One Laptop Per Child/XO

David Pogue of the New York Times has posted a very positive review (and nice video, too) of the new XO computer that is part of the One Laptop Per Child effort to create an inexpensive, portable, destruction-resistant computer for children of the developing world. The machines are open-source, so no Windows, which may shock some folks but keeps the price reasonable.

Pogue notes that the programming can become visible to students, too, as ” … one keystroke reveals the underlying code of almost any XO program or any Web page. Students can not only study how their favorite programs have been written, but even experiment by making changes. (If they make a mess of things, they can restore the original.)” I love that idea of showing them code, and allowing them to tinker (but also to return to zero if everything falls apart)

And they are also going to be offering up a buy-one-yourself/give-one-away-to-a-kid sale next month, and when I told my wife that I was toying with the idea, I think her reaction was a mix of “We need more technology in our lives?” and “Sounds like a good way to help children in the world” so we’ll see what happens.

Peace (in the giving),
Kevin

2 Comments
  1. We were just having this conversation around the dinner table. Thanks for the link to the Pogue article. His enthusiasm jumps off the page. My concern is how the technology is being delivered. I know the mission is to create more equity and access to information and education–but delivery is key. Notice the company is comprised of primarily white men. Has anyone spent time in some of these remote villages empowering the people with leadership and asking them what they want. So, yes, a laptop might bring the power of access to more information and resources–but it might also be the big white knight telling us what we need, giving us a machine that will need replacement in three years and the possibility of access to a world of white middle class advertisement and marketing. So, I’m torn. I think their hearts and heads are in the right place–but their plan may be coming from a very narrow cultural perspective. I just still have a lot of questions.

  2. I think your points are valid concerns, Susan.
    I do believe that they spent time in villages and working with local engineers during the design phase to figure out how best to create a machine that will last and be effective for remote parts of the world. The reason it has taken so long is that they were wary of creating something that was not going to be needed.
    Whether it is another case of the wealthy telling the poor what it is that they need for a so-called Better Life … well, maybe, I suppose, but just think how the knowledge base might expand for some kids if they had access to the ‘net instead of school rooms with no books at all or books left over from Imperial Britain.
    I’m sure there are governments in these countries who worry about such a move, however, since that might open up minds to other choices and freedoms.
    The other challenge for the developers of this project is how to show the kids how to use the tools, too.
    Thanks for the comment
    Kevin

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