One Laptop Per Child

May 21, 2007 at 10:54 pm 3 comments

The other night I watched 60 Minutes which isn’t something I regularly do but I’m glad I did because last night they did a story called What If Every Child Had A Laptop?

Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at MIT, had a dream that every child on the planet had a laptop. He thought that this would enable kids even from impoverished countries to become educated and a part of the rest of the modern world. He figured if he could help invent an inexpensive laptop he could achieve this dream.

He founded a non-profit organization called One Laptop Per Child and he has managed to create a lightweight, very sturdy, inexpensive laptop that he expects will soon cost about $100.00.

The show was pretty amazing – the kids in some places he went to didn’t even have electricity or running water but when they got the laptops they only needed about 10 minutes to figure out how to use them! They taught each other and they brought the laptops home and taught their families. Sometimes the light from the laptop was the only source of light in the home! Some places he would like to give the kids laptops don’t even have a school. The laptops would be their school.

It might seem like a luxury but would it really be in places such as Cambodia, Brazil, countries in Africa?

Interestingly, the attendance at schools where the laptops were given out also went up – kids were coming to school because they had heard from other kids that school was a good place to be and a place where they got the laptops. These kids started crossing the digital divide.

The computers have built-in cameras, drawing programs and programs to make music. They have wi-fi two to three times better than the wi-fi in this Dell laptop I’m using right now, according to Negroponte, and are currently in a testing program in Brazil. The computers are waterproof and do not have openings on the sides where sand or dirt could get in.

These laptops have other features I would love – the battery lasts 10-12 hours and can be recharged with the use of a hand-crank if no electricity is available. Who wouldn’t love that!?

Interestingly, this laptop which started out as a dream and is Negroponte’s completely humanitarian effort, has attracted some competition. Geekcorps – an organization that brings technology to poorer countries, much like the Peace Corps operates, thinks the One Laptop Per Child idea is great but director Wayan Vota isn’t sure that the kids can really just teach themselves. And there is another laptop up against Negroponte’s. The Classmate by Intel -

Negroponte says that worldwide there are over a billion children who would need laptops, so no wonder other companies want in on this idea. Negroponte says this competition is “shameless,” but Intel says it is just the way the business – the world – works. Intel believes that a project like this will require everyone working together and that there are lots of opportunities to work together.

To get his laptops into full production he will need at least 3 million orders. He feels confident he will get that despite the competition from Intel and others who will want to get their products into the hands of a billion plus kids.

If his ultimate goal is really a purely humanitarian one of really getting a laptop into the hands of every child maybe the competition will be good – maybe it will result in an even cheaper, and better, model that really can be distributed worldwide.

Whatever happens with the One Laptop Per Child program, one of my favorite parts of this whole idea is that when One Laptop Per Child comes to the US (there are talks going on already) and if the laptops become available commercially, parents will have to buy two if they want one. One for your child and one for another child. I think that’s a great idea and hey you’ll still only be spending about $200.00!

I think this program would be great in urban areas in the United States such as the one I am working in now, Paterson, New Jersey. Many of the kids in these schools do not have access to computers everyday, they don’t even all have real cafeterias, gyms or science labs in most of the schools! I recently toured some of the schools in Paterson during a seminar for Leadership Paterson, a program I am enrolled in. That was fascinating but I will post on that another time at my blog, Urban Librarian.

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3 Comments

  • 1. Tyler Rousseau  |  May 22, 2007 at 8:25 am

    I’ll be interested to see what long term results come from this program. Technology will bring kids into schools but they will also need a reason to stay. As with Paterson, Trenton’s students have little funds for a laptop as well; they may come in for the laptop but they will leave when the gang and violence issues become too much.

    Ideally, the inexpensive laptop is used as a means to regenerate interest in education among the communities. But if it is the only thing improved upon for education and opportunity, we will have millions of children with waterproof laptops and fewer skills to use them.

  • 2. Tyler Rousseau  |  May 22, 2007 at 8:25 am

    I’ll be interested to see what long term results come from this program. Technology will bring kids into schools but they will also need a reason to stay. As with Paterson, Trenton’s students have little funds for a laptop as well; they may come in for the laptop but they will leave when the gang and violence issues become too much.

    Ideally, the inexpensive laptop is used as a means to regenerate interest in education among the communities. But if it is the only thing improved upon for education and opportunity, we will have millions of children with waterproof laptops and fewer skills to use them.

  • 3. wayan  |  June 15, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Amy,
    I made the comments about One Laptop Per Child as Editor of OLPC News http://www.olpcnews.com

    Please join us there for a spirited debate about the project, the laptop, and changing education through computers.


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