Nothing has infuriated and excited technologists and educationists almost in equal measure like OLPC. When I first heard about the idea, I thought it was absurd! Taking a minute to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation would show that it was total unrealistic and not feasible financially, logistically and educationally-- if you know anything about the developing world.
But in the end, I believe that the OLPC has done tremendous good (and some bad?). Apart from the usually-mentioned benefits like spawning the netbook industry and the associated benefits from all the neat technologies developed (e.g. the screen), OLPC has ignited and/or rekindled a serious debate about the role of ICTs in Education and more importantly about the nature of education in the 21st century.
So what did we learn? Briefly:
- Love or hate the OLPC, the one thing we all seemed to agree on was that education needed a serious re-examination.
- (Re)-Learnt that the technology is the easy bit- getting the technology into the hands of the users, powering it, keeping it working and relevant is the hard part
- No technology is likely to be widely successful in the education sphere if the education system itself doesn't change. if the curriculum doesn't change and assessment system don't accommodate the technology, it will is likely to have limited impact
- Tests still rule the roost. OLPC is a neat toy but when it comes to test time, teachers and parents demand that the "toy" be hidden as far away as is possible
- teacher centered approaches are still king-- at least in the developed world
- Like it not, OLPC has enabled kids who would never have handled a PC to do so and who know what dreams may have been created
- To really change the world, you have to think big (even if the idea is a bit crazy)
Perhaps many have been too unkind to OLPC. Might we look back 20 years from now and recognize the birth of the OLPC as the turning point for education? Maybe. We still really cant tell the impact OLPC has had or is likely to have even if it died out today.
One of the more interesting thoughts on OLPC and ICT4E can be found at: "ICT Integration in Education - What do we mean?"