Speaking at linux​.conf​.au about OLPC Australia

I will be speak­ing at linux​.conf​.au 2011 in Bris­bane about OLPC Aus­tralia, with a focus on the tech­nical side. We have been doing some amaz­ing stuff, but thus far we have been very quiet about it in the tech­nical com­munity. It’s time to fix this oversight.

My talk is titled, Enabling Con­nec­tions to Oppor­tun­ity: OLPC Aus­tralia. If you’ll be at the con­fer­ence, watch me talk on Thursday at 14:30. If you won’t be, grab the video once it is out.

Also speak­ing with me is Ian Cun­ning­ham, who works for the North­ern Ter­rit­ory Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing. Ian is heav­ily involved in the deploy­ment of OLPC tech­no­logy in North­ern Ter­rit­ory Schools, and will be able to deliver accounts from an educator’s perspective.

Here’s a copy of the abstract:

Sec­ond­ary speaker: Ian Cunningham

Aus­tralia is offi­cially a developed coun­try, but that status hides inequit­ies that exist within. In par­tic­u­lar, chil­dren in remote Aus­tralia typ­ic­ally have far fewer oppor­tun­it­ies for edu­ca­tion and com­mu­nic­a­tion than their coun­ter­parts in met­ro­pol­itan regions. Recog­nising that their situ­ation is not dis­sim­ilar to those seen in the devel­op­ing world, One Laptop per Child Aus­tralia was founded.

The mis­sion is ambi­tious: to enhance learn­ing oppor­tun­it­ies for the 400,000 chil­dren, aged 415, liv­ing in remote Aus­tralia, by 2014. OLPC Aus­tralia are on track to rep­lic­ate suc­cess stor­ies such as Uruguay to have a com­pre­hens­ive edu­ca­tional pro­gramme out to each and every one of these children.

The centrepiece is a learn­ing device, known as the XO. Through lever­aging FLOSS, the XO provides unpar­alleled con­nectiv­ity and oppor­tun­it­ies for chil­dren to learn.

Under­pin­ning the pro­ject are seven core prin­ciples. The gestalt of these prin­ciples form an import­ant found­a­tion to the edu­ca­tional goals of the pro­ject. The fifth prin­ciple, Free and Open Source, will be dis­cussed in prac­tical con­text of the Aus­tralian circumstance.

Aus­tralia presents some inter­est­ing chal­lenges that are less com­mon in the envir­on­ments that the XO was ori­gin­ally designed for. On one hand, we have a vast, geo­graph­ic­ally isol­ated con­tin­ent, sparsely pop­u­lated with some of the most ancient cul­tures in the world. On the other, there is mod­ern tech­no­logy and Western-​​style governance.

This talk will present how OLPC Aus­tralia have been innov­at­ive and respons­ive to meet the Aus­tralian situ­ation. Some examples include:

  • the world’s first deploy­ment of the new XO-1.5 models
  • a stream­lined ver­sion of the XS School Server
  • an eco­nom­ical and prac­tical rack­ing and char­ging sta­tion for XOs

It will dis­cuss how the use of tech­no­logy under­pins a hol­istic edu­ca­tional pro­gramme, and how OLPC Aus­tralia works with depart­ments of edu­ca­tion, schools and com­munit­ies to build a sus­tain­able operation.

If you have ever wanted a way use your tech­nical skills to bene­fit those most in need, this is the talk for you. Edu­ca­tion is a key vehicle for clos­ing the gap for the peoples in remote Aus­tralia. As a FLOSS pro­ject, your con­tri­bu­tions also bene­fit those abroad.

Here are our bios:

Srid­har Dhanap­a­lan grew up in the 1980s, as the per­sonal com­put­ing revolu­tion was heat­ing up. With only two tele­vi­sion chan­nels in his town, he turned to his com­puter for solace. He wishes he had dis­covered FLOSS before the late 1990s, because down­load­ing GNU Emacs over an acous­tic coupler would have been fun. Srid­har is a former board mem­ber of Linux Aus­tralia, and a pre­vi­ous pres­id­ent of the Sydney Linux Users Group. He is cur­rently the Tech­nical Man­ager (CTO) at One Laptop Per Child Australia.

Ian Cun­ning­ham is an IT Pro­ject Officer at the North­ern Ter­rit­ory Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing (NTDET). He has over 20 years teach­ing and lec­tur­ing exper­i­ence in Aus­tralia and abroad. A Linux user since Red Hat 4, Ian has been act­ive in pro­mot­ing the use of FLOSS in edu­ca­tion. He provides tech­nical sup­port and ment­or­ing for the NTDET OLPC Trial.

If you want to be kept updated and take part in OLPC Aus­tralia tech­nical devel­op­ment, see our par­ti­cip­a­tion page.