Saturday, May 31, 2008

Update -- One Laptop Per Child

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative that is the brainchild and initiative of Nicholas Negroponte has been scaled back in comparison to what Mr. Negroponte announced during TED Conference 2006 (Technology, Entertainment, Design). Back in 2006 the goal was to build 7 to 10 million XO laptops in 2007, and 100 to 200 million in 2008, at a production cost of $100. In reality since that announcement the cost is closer to $188 per laptop, and large countries have been slow to adopt the idea and buy the tool.

The biggest withdrawal from the educational initiative, surprisingly to me, came from India. What surprises me is that India is currently in the lead in its boom as an Information Technology facilitator. The country has been exporting its educated and talented IT services to first class industrialized countries. Many global organizations have set up their development and production support teams in the cities of Banglore and Hyderbad. The Indian Education minister, Sudeep Banerjee has reasoned that the OLPC program is "pedagogically [1] suspect", and added "We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools." (This quote was cited from the Technology Review issue of May/June 2008)

Meanwhile, Peru has been an enthusiastic adaptor of the idea. The government has allocated one third of its educational budget ($80 million) to buy the XO laptop, and distribute them to the poorest schools in the country. The XO laptop comes loaded with 115 books, and the flash drives store introduction information for teachers, reading-comprehension programs plus educational software and programs that will allow children to explore and be creative. It also comes with a camera that can capture images and videos; and it is internet ready.

Oscar Becerra, Peru's Education Minister, reasons that it would cost five times more to distribute the books compared to the cost of the laptops. Also this is an initiative by the government to bring the schools up to date. Technology Review writer, David Talbot, traveled to Peru and made the first hand observation of how well the laptops have been received and being used by the recipients. 486,500 machines are destined to world's poorest and worst-educated children.

Since last summer almost 50 children from Arahuay have been using the prototype laptops. In his observation: "The teachers knew we were coming. The children were at their desks, pecking away at their now-battered laptops. The machines were clearly well worn, with names written in marker to distinguish them… Kevin Gabino, 11, was following a teacher's instructions to type a statement of the school's values into a text file (Llegar temprano al colegio – Be early to school – topped the list.) Several other kids were playing Tetris… Rosario says she uses her laptop to play games, take pictures, draw, perform calculations, write documents, and send e-mails to her 25-year old sister who works in Lima 'washing clothes and looking after babies'"

Despite the scaling back of the project, I think this report by Mr. Talbot, is an example that Mr. Negroponte and his team should not be discouraged in continuing to reach their goal of providing one laptop per child. The measure of success for the project isn't the production of an affordable, scaleable and reliable hardware. That's part of the process. The big picture is transforming education. It is showing a child such as Rosario, the possibilities of a lifestyle that is new and different. Without being overtly stating a cliché, teach the next generation of underprivileged Peruvians to reach for the stars.

-Analyn Revilla

1 comment:

infs said...

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