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Low-Cost Laptop: A Redesigned Computer for the World's Children

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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If you're not aware of the One Laptop per Child effort, you should be, if only because the rest of the world clearly is. And don't stop at reading what the One Laptop per Child Foundation has to say about it; read this article about it, and search "olpc," and you'll soon be an expert.

I attended a meeting today, May 20, 2008, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Nicholas Negroponte and his OLPC team discussed their current efforts and the next-generation device. (On one side of me sat a colleague from Maine; on the other was a fellow from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's Education Ministry.) Here is some of what was announced:

  • The next iteration of the OLPC XO computer will be released in 2010.
  • It will work both in Sugar, the open source operating system on the first-generation XO, and on Windows XP. (Microsoft has reduced the price of XP to $3 per license to make it possible for OLPC to keep costs low.)
  • The screen will be much improved.
  • The overall format will be like an e-book -- folding, with two touch screens (each screen will behave somewhat like the iPhone) -- and a virtual keyboard will be available.
  • The target cost is $75.
  • The discontinued Give One Get One program, in which buyers donate a laptop to a child in a developing nation when they purchase their own, will resume.

In 2000, the European Union designated global distribution of XO laptops as a Millennium Development Goal to help reduce world poverty. How will the world change when every student ages 6-12 in, say, Uruguay, as well as every teacher, has a laptop? Will that make a difference to your school? What are your thoughts about the porting of Sugar into Windows XP? Does the apparent move from open source concern you?

When I spoke to Negroponte before the session began today, he described responses to the OLPC as resembling an "anti-bell curve" -- no one is in the middle. They either love it, or they hate it. Go take a look and share your thoughts. It is the future.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

elbons Calgary's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I do not want to sound too pesimistic, but I am curious about a few things. Does the drive to provide a laptop for all children include the consideration of the philosophy of "other" cultures? What about those that do not want or value this offer of computer availability? Is this work driven by a 'western' philosophy of 'faster, farther, sooner'? While I might be fascinated with this idea, are there other, more important and immediate concerns that need to be considered before focusing on this endeavour? Would a child primarily in need of a safe and healthy environment that includes fresh water, food, decent clothing, adequate shelter and freedom from fear or persecution see this project as a 'necessary' and reasonable use of your time, creativity and resources? Has this vision for computer accessibility been driven by compassion? or by competition?

Erika Henry's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am in agreement with the Philadelphia teacher who expressed concerns over the needs of our kids in the United States. With so many illiterate, needy, and struggling children in our own country, I can't help but wonder why our initiative wouldn't be to first supply every child in our country with a laptop. Since illiteracy is such an issue in developing countries, and literacy is the building block of education, why don't we instead have an initiative to collect gently used books to donate to the children in developing countries? I feel like "one book per child" would be a much more obtainable goal.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

HI everyone, I am new to this blogging idea. I have read through the one lap-top idea. I have a fellow teacher that travels to aulstralia often and visit schools there. May and most of the schools there are lap-top schools. In these school each child is given a lap top to use through graduation. There is so much that can be done in classroom when each child has a laptop. Lessons can be created using what students use everyday. imagine teaching science, having then complete a lab and videoing the lab with there phones. Pluging there phones into the laptops and down lodding the video. They can then calculate there results and great a power point, slide, report with video, ect.. to teach the class what conclusion they have come to and why. I one class period a teacher can have direct instruction, hands on, exploration, discuss, creating, applying, reteaching, and most of all student teaching other students. This is a educators dream!

I also agree with the fact that if we are buying the laptops the free ones should go to our children.

jkrauss's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The XO innovation has fostered a lot of r&d in the small computers market. Project Inkwell's "Spark", Intel's Classmate, the ASUS eeePC... Mary Lou Jepsen former CTO of OLPC plans to sell her company's Pixel Qi for $75.00. We live in exciting times! Readers interested in meeting teachers with XOs can head over to the XO Group in Classroom 2.0 http://www.classroom20.com/group/xo

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with most of your sentiments about prioritizing needs for children in other cultures. However, government and politics always seem to play a part in the education for children overseas (here too for that matter). A team from our school goes annually to a village in Zambia. They have built a school, provided curriculum, and the tools to support it. For many of these children, it is their "safe haven" and they put a lot of hope for their future in education. To receive independent school funding from the government, the school must prove that it is established with permanency; in other words, they need computers. Taxes increase the cost of computers 6 times in Africa. Militant groups corrupt the system further by demanding their own share of "taxes" from mission groups trying to organize efforts themselves. And then they found out the OLPC mission only works if you purchase in mass quantities (100,00 to be exact)!

Megan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My students practically beg for time on the classroom computers available to them and I think it would be a great resource to have for each students use. I know it seems like an unrealistic goal to provide a laptop for each student in the world, but I would love to see the positive strides that would follow such an advance in the learning environment.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think the idea that every child in the world could have access to an affordable computer is exciting! However as a parent and teacher I am frustrated. There are so many students in our own country that aren't having their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, safety) met. Shouldn't that be more of a priority?

Tamara, TN's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach in a rural area in TN and many of my students do not have access to computers at home either. I have 5 computers in my room, but we can only use 4 of them at a time or we have power surges that kick us out. I too applaud the efforts being done over seas, but what about our kids. I want all children to have an opportunity to succeed, but sometimes I feel as if we neglect the children in our own neighborhoods. I would love for each of my students to have thier own laptop. We do have a 25 computer mobile cart that 12 teachers share. We have a sign out log in the office, but my students are able to use it about 3 times out of a six week grading period. I would love to be able to spark an interest in technology with my students.

Philly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that there are children who are not having their basic needs met and we have to do better as a nation in this area. I also know that it is important for our students to be able to compete in a world where almost everything involves the use of some technology. We won't get closer to solving these problems if we continue to fall behind other countries academically.

Chris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think the idea is lofty to say the least. However, I like where it is headed. For our children to be a success in the world of tomorrow,they have got to be computer literate. I agree with the notion that with so many children in our own backyard currently without computers, why not tweak the push to at least include our students, as well as those in other countries. (If they already are and I missed that point, I apologize.) Or even split the effort and create two factions, one to aid overseas, one to aid here at home. Isn't the phrase; Think Globally, Act Locally?!?

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