must be taken into account how digital technologies can be explicitused. On the other side it also must be considered how e-Literacy of in teaching and learning involved people can be
 
Originally published at: Ebner, M.; Dorfinger, J.; Neuper, W.; Safran, C.:First Experiences woth OLPC in European Classrooms. - in: E-Learn - World Conference on E-Learning inCorporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009),guaranteed. Gilster (Gilster, 1997) defined Digital Literacy as the ability to understand, evaluate and integrateinformation in a variety of formats delivered by computer. Eshet-Alkalai (2004) extended this definition and provides a conceptual framework by splitting into several cognitive skills: Photo-visual, reproduction, branching,information and socio-emotional literacy.However, in the digital world of tomorrow education experts have to ensure that children are educated in terms of digital literacy. They must be appropriate prepared for a broad digital environment. Furthermore problems like theDigital Divide must be taken into account, which is described by the Association for Progressive CommunicationOrganisation (APC, 2004) as “the increasing gap between those who have and those who do not have access toinformation and communication technologies, access to content that benefits them socially and economically, skillsto take advantage of ICT services, and the ability to afford to pay for digital services.”As an important contribution to all these problems the non-profitable organization OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)can be pointed out. The mission of the project is
to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child 
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. Of course the major focus of the project is to bringdigital technology to developing countries, but also for european classrooms the use of low-costs laptops especiallyfor children is of high scientific interest. Several projects have already been carried out (Martinazzo et al, 2008)(Fichemann et al, 2008) (Franco et al, 2008) with focusing South America, particular Brazil.In this paper we describe first steps using XOs (name of low-costs laptops) in European classrooms.
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OLPC Initiative / Resarch project in Austria
2.1
 
OLPC Initiative
Professor Nicholas Negroponte founded the One Laptop Per Child initiative in 2002 and aimed to
 provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education
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. So the main focus of the project is to improve the education by bringing robust and usabledigital mobile devices to countries that suffer less technology. According to the digital divide (Nielsen, 2006),especially the economic divide the project addresses to bring computers to children of developing countries tocontain raising differences in digital literacy towards children of industrialized countries. The concept of the OLPC- project is that when anyone in the industrialized world buys an OX computer a second one gets sent for free to adeveloping country independent on hardware and software issues. With other words the slogan might be “buy two,get one and help anyone who need it”.It is easy imaginable that there have been and still are special requirements on the development of the hardware andsoftware of the XO, because of lacking environment settings in the developing countries as well as lacking monetaryissues. For example, developed software must be offered as open-source products worldwide available. As operatingsystem the Linux-installation called Sugar is used and all programs are using the programming language python.Furthermore to enhance the community partners all over the world have been established. In Austria the none-profitorganization called “OLPC Austria”
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cares about bringing the idea to educational institutes. Of course there is aclose relationship between this association and the project described in this paper.
2.2
 
OLPC Initiative at the University of Teacher Education in Graz
The “OLPC-project” at the University of Teacher Education in Styria (PHST) is the very first OLPC school-projectin Austria, even more the first within the whole EU. The project helps us to teach the children in a very new way.The involved project partners had to deal with completely new teaching methods and to evaluate their actionsconstantly.The project was started basing on following decisions:
 
The Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture called for participation on an OLPC-project.Four primary school classes should be equipped with 25 XOs each.
 
The hardware was sponsored free of charge by OLPC-Austria.
 
Because four classes should participate, there should have been a special training program for theconcerned classroom teachers. Special Software for the target group should be developed before the start of 
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http://laptop.org/en/vision/mission/index.shtml(last visited: April 2009)
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http://www.olpcaustria.org/?setlang=en(last visited April 2009)
 
 
Originally published at: Ebner, M.; Dorfinger, J.; Neuper, W.; Safran, C.:First Experiences woth OLPC in European Classrooms. - in: E-Learn - World Conference on E-Learning inCorporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education ; 2009 (2009),the school-term.
 
The research results should affect the studies for all forthcoming teacher-students at PHST.In November 2008 the PHST has started the project with 25 XOs. The project class is a first class at the“Praxisvolksschule” (PVS) of the PHST. This PVS is an elementary school for pupils between 6 and 10 years. As a part of the PHST the PVS tries to keep up to date in modern teaching methods and technical equipment. Our studentteachers have to practice their teaching skills during their whole studies to perfect their teaching methods. The parents had to apply their kids for this special project class with a written statement. Although the pupils are normalaverage children, we thought it is important for the parents to know, that the teaching methods in the project classwill differ from normal classes.The class consists of 25 pupils (10 boys and 15 girls) at the age of six. The children will stay in this school for four years. Throughout these four years they’ll be accompanied by the XO laptops. For it is an all-day class, the kids stayin school until 3 p.m., which includes eating and doing the homework. A female and a male teacher are alternatelyworking in the class to balance the gender representation. For the pupils of the project class are doing all their homework at school, the XO laptops are not carried home each day. The laptops stay in school and are onlyactivated if needed. In the daily work the XOs are in use for several 30 minutes blocks. These blocks shall practicethe subject matter and work out new information in a connected and collaborative surrounding. The XO – as anadditional tool – became an important part for working on the subject matters in a new exciting way. Picture 1shows pupils working with the XOs in classroom.
picture 1 XOs in use2.3
 
Research team and role of partners
It turned out quickly that for the success of the the project, further scientific partners have to be involved. XO's

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