Lubang Island school kids: Tools to build their dreams

By Arnell Ozaeta and Juancho Mahusay (The Philippine Star) Updated December 12, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines –  Grade four students in two public schools in the remote island of Lubang in Occidental Mindoro are now connected to the world through a unique project launched last Monday.

The local government of Lubang and the Department of Education (DepEd), in partnership with Education Kindling (eKindling), joined hands to launch the project “One Laptop Per Child” which aims to introduce children to the wonders of digital technology.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Lubang mayor Juan Sanchez, Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato witnessed the distribution of the first 100 units of XO laptops to grade 4 students of the Lubang Integrated School and the Maligaya Elementary School.

“I would like to tell our students to make the most of this and use this to dream for your future,” Secretary Luistro said, adding that this would indeed help raise the quality of education in the country.

He also encouraged local officials and the schools’ teaching personnel to work together and find creative means of addressing problems in the basic education sector.

Sanchez, for his part, said the project aims to increase educational opportunities to allow the children to cope with the rapid advance of global information technology.??The project was put together by past and current employees of the National Computer Center (NCC), an organization founded by Sanchez. Private organizations such as MetroBank Foundation, Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation and PMA Class ’55 Foundation likewise helped fund the acquisition of the first 100 laptops.

Ryan Letada, eKindling executive director, said One Laptop Per Child is a worldwide project that aims to create educational opportunities for the poorest children of the world by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.

“When children have access to this type of tool, they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world, and to a brighter future,” Letada explained.

eKindling collaborated with NCC for the deployment and program design of the project.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program was started in 2002 by Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The XO is a potent learning tool designed and built especially for children, especially those living in some of the most remote areas such as Lubang Island. The laptop is about the size of a small textbook and has built-in wireless connection, and a unique screen which makes it possible for the children to read even when they go outdoors. “For us at DepEd, this initiative of NCC equalizes the learning opportunity of learners in urban centers and those in remote areas,” Luistro said, even as he noted that students will be relieved of the burden of carrying heavy school bags.

The technology is appropriate for remote areas. The laptop is sturdy, requires low power usage and is easy to maintain. Moreover, it uses free and open source software which can be customized in the field. “These advantages make OLPC an ideal approach for implementing computer based learning in a country like the Philippines – or Lubang for that matter,” Sanchez explained. “Compared to my grandchildren who have all the convenience of a computer, ano’ng magiging future ng mga bata sa (what about the future of the children of) Lubang, they’ll remain poor forever. I felt I should do something that could close the gap,” Sanchez added.

Sanchez said he was invited by the NCC to join their reunion in Sydney and while there, he convinced his former classmates to donate 60 laptops to Lubang.

The XO has been designed to provide the most engaging wireless network available. The laptops are connected to each other, even when they are turned off. If one laptop is connected to the Internet, the others will follow to the web.

Children can chat, share information on the web and gather by videoconference, make music together, edit texts, read e-books and enjoy the use of collaborative games online.?Upon success of the pilot test, the rest of the schools with about 400 students will also be given laptops, funded from other sources.

Learning workshops and collaborative curriculum integration will be organized with eKindling. Training facilities are being arranged with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, the University of the Philippines, and Asia Pacific College. Luistro stressed that the workshops will train teachers on the use of the XO laptop for effective learning, student facilitation and administration; hardware maintenance; and ways and means of obtaining learning software and content.

According to eKindling education director Tessa Yuvienco, it is very important for children to experience the educational possibilities of digital learning.

“We want to show how technologies can provide a meaningful, transformative, and connected education to the children of the Philippines,” she explained.

The XO laptops that were given to the students cost $228 or about P10,000 each. The recipients would be able to use it until they finish elementary school. “The students can bring the laptop home and they can do their assignments and even share it with their siblings and parents,” added Letada.

The laptops already contain educational materials developed by eKindling. In the classrooms, educators and students are expected to use the XO laptops to enhance their learning in English, Math, Science, and Makabayan.

“In the course of the academic year, they will also be introduced to new concepts of digital learning that is anchored on 21st century learning methodologies and a constructivist learning philosophy,” Letada explained.

Currently, OLPC is implemented in Uruguay, Peru, Rwanda, Mexico, Mongolia including the school district of Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. It has recently expanded to Australia.

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