Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Fun -- Free Rice, the Future of Technology and Baywatch

If you have.....

0.5 minutes of free time
Give free rice to hungry people by playing a simple — or not that simple — word game and improving your vocabulary. My new term of the week: viral marketing.

6.06 minutes of free time
Information Age... The Future of Technology
Simple yet powerful presentation. Simple in the sense that it is a sequence of plain slides displaying statistical data — not clear where the data comes from. Just the right music for dramatic effect.

10-15 minutes of free time
Baywatch Bigger than Aid, by Charles Kenny (6 pages)
A humorous attempt at measuring the social and economic impact of television and comparing that to the impact of development assistance.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Influence Mapping

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is coming up with an influence mapping tool. The tool was created by Eva Schiffer. It's "an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes." It's called NetMap. It's at the intersection of a game, a mapping tool, a strategic planning tool and something that can be used for community engagement. It looks like something that is both very hands-on, with board pieces, pens and paper, like a board game, but with potential for computer generated network analysis and diagramming as well.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I don't know how many people took advantage of the "Give One Get One" XO laptop offer, but I was one of them. The XO now belongs to my 8 year old daughter and I retain some rights to play with it when she is asleep or simply occupied with other things.

Some thoughts:
1. The interface is not immediately obvious to someone who has used Windows and only occasionally touched a Mac -- that's me. My daughter didn't find it that weird and she had no trouble figuring out how to access the software and start playing some of the games.

2. I was initially able to connect to our home wireless network but it started to fall apart the next day. I eventually figured out from the OLPC website -- using another computer -- that I needed to change some security settings on my wireless network to make it work on the XO. The main challenge was actually to remember my login and password to access the security settings. I had to reset the router and redo the entire wireless network setup, but it's working now.

3. I downloaded most of the existing XO software that wasn't already preinstalled. Some don't work but most do.

4. Things my daughter has been playing:
- The memory game
- Maze
- Jump (a version of peg solitaire)
- Draw
- Story Builder
- Cartoon Builder
- Capture (camera and video)
- TamTam suite of music software

5. Things I have tried:
- One of the first things I tried was to create a memory game. This is going to be very useful to get my daughter to memorize multiplication facts in the coming months. The software comes with some simple addition facts and it's easy to create your own. I might actually show my daughter how to do it herself. The only problem is that I (or she) could do exactly the same thing with handmade cards.
- I loaded a personal photo from a USB key, edited it with the XO, and saved it on the USB key for printing through another computer. I don't know if I can link the XO to a printer directly. Don't need to at this point.
- eToys --- fancy stuff in there... lots more to explore, but I tried the chess game and some of the tutorials.
- Image quiz: Downloading additional questions from the server hasn't worked 100%. I'd like to be able to create the questions and answers to help my daughter review for tests. Again, these are things I can do with plain paper.
- StopWatch -- though I have no idea what to do with it.
- Implode- just fun.
- Plugged in a wireless mouse, which worked instantly and saved me.
- I have not mastered the Journal yet, but I now understand that it's where everything is saved and where files can be accessed.
- Sims City: I have no idea how to play.
- Browsed the web and sent an email.

Some of the things I downloaded are for younger ages and don't have the capacity to adjust to more difficult levels. I might just take them out.

6. Things I don't understand -- a little too geeky for me:
- Turtle Art
- Pippy
- Measure
- Terminal
-Log viewer

7. In the first 24 hours, we turned off the XO by pushing the power button, instinctively knowing that it was probably not the right way to do it. Eventually, we figured out the "right" way to turn it off. Given that there is no manual and no "help" function, these types of first day mistakes should be expected.

8. This is all good fun but these XO are meant for kids in developing countries, to be used in a school and home setting. Yes, most kids will find them easy to play with. Yes, some (fewer) kids will be able to explore the more advanced games and develop their creativity with them (without any help from teachers or adults). However, given the little I know of teachers in most developing countries, getting the teachers to integrate the XO into their teaching isn't going to be simple.

That's it for now!