Widely blogged about, I know, but I just wanted to include my voice in the chorus. The OLPC program is offering a special during the weeks of November 12-26 where if you buy one laptop for $399 you’ll automatically be getting a second laptop into the hands of a child in a developing nation somewhere. This is just such a great opportunity to support a whole bunch of good causes, not the least of which is providing access to kids that don’t have it and putting a learning tool into the hands of your own children. (Lots of open source goodness, too.) And if you do the math, a classroom of laptops for $12,000 with another set being donated out would make a great service project for schools to get involved in. (Thanks to Magda for that idea.)
So, put a pop up on your calendar…the holidays are coming fast.
dave cormier says
I ask the same question I ask everywhere else… how OH HOW is anyone in the third world going to actually TEACH with these. People’s support of this plan leaves me breathless.
Dan Spesia says
Like Mr. Richardson, I too agree that this offer is a great way to give back. I am surprised that more programs do not these kinds of promotions. Providing less developed countries with these types of recourses is a great way to further educate people around the world. However, this is only part of the solution. These countries still need people to educate them on how to use the resources they receive. Only then can we truly make a difference in the world. Hopefully this promotion will be seen be more and more people and that people take time to consider this awesome opportunity to help others that are less fortunate. I believe educational technology is a tool that helps unite people across the world and can improve many aspects of society.
dave cormier says
“These countries still need people to educate them on how to use the resources they receive”
This is the other part of this issue that I find problematic. The cultures that Mr. Spesia is talking about ‘giving back’ to are currently fully functioning societies, with long generations of customs and mores that do not necessarily ‘need people to educate them’ on how to use the resources. It may sound like a trifling point, but it is critical. You cannot ‘impose’ development. You cannot ‘impose’ as Kavalo seems to be planning, a ‘student led educational program’ (see constructionism on the laptop.org wiki) on predominately patriarchal or oral cultures.
This plan might work very, very well in inner cities of the US, but this does not mean that it will work in ‘underprivileged’ societies. I do believe that many people writing about this program see it as a great way to ‘give’… the $200 might be better spent on any number of other development programs from people with long years of experience trying to help create the infrastructure (water, electricity, health, medicine) to support what might day be the need for very cool educational technology.
J.D. Williams says
I was almost considering putting Google AdSense on my classroom blog to do some fund raising and use the money to donate or get an XO for my classroom during their special. I’m still not sure if that would be an acceptable idea or not.
My comment to the “Who is going to teach people how to use these..” argument is, how many people do you know that ask their kids for computer advice? Put these machines in the kids hands, and if they are built well enough the kids will figure them out.
Kobus van Wyk says
The idea is noble; but to use these laptops with benefit is a different matter. The developing world (Africa in particular) has become the dumping ground for discarded equipment (parading under the term “refurbished”); the rationale behind it is that “something is better than nothing for those poor technology starved people”. The reality is: even if you provide equipment to poor communities, it is not going to do them any good unless it is done in a structured way: provide training to the teachers, together with a plan on how these tools are to be used. The argument “the kids will know how to use it” is not a valid one: they will know to use it for … what?
I know that this posting is about new OLPC machines, but the principle is the same. Perhaps the free computer for the poor is just a trick to boost sales (says the cynic). Whatever the motive, it is not going to benefit the learners unless these machines are deployed in a structured way.
You don’t believe me? Consider the abundance of technology graveyards – a silent testimony to the fact that well-intended donations seldom has a beneficial impact unless they are part of a bigger plan.
dave cormier says
At the risk of being grim about this… they will be used. But consider… what is easiest way to make money on the internet. This machine has a camera, and it’s very, very easy to use.
I don’t believe that computers are not an inherently educational tool and, although my experience of teaching kids in Asia and Eastern Europe (and now Canada) is that, at some level they are all interested in the same basic things, cultural realities, social and economic pressures and the different levels of dangers in different countries make it difficult to generalize from NA students to students in ‘2nd’ and 3rd world countries.
Wesley Fryer says
I agree the professional development issues for OLPC are challenging, but they are here in the United States as well. Providing the laptops to the STUDENTS is a fundamental difference and shift in focus, however, from how we’ve seen most schools spend technology dollars here. I think Dave’s ominous warning is worth considering: Surely many of these XO laptops ARE going to be used in destructive and negative ways. We aren’t seeing the headlines yet, but we are going to.
I also think Kobus’ points should be considered. “Technology dumping” is not a way to solve development issues.
I don’t see OLPC as a campaign similar to other programs which have distributed “refurbished” computers to developing countries, however. With the XO laptop we’re talking about a new computer, specifically designed with students in mind. Gary Stager’s post last month on Why Teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 suggests many things, but one is that we need a unifying pedagogy or instructional philosophy to underpin the uses of digital tools, including XO laptops. I think this is an important challenge we should strive to meet in the months and years ahead.
I agree with Nicholas Negroponte in his discussion on the FAQ of the XO giving website discusses community pencils. In my 4th grade classroom I never questioned the assumption that each child needed a pencil and a piece of paper. The predominant technology defined the predominant learning tasks. Everyone had pencils, so we used them. Everyone didn’t have access to computer technologies, so we used computers much less. Providing a laptop to each student provides a tool for learning. I heartily agree that a non-traditional frame for understanding and supporting learning is also needed, however, in addition to the technology tools. Professional development is essential. How can we each be a part of helping support and contribute to a professional learning community that operationalizes an ideal of sustained and effective PD? K12Online may be part of the answer. But we need more.
dave cormier says
I’ve already sent apologies to Will about my tone on these posts… I mean the content, but your well worded reply sets a far better example. I need to be more productive in my critiques.
I agree with you that professional development is a huge issue here and abroad. I just worry that the teachers on the ground are going to have a difficult time dealing with the influx of technology… If many teachers here have hard difficulties with 1 to 1 programs, what will it be like when the students have the only computers in town.
The pencil thing would be great. I would love to see it here in NA as well. I’m just not sure that it’s the best focus for development money. Maybe it is… maybe out there somewhere is the master plan that makes sense. I just wish someone would publish it a little more out in the open.
It is a great idea but technology comes with complications and so who ever gets this machine will need to have someone to fix the problems when they come along. And how do you know that this machine will be used properly?