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Tecno-Tzotzil: some early progress

We have been quite busy with project planning and some software and learning activities development. We have gone to CONAFE's office in Mexico City to present the project and get their approval, and will be going to CONAFE Chiapas by the end of the month.

We have not been successful trying to get XO laptops from OLPC for this project - they only make these machines available in large quantities, not for small pilot projects. However, Intel's Classmate 3 is now able to run the same Sugar software and also has a camera and can communicate via mesh network, so the two machines are now functionally equivalent.; the only disadvantage is that the Classmate consumes about three times more electric power, so we'll likely have to get CONAFE one-room schools with electricity as other more sustainable power means would get quite expensive. 


We now have three programmers working on the open source project at Sugar Labs to get the software sufficiently free of bugs on the Classmate (The Sugar Labs version of Sugar is still in Beta). We have been studying CONAFE's curriculum and Tzotzil culture and will start developing lesson plans and software activities that meet three requirements: compatibility with the curriculum so that community instructors can understand what this is about; compatibility with tzotzil culture so that the children find the activities familiar; and compatibility with as much Constructionism as possible.


Constructionism and standardized curriculums and tests are not good friends. Under the first kids are free to Constuct something they feel so proud of that they want to share it and improve it with comments from their peers - or that they build collaboratively with other kids. Under the second the children are supposed to learn "precisely THIS" and are tested on whether they achieved predefined objectives that may not be their own... 


I also feel uneasy about going down on the community with a solution conceived from Up and searching for what that solution can be useful for, rather than the other way around. If this were a full community development project, one is supposed to first find out the communities' problems and needs and then lead the community members to find solutions themselves, perhaps with the aid of technology. We'll have to be very very sensible about what instructors, kids and their parents think about 20 laptops intruding in their peaceful lifestyle from day one... be ready to observe any surprises or problems
and be willing to adapt and re-try on the fly whatever is not working.


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