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We Need More One Laptop Per Child Hardware and Software Movements

Sandra Thaxter


Wayan Vota’s article, “Is the One Laptop Per Child Model Still Relevant in 2014?” seems to miss the point. One Laptop Per Child initiated an intervention into countries where there are more children than existing national governments’ education efforts could possibly be effective.

In the developing world most teachers are both underpaid, and under prepared for the enormous task they face every day. I consider them the most heroic civil servants one could imagine. Every day they face an impossible job, but they are not cynical, or cruel or jaded. The are kind and hard working, but eager for help, and long for access to the world bursting with information and ideas.

Technology in education is inevitable

Using one laptop and a projector in a class of 60 or 100 students, is no better than the current lecture model. In this model children are passive, they are not engaged. If they are using a laptop to accomplish a task that has meaning, engages their curiosity, and is under their control, they are engaged.

We are no longer educating workers for 20th century industrial jobs, but for a world where we collaborate, and innovate. Small groups of students around one laptop or tablet actually creates an effective problem solving team. Are there enough devices for all children? Not now, governments are slow to purchased them. But if they are cheap enough, the children we get them, their parents will sacrifice to purchase them. The urgency of people to join the big cloud of sound, images and ideas is a powerful surge that cannot be stopped.

It is not just about the laptop.

It is about disruptive, creative, child centered learning. One Laptop Per Child’s learning activities, called Sugar, provides high quality exploratory learning tools. The collection of tools is brilliant. Some are so clever that I laugh when I use them with kids.We had a whole classroom of teachers and kids in Kenya, their first time using any computer cooing and laughing with delight, getting so much pleasure in learning together.

We need more One Laptop Per Child movements, and many organizations to filter out the best software activities. The inundation of lollipop apps has created a cloud of bright colored obfuscation of the potential for the modestly presented rich environments of apps like Turtle Art, Scratch or eToys.

We need a cornucopia of electronic options

In order for developing countries to address the challenge of education, we must increase the number of units delivered to schools, engage the teachers with students as partners in learning, provide connectivity, connect classrooms and students with each other, open them to the world as full participants and agents of their future.

Sandra Thaxter is the Executive Director of Small Solutions Big Ideas

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4 Responses to “We Need More One Laptop Per Child Hardware and Software Movements”

  1. Mary Burns

    Hi, I’ve enjoyed reading both posts.

    But the question of “worth” is still an important one in 1:1 debates in poor countries. I’ll point you to a post I wrote in October that compiles some of the research on 1:1 computing in poor countries (There ain’t much!): http://tinyurl.com/mzchhnl



  2. Edward Lukacs

    Perhaps we do need another One Laptop Per Child, but being the owner of a model 1 OLPC, I must say that next time, I would hope that the operating system and much of the shipped-with-system software be written by hackers and not a committee of “educators”. My unit is such a nightmare to access and maintain that instead of giving it to the young lady for whom it was intended, I instead gave her my old standard laptop (AMD Athlon), loaded with Puppy Linux and a selection of educational freeware. And yes I know what I am talking about. I am a retired sysop/lan/wan administrator with almost thirty years of experience with RTE-A, HP-UX, Ultrix, Tru64, Linux, BSD, and BeOS experience and an IS Security Manager.

    Now don’t get me wrong. The OLPC-1’s hardware is ROCK SOLID, if a bit dated by now and even when it was introduced. But then it took so long to get any equipment out into the world that it was passé by the time that it was in the hands of users. And also it was loaded down with inefficient software it was marginal at best, making it not even comparable in speed and performance to the old 1998 AST Ascentia 950N that I keep for sentimental value.

    Also, I suspect that a whole lot more units could have been produced and distributed if the organisation had not been so stuffy about who got them. If distribution had been unrestricted, large economies of scale could have been realised, possibly making the cost per unit even more affordable for educators and governments. Personally, I think that the Model 1’s phyiscal ayout is far better than that of a tablet. If the internal hardware were modularised and made easilyu upgradeable, equipped iniytially with a modern 64-bit ARM processor, a solid state drive and a few gigs of memory, a modern remake of that original concept could potentially last a third world student through their entire priimary and secondary schooling.

    But if anyone is intending to attempt this very worthwhile task, I suggest that this time the actual design and development be placed in the hands of weird back-room hackers and not in the hands of beautiful people of influence.

  3. Sandra hit the nail on the head when she mentions that the 1:1 model is what is required to launch a new model of education where students are searching, collaborating and innovating developing skills that are indispensable to maximize personal development in the XXI century.
    To achieve this goal is important to reduce the cost of the Tablets for the developing countries. The Mexican government leveraging on its purchasing muscle, just made a massive acquisition of 700,000 Tablets this year at a cost of 133 dollars for a 10′ Tablet. The program will deploy around 5 million Tablets during the next four years


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