Thoughts on the OLPC Community Summit

Well! It has been a few weeks since I went to the OLPC Community Summit. I feel like I’ve been running around without any time to spare since I left the conference, trying to make sure my university obligations were fulfulfilled. Also, my netbook with all of my notes unfortunately is not functioning right now. Anyway, I realize how long overdue I am for this post so here we go!

First and foremost, I would like to say how much I appreciate everyone that I met at this conference. They are the reason why I am so wanting to be involved in information and communication technology within the realm of education. The volunteers I met are some of the most driven, passionate people I have ever encountered. Not only that, they are the most helpful too! By nature, I went with my pocket full of questions. I didn’t meet a single person there who wasn’t willing to help me find the answers, no matter how prominent in the community. And it truly is exactly that: a community. 

To start the conference was a reception, of course. I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous to go inside but finally worked up the nerve. I have no idea why I was nervous, especially because only half a second of awkwardness went by. Almost immediately, I was able to start up conversations with people who actually knew what I was talking about. (Being in San Antonio and talking about OLPC has been the bain of my existence up until very recently.) Not only that, everyone who was there is obviously passionate about OLPC and subsequent projects. I’ve never felt so at-home when attending a conference, honestly. Other people who attended I’m sure would attest to that.

Throughout the weekend, I went to several sessions. Most of the sessions I attended were about financing small to large scale projects. Initially, I thought about going to the sessions about education, but I figure I read so much about that on my own. So instead, I wanted to learn about more other topics to have a whollistic view. Also, there was one large group session where we had a Google Hangout to discuss the tablet project in Ethiopia which is widely and hotly debated.

Only after a couple of sessions, it was apparent that the OLPC Volunteer Community severely lacks a mechanism for funding their projects. I find this to be quite a shame, honestly. I realize that there are a million different avenues to find funders or to become a part of a larger whole. However, I think eventually it will be absolutely necessary for smaller deployments to band together in order to create and sustain projects. Even when I was working at a nonprofit this summer, I saw how stressful it was for an established nonprofit to secure funding. It is difficult to imagine sustainable projects when there is no organization specifically designed to secure funding whether through grants, crowdsourcing or donors.

Other than talking about finances, like I said, I met amazing people. One person that I met is a woman who is working on her PhD on field research that she has conducted in Peru. Tanja is quite an inspiration to me as this is the type of research that I plan to pursue in Uruguay as predoctoral research. We were able to relate to each other since we both did not come from a programming or even education background as we realized how passionate we were about OLPC.

Another woman I met was Nancie. She is an absolute pleasure to know. She sat down with me for quite some time as we discussed her project and how she came to OLPC as well as what I was looking to do in regards to OLPC. With thanks to her, Adam Holt, and the Contributors Program, I was actually able to get my hands on my very own XO, the version given out during the Give 1 Get 1 Campaign that OLPC had a few years ago. I was ecstatic! I’m actually writing this post on my XO.

After the Community Summit, there was an extra week for SugarCamp, mostly for developers. Luckily though, there were a few projects that were for nonprogrammers and I had the opportunity to make a light sensor that plugs into the microphone input on the XOs. It was interesting to figure out how to put together the light sensor as well as figure out how such a tool could be used by children for different projects on activities like Scratch.

I could say a thousand things about how my trip to San Fransisco was an experience that I really will never forget and I million more about the people I met. Hopefully, I can make my way over to the next one.