Thursday, May 31, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

Recently Nicholas Negroponte, on leave from MIT Media Laboratory, took on this non-profit effort to provide a laptop computer to children in developing countries! The first release was in Cambodia and was featured a few weeks ago on 60 minutes. Watch it here: It was amazing to watch these children who had no electricity, no access to media, let alone computers. It took them a couple of hours, and they were exploring and enjoying their computers. They were commenting that it was ironic and powerful that the only light coming from these children's dilapidated homes was candlelight and the glow from their monitors.

There is a link to their website here: . Much of the philosophy of this project is similar to our as Global Learners, technology enhances learning. Concerns could be similar as well. Their concern is hidden costs that go with this technology like wireless or batteries. Ours is kids not having the internet or personal computers at home. Another concern of theirs is theft. What if the laptops are stolen by older kids? I thought about that as well today as we were discussing video ipods being checked out and taken home by our students. If we put too many restrictions on the use of the technology, we are not allowing students to enjoy this technology to its full potential. Is loss/damage to equipment just a necessary risk we have to take?

There is an intersting side story to all this about intel getting into the same "business" of developing $100 laptops and creating competition for Negroponte.


Kelly Schwichtenberg said...

Isn't it amazing to think one man had the inspiration and took an initiative to take such wonderful technology to people who never would have had such an opportunity? I am like you Jeff I have HUGE concerns with products being stolen (permanently borrowed). Typically many people think of first graders (only 6 and 7 years old) as being so cute and fun to teach. And yes, that is very true, but they have some of the stickiest fingers of anyone you’ll ever meet! I’m hoping that through sharing so much technology and letting them become hands on, the technology will become “owned” by everyone. Growing up my parents’ philosophy was that if they always kept out the candy dish the less my siblings and I would want to play with it or eat it. I think it worked because when people would come over, guests would help themselves to the candy very quickly! Perhaps the more technology tools are around, the less trouble it may cause and the more routine the tools will become!

cwillhe said...

While some of the criticisms of the OLPC project are valid, most of them seem petty when held up against Negroponte's huge vision.

I think Kelly's spot on in her comments about the theft problem. As the tech becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, the incentive will disappear. In the mean time, our philosophy should be to make everything as freely available as possible, despite the short-term problems.

Global Learner's cool. Keep up the good work.

Joseph Miller said...

The $100 laptop program is so ambitious and inspiring. Imagine if we were connecting with these kids through our class work?

I don't think we have to accept loss as a byproduct of doing business, but I do think we have to know it is a reality. Tom Deaguero, high school math teacher, has a method for encouraging student ownership of equipment. The first time the class uses his high dollar calculators he always hides one. As they are wrapping up at the end of class he counts the calculators and comes up one short. He tells the class that no one is leaving until the calculator us found. He searches bags and has the students look around. Eventually they find the calculator and the students know what is expected of them. Maybe the first few times the iPods are used it is in the classroom. After students have earned the privilege they can take them home.

Any other thoughts about how we can ensure that we keep our amazing equipment in good working order?


Israel said...

"If we put too many restrictions on the use of the technology, we are not allowing students to enjoy this technology to its full potential."

It's not us restricting the students, they restirct themselves by allowing friends to steal or stealing themselves.

I try to teach this to my class immediately. I know it's harder with younger kids. But the idea with all this "freedom" has to be for the students to police themselves.

I have a similar method with my TI-83. 1 calculator is shared among 4 students in different classes and they must tell me if batteries are stolen or anything is messed up. If they dont and the next student does then I blame the Last student to use it. I try to teach them that with certain "freedoms" comes certain responsibilities and they learn to police themselves. I tell them it's not ME taking away the calculators, it's them not earning the trust to use them. It's them allowing others to take from them and not "snitching" or stopping them from doing it. You would be amazed at how well some of the High Schoolers respond to this.

KL said...

When I saw the piece on Negroponte, I thought of Jesse Brown being in Kenya and how awesome it would be if kids in the school there had access to $100 computers to communicate with our students. On the issue of permanently borrowing equipment (nice way of putting it, Kelly)I think we have to give kids the opportunity to use the technology to the fullest and to help them develop the self discipline to take care of it. Your suggestion, Joe, of using equipment in class and letting students earn the right/priviledge to take it home will work with a lot of kids in middle school. There may be kids who just don't get it, initially, but if they're the only one or one of the only ones, I bet most will get their act together. So many students already have iPods, there may not be as much incentive to borrow them.