On a Mission2014-01-06
It has been almost a month since I arrived in Kathmandu to volunteer for OLE Nepal. Coming from Boston, I had expected many challenges. To my pleasant surprise, however, I have found a very well-functioning work environment. Over the years, OLE has developed effective ways to deal with power outages and other infrastructure issues virtually unknown in first-world countries, so I could start working on my project from day one.
So what have I been up to so far? Soon after I became involved with the OLPC movement, I learned that most laptop deployments have no way of keeping track how children are actually using the XOs once they hand them over and what impact the program has on their learning. When it comes to gathering feedback from the field, OLE Nepal is further along on this front than most deployments in other countries. Four to six weeks after the initial teacher training, OLE staff has a follow-up meeting with teachers to discuss challenges they are facing and to help to address them. Another meeting with teachers happens six months after the program launch, when teachers have a second opportunity to share their experience with OLE.
The nature of the reports about the laptops' use from deployments has thus far been only qualitative. The aim of my project is to supplement existing individual qualitative feedback from teachers with statistical data gathered about the laptops which would provide a more rigorous objective perspective about what is really happening. Some of the questions I am seeking to answer are: How much time are children spending with the laptops per day? Is the usage pattern the same in different schools in different regions or does it vary? Are children using the laptops creatively- to take pictures, write stories, record songs, or even to write programs?
Thus far, I have created a script, which extracts data from the laptop backups', gathered on schools' servers, and outputs them into an appropriate format for visualization and analysis with statistical software. All this data that I have been working with is anonymous and thus cannot be linked with to an individual child.
By visualizing the data OLE collects in the field, I am following two objectives. First, I would like to find out whether Nepali schools and teachers are really taking advantage of the laptops' potential and to suggest ways how to improve the deployment program in order to help them do so. Secondly, I am intending to provide the developers of Sugar, who make assumptions about what features and design patterns bring the most value to teachers and children without having access to any feedback, with a way to verify whether these assumptions match the reality. I am currently exploring which are the best statistical tools which can visualize the data and ultimately provide answers to my questions. Stay tuned for more updates!