Thanks to two fine gentlemen, I have an XO to play around for a few days. The reports prove to be correct – the keyboard is obviously not made for stubby fingers like I have and of course not the heavy left hand that I use on the keyboard. It does have an awesome battery life and the screen does work well in sunlight (I tested it out in moderate direct light at around 1100 and 1300 hours in Pune).
In short it is a fun thing to have around As a friend put it – it is an amazing piece of hardware and coolness that kids can get.
So I poked around the wiki a bit especially the sections relevant to Etoys and Educators in order to figure out what the project thinks about the possibilities of this hardware. To continue from my earlier rant on OLPC in India, the OLPC India team does need to figure out the way forward beyond the pilot (at Khairat). The pilot can teach valuable lessons about the feasibility of the hardware, the corner cases of mesh networking or even the applicability and usage of the hardware in the pedagogy. But taking those lessons and extrapolating them into much larger, distributed deployments is going to require a heavy dose of community (or capacity) building. This means doing much more than just being a deployment/services unit for the project as a whole
- focus on transparent and open development by using lists, IRC, technology roadshows to ensure that developers get interested in working on the hardware
- give everyone a fair shot at contributing by lowering the barrier to contribute to the project
- go back to school – the current set of activities that are with the projects needs to be expanded and extended and that means one requires competencies of developers, educators, academicians, usability folks and one of the easiest means of getting all of them in the game is going back to schools, colleges and universities
- show how to extend the possibilities – do not attempt spoon feeding. Show how things can be done and then allow an organic community to contribute
- advocate the technology and evangelize the philosophy – build up a core group of believers who can communicate the possibilities and the culture of collaboration so as to ensure that there is enough credibility around the development
Localization is not the only thing that the OLPC would require in India, though it is one of the important things. What would be required more upfront is a range of activities that can allow the target users to start using them in their daily lessons ie more content around activities. This means that sooner rather than later there has to come up a server that can be the repository of such learning objects which can be (re)used by OLPC deployments across the nation.