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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Low-Cost Laptop: A Redesigned Computer for the World's Children

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

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
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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not sure about the logistical details of The Give One Get One program. The administration of my school wanted to purchase ~100 computers for our sister school in Zambia and they were told that the requirement was a minimum bulk purchase of 100,000 laptops! How is this making laptops available to all children?

Ann Marie Quirion Hutton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been following the OLPC saga for a while now. I even invested $800.00 of my own money to secure 2 laptops to share with my students. I think this idea is wonderful. My father, right here in Maine was born into poverty. He managed to become quite successful over the years, but if he had been given this opportunity as a child, I believe he would be even more effective for our society.

The idea of XP on these devices I find absolutely appalling. The entire idea was based on the sharing of FREE information. I am so disappointed they have chosen to go down this road. I understand that Apple offered software and was rejected? Is this true? I want to know why they are not part of this? I know Microsoft has a huge user base. I also understand this may be a political move to include the narrow minded people who can't imagine it is about the process, not the product.

If OLPC would like to keep people like me involved they had better add Apple software options too. And not make this about platform. Did anyone check which 1-1 programs are working in the world, and why? Just the incident in Virginia where the laptop program switch from Apple and then switched back to Apple should be telling these people something. In my opinion Apple gets the job done in education. I hope someone from OLPC gets this message, if this is really about education.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a teacher in inner-city Philadelphia and 99% of my students dont have computers at home. I've asked them to do research papers and they cant comply because the local library will only allow each student to use the computer at 30 minute intervals. Not only that, but the few computers at my school are off limits to students. So many students right here in the USA are without basic technologies to do well in school. Now, dont get me wrong, I applaud the efforts being done over seas, but what about OUR KIDS??? So many kids are going to schools without the technology, money or supports needed to have a great education.

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