Professional Learning

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

May 20, 2008

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.

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