Monday, December 3, 2007

School in a Box

In case you missed it last night, CBS's "60 Minutes" profiled technology thinker Nicholas Negroponte and his "One Laptop Per Child" movement. The idea is simple: provide every child in the world with a laptop computer. But as with everything, the devil is in the details.

Negroponte, a professor at MIT, engaged some of his computer-minded colleagues to design a portable, battery operated computer (named the "XO") for use in a variety of conditions, since many of these laptops are given to children that live without electricity, let alone many of the other comforts of the modern world. The resulting machine (right) is waterproof and can operate in full sunlight (try that with your Dell) for about 10-12 hours. Outta juice? Try the hand crank or a device that looks like a salad spinner, and you can generate 10-20 minutes of online reading with a minute or two of turning, according to reporter Leslie Stahl.

From a technology perspective, this is groundbreaking. Negroponte, famous for his work at the MIT Media Lab, has created something revolutionary in the personal computing world. But as the professor observes in the "60 Minutes" piece and on his OLPC Web site, "it's an education project, not a laptop project."

But educationally, Negroponte has been taken to task by groups like Geekcorps for distributing the machines to students with no formal education. The professor counters that's even more reason for children and families in extreme poverty to have access to an XO:
"You’re saying give them a laptop even if they don’t go to school?" Stahl asks.

"Especially if they don’t go to school. If they don’t go to school, this is school in a box."
What do you think about distributing these machines to students with no formal education? And, what could your students learn from being involved in this project?

P.S.: If you are interested in buying an XO, try the "Give One, Get One" program: purchase one for yourself and donate another to the program.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I think students who do not attend a "formal" school deserve a laptop. They need it even more since their opportunities are even more limited.