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One Laptop Per Child

13 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Sep 27, 2007 8:53 PM by Dave Quick

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Bruce Eckel

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One Laptop Per Child (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Sep 24, 2007 11:45 AM
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Summary
For his keynote at the 2007 Python Conference, Ivan Krstić, director of security and information architecture at the One Laptop per Child project, showed us how much of the project was written in Python. The most common question was "how do I get one?"
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Well, now you can not only get one but at the same time give one to the project so that a child somewhere in the world can get a vastly better education.

Here's the link.

A listing of the Pycon 2007 keynotes. (Alas, the audio/video recordings seem to have fallen through the cracks this year).


Dave Webb

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 24, 2007 3:56 PM
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Apart from the obvious educational benefits of the project, I love the idea of all the kids in the world being freely networked together. It's got such a subversive feel to it.

Does anyone know if the OLPC's mesh networking can form a mesh across national boundaries. For example, could someone with an OLPC in China end up being able to get access to the net via an ISP in another country?

Bruce Eckel

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 24, 2007 4:40 PM
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Well, not NOW, after you've put "subversive" and "China" in the same post! :-)

Seriously, though, the source code download for TIJ4 seems to be getting blocked by the great firewall of China. Lately, I've regularly been getting messages, ONLY from people in China, saying they can't download the code.

Dave Quick

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 24, 2007 9:26 PM
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I've been a bit skeptical of the OLTPC effort.

As people who love technology, most of us love to solve problems using technology. There is some wonderful technology in the OLTPC effort, but I wonder how much it really provides better access to education for kids in poor countries? Or, even poor kids in rich countries.

I can see that "One Laptop Per Child" sounds a lot sexier than clean water, adequate food, and the opportunity to learn basic literacy skills. On the other hand, I don't think even a free laptop is of much value without having those things first.

I have boundless admiration for the technical accomplishments and the intentions behind this project. But to me, this effort seems a lot like driving nails with an oscilloscope.

Dave

Eli Courtwright

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 24, 2007 11:53 PM
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While I agree with everything you said, I think it's also worth noting that there are plenty of places in the world where people are living in poverty but still have enough food and shelter. These are the places for which the OLPC seems the most appropriate.

So I'll probably buy one of those OLPC laptops to support this project, which seems to have a lot of potential. But for parts of the world which are significantly worse off, I'll probably stick to supporting groups like the Heifer Project and Christian Children's Fund.

Dave Quick

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Registered: Sep, 2006

Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 25, 2007 1:23 AM
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Those are definitely the places for which OLPC seems most appropriate and it is well worth noting.

I'm less convinced of the effort's potential to affect real change for large numbers of people, but I'd be happy to be wrong about it. I'll be more persuaded when they get the cost down to the original target of $100 each.

If nothing else, I think it's opened the eyes of some commercial manufacturers to the possibility of a market for such an affordable machine. A bit of real competition in that space could be very interesting. If the only thing the OLPC project ever does is spark some company to make useful computers available at a very low price point, that will be a worthwhile thing indeed.

Dave Webb

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 25, 2007 6:14 AM
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To quote from the OLPC site, the OLPC is an education project, not a laptop project.

My hope is that it will facilitate the kind of learning and communication that will help solve problems like food and water in a more local, sustainable way.

On the other hand, the OLPC might just nurture a new generation addicted to games, YouTube and chat. Who knows lol.

Bruce Eckel

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 25, 2007 11:23 AM
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I think it might be a case of "what can we do with our talents to improve the world." Dave, I agree and understand that if more fundamental things aren't dealt with -- disease is a major factor, and the Gates foundation's vaccination project should have a major affect -- then education becomes unimportant. (War, of course, is another huge issue but much harder to think about.)

But once the basics are there, then education rapidly becomes one of the most important foundations for improving the quality of life.

One of my favorite discussions of this is Neal Stephenson's novel "The Diamond Age," in which a learning book far beyond the OLPC is created. I wouldn't be surprised if The Diamond Age is one of the inspirations for OLPC.

And I'd like to think that the OLPC project is more about creating a space where learning can happen, rather than building another game machine -- although we must acknowledge that a huge amount of learning happens through games. I hope that we don't see FPS games on OLPC, though that's my own preference and belief that the predominance of FPS's is more of a Western Culture influence than human predeliction.

Dave Quick

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 26, 2007 3:20 AM
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I totally understand the educational aspects of the project and I would love to see it be a huge success.

I really do hope my skepticism is completely unfounded.

Vincent O'Sullivan

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 27, 2007 11:03 AM
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It's difficult not to be skeptical about OLPC.

Given a class of thirty kids in a developing country; apart from the fantasy that the school would have a budget of $3,000 to buy them all fancy PDAs and more money to train the teachers to enable the kids to do something useful with them and more money for the maintenance and distribution infrastructure to keep them going longer than five minutes. It's difficult not to believe that the money would not be better spent on educational staples such as books, papers and pencils.

Dave Webb

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 27, 2007 3:24 PM
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I think the general idea is that OLPCs are being bought instead of books, so there shouldn't be any net increase in budget.

The project isn't about 'gadgets for kids'. From the OLPC wiki: "Why do children in developing nations need laptops? Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to learn learning through independent interaction and exploration."

Dave Quick

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 27, 2007 5:53 PM
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Are you sure they will be bought instead of books? I didn't see any mention on the web site of bundled software for learning to read, write, or learn basic math skills.

Even if their acquisition cost really is offset by not buying books, what will offset the cost of maintenance, repairs, teacher training, and support? What is the expected useful life of one of these machines compared to a book that could be used by dozens if not hundreds of students over many years?

I can see these as potentially useful learning tools for kids who have clean water, enough to eat, basic health care, and who can already read. Otherwise, I'd expect them to be sold, traded, or stolen because of the lack of one of those basic needs.

Dave Webb

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Nickname: lazydaze
Registered: Feb, 2006

Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 27, 2007 7:56 PM
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Actually, I'm not sure. That was from memory and I could be wrong. Hope that didn't confuse the issues too much.

The point I'm trying to make is that to millions of children in less developed countries it's much more than just a gadget or a techno-fix. It's a social tool which will give them the same access to knowledge and communication that we've taken for granted for ages, and I think that has a powerful potential for change. I don't think you can compare it with just paper or books or PDAs when assessing its value.

Dave Quick

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Re: One Laptop Per Child Posted: Sep 27, 2007 8:53 PM
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No problem. I can certainly see some potential there. I just haven't seen results with actual target populations that gives me any confidence the potential will be realized.

Now that they have some actual units to work with maybe we will start to see more about results and less about technology.

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