Dreaming Again with One Laptop Per Child


Recently I stumbled upon this article "One Laptop Per Child - The Dream is Over". Short sentences and big conclusions. A fatalistic view of OLPC. The dream is over? Great. Welcome to reality, and the reality is that many people from the OLPC community are contributing with nice results.

Predicting that a dream will vanish is cheap, getting consideration for what replaced the dream is priceless. OLPC is changing the world in ways that where not predictable when the dream started. So let's first admit a few facts, then tackle the errors and misunderstandings of UNdispatch's article.

The OLPC Blackboard Activity


"Not a 100$ laptop": True. A 188$ laptop. So what?

"No human-powered power source": Abandoning a mistake is not a mistake.

"No really big orders": True. But there are more than 1,000,000 laptops in various countries, which is a significant amount, considering the time and energy you need to fully integrate them into the education system.

"No one is doing much research on their impact on education." Yes. Patch welcome. But this is not to say that countries don't have their own way of evaluating the projects. See for example the Solomon Islands evaluation We not only need small evaluations like this one, we also need a full scientific framework to help countries understand why and how to start their own evaluations.

Children learning in Nosy Komba, Madagascar


"OLPC didn't provide tech support for the machines." False. OLPC paid tech consultants to go out and help participating countries on the ground. Moreover: OLPC spread a spirit of "Do It Yourself" when it comes to repairing the machines and customizing the software. Such spirit only make sense because of OLPC's "Open Source" principle, regarding both the software and the hardware.

"OLPC didn't provide training on how to integrate them into the education system". False. OLPC paid education consultants to go to the participating countries and help with deployments using the laptops, becoming familiar with the constructionist approach, integrating the curriculum, etc.

"OLPC abandoned the child-friendly OS". Wrong. OLPC /released/ it. OLPC put energy into developing the first version, then there was the Sugar Labs community putting energy into developing the next ones. Without OLPC, such a child-friendly OS would never had reached the hands of kids and the idea of a free software environment for learning would never had reached the minds of decision-makers.

OLPC France volunteer learning how to build a XO

Dreaming again?

OLPC is a mature project, its reality progressively builds upon its dream. Maybe OLPC is not very good at showing this reality, and not very good at acknowledging worldwide efforts made by the grassroots community. But this doesn't say anything of OLPC's success or failure.

Did OLPC revolutionize the education system in the developing world?

Developed countries try very hard to understand what digital revolution they need for their education systems. Many of the ideas that OLPC has brought to the developing world are those that we hear nowadays in our schools. So yes, OLPC has revolutionized education in the developing world by revolutionizing education worldwide, and by giving a chance for developing countries to be part of this.

OLPC changed the world by giving children a chance to change our world. With this in mind, I've got enough to dream about.

Hope and learning with OLPC Mali

Bastien Guerry is a volunteer with OLPC France and would like to thank Nicholas Bodley and David Schönstein for their help in writing this post

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Author writes:

"Many of the ideas that OLPC has brought to the developing world are those that we hear nowadays in our schools. So yes, OLPC has revolutionized education in the developing world by revolutionizing education worldwide, and by giving a chance for developing countries to be part of this."

Are you serious????

I respectfully submit that there needs to be some substance to comments or it's as bad as spam or vandalism, and thus, even though we all encourage participation, we need to clean up what is nasty.

While Irvin could spend a few minutes finding holes in Bastien's article (I have seen a few weak points, real ones that somebody could give Monsieur Guerry a hard time), he just takes the la-z stooopid approach, and that is simply, well, lazy and stupid and we need to put an end to that sort of nonsense, it lowers the quality of your blog. If you have direct contact with Irv, could you just tell him to at least make an effort?


Please remove this comment as well, as you decide to clean up house

Maybe Wayan Vota should clean up the nastiness of people like you, who will distort the truth and insult others whenever they speak the truth. All for the hope of a dollar...sad.

@irv Yes, I am serious.

Take this two simple ideas: (1) collaboration should be central when children learn thru computers and (2) computers should be mobile devices that children can take home, thus encouraging informal learning and more interactions between the classrooms and the community.

Where do you see these ideas implemented in developed countries? I'm curious.

@Yama I'm happy to try to answer the big questions as well :)

No, you can't be serious. Or maybe you're serious, but you are not telling the truth. Look at your claim:

"OLPC has revolutionized education in the developing world by revolutionizing education worldwide"

That's obviously false.

OLPC has not revolutionized education worldwide, as anyone with a bit of common sense can see. This type of wild, hysterically false premise is very damging to OLPC and takes your own credibility away.

Why not deal with the facts?

Here 2 opinions from Uruguays President [1] and IADBs (nter-American Development Bank) President [2], which appear to share Bastien Guerys's analysis:

[1] "No encuentro mejor forma para sintetizar (...) el impacto de la tecnología que el usar la palabra revolución" (http://www.que.es/ultimas-noticias/espana/200909152048-presidente-uruguayo-celebra-eeuu-poder.html)

[2] "ICTs, he added, are central to a revolution driven by the globalization of society and the growth of education. They energize production, increase integration and provide access to information and knowledge in ways never seen before. ICTs are an incredibly powerful instrument, just as the wheel, the printing press and the steam engine once were,” Moreno said. “They change society permanently.”" (http://www.iadb.org/news/detail.cfm?language=English&id=5654)

I think I will have to crown Irving as a Master Troll.

He has the amazing capacity to get everyone all riled up with just one annoying comment. Annoying in that half the time, he's just repeating the same point he's made for 2 years now, but the other half the time, he makes a good point.

Problem is, we all disagree in which half the time any specific comment falls.


But you must admit that Irvin knows which contributions are most worthy to derail.

If Irvin comes out to comment first, we all know the original author must have hit the nail on the head.

Someone IS spending an enormous amount of time checking for good OLPC posts to fight.

So, congratulations Bastien. This is a really good summary.


Wayan inadvertently blurts out the truth:

"Annoying in that half the time, he's just repeating the same point he's made for 2 years now, but the other half the time, he makes a good point."

Very interesting little math riddle, there, my dear friend Vota!

If I'm making a good point 50% of the time and spend the other 50% repeating that good point, it means you are not being fooled: you know I'm seeing and expressing things the way they truly are.

Excellent, Wayan!


@irv You're right, the sentence you're quoting is false. I would amend it like this:

"OLPC is revolutionizing the idea of education in developing countries, the same way OLPC is pushing developed countries to rethink how they use ICT for learning."

So yes, "revolutionize" is always a bit far-fetched. Same for big causal links.

But what I meant is this: OLPC brings many new ideas about education in developing countries, some of these ideas being successfully implemented thanks to XOs, enthusiastic teachers, participating parents, local communities, and progressist decision-makers.

And this is very inspiring for developed countries as well.

If the whole idea of OLPC was just to let developing countries to technologically "catch-up" with the rest of the world, I wouldn't call it "revolutionary". And as french fellow, I think I've a fair understanding of this world (kidding).

Bastien wrote:

"@irv You're right, the sentence you're quoting is false. I would amend it like this: [...]"

Thanks, Bastien, for being honest. Hopefully, all the others attacking me will follow your example.

I don't have high hopes, though: the standard MO for them is to attack me whenever I make an argument they can't refute. I enjoy the mental hoops they go through trying to cover the sky with one finger, though...


"I don't have high hopes, though: the standard MO for them is to attack me whenever I make an argument they can't refute."

It takes one to know one.

Irvin just described his own MO perfectly well. I can't remember the number of times he has called me names or insulted whomever disagreed with him. I do remember at least three times when he was blocked from OLPCnews for gross misbehavior.

Personally, I think Wayan was too polite with his "50%" remark. I see it more as "5% good points and 95% attacking the messenger or the OLPC initiative".

The 5% is recycling other peoples comments as Irvin has not offered a single new insight since his first post in 2006.

Which is not surprising as he has never shown any interest at all in economic development, ICT and computers, or the education of poor children. Which is remarkable for someone who is one of the most frequent single commentators on OLPCnews and must spend hours a week reading and writing on OLPCnews.

Irvin has been asked countless times to explain his thoughts and opinions for discussion, but he simply ignored these requests as he only seems to be interested in derailing OLPCnews. As Goethe said: he is "der Geist der stets verneint".
(I cannot say whether it is for hate, fun, or profit)

This comment is not directed to Irvin himself. He is not interested in any type of discussion. It is more for casual readers who cannot put these discussions in context and who seem to be the real targets of Irvin's comments.

I have seen at least twice that journalists refer to Irvin's desinformation contributions on OLPC as evidence of disagreements in the "community". So his comments DO pay off handsomely.


Yeah, Irv is bad...yada yada yada...

"Yeah, Irv is bad...yada yada yada..."


Is there Time to Effect Beneficial Change?

Dear Editor,

Is there time to effect beneficial change? In the case of my generation (born, mid 30's), it is doubtful that many of us will live to see the long-term effect of the changes we are going to make in the next decade. The changes are being hearkened by many astute observers, such as Lester R. Brown. In his new book, Plan B 4.0 -Mobilizing to Save Civilization, (www.earthpolicy.org), he states his insight, with which I agree, and I quote:

“We now need to restructure our global economy, and quickly. It means becoming politically active, working for the needed changes. Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.
What could be more exciting and more rewarding than getting involved in trying to save civilization?
Write or email your elected representatives about the need to restructure taxes by reducing income taxes and raising environmental taxes. Remind him or her that leaving costs off the books may offer a Ponzi sense of prosperity in the short run but that it leads to collapse in the long run.
Let your political representatives know that a world spending more than $1 trillion a year for military purposes is simply out of sync with reality, not responding to the most serious threats to our future.
And above all, don't underestimate what you can do. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Those of us with diets heavy in fat-rich livestock products, can do both ourselves and civilization a favor by moving down the food chain.”

I plan to effect changes by offering limitless, renewable, non-GHG, concentrated solar power via the Solar Furnace CHP System (http://solarfurnacechp.wetpaint.com/ )
I plan to change how we live and how we treat each other. See: World Plan for the Garden of Eat'n.

The rich nations owe a debt to the "colonies" of yesteryear. Giving an XO laptop, wireless systems and teacher training to the under developed nations is the right thing to do.

Jim Miller, [email protected]

===Comments on Theft of Laptops:===

The solution for theft is for each laptop to be left in school under lock and key.  Add one printer per classroom so kids could print out the homework sheet and take it home overnight, do the homework and turn it in the next school day, or, better yet, scan the completed homework and upload it to the teacher's journal.  Text books should continue to be furnished by the government.  The rich countries should donate the laptops, printers and wireless gear, as well as the money for teacher training. 

A better approach would be to not only give a laptop to a child, but also give one laptop to the child's family so that the “home” laptop stays at home for use by the entire family. By such provisions, the school child can leave his/her laptop stored in a locked cabinet at school. A flash drive card would allow the child to record his/her homework assignment on the flash drive, go home, do the homework, then when back in school simply copy from the flash drive card to the XO's memory.

The value of this plan is that it will promote the use of digital media in the entire family – which is or should be one of the objectives of OLPC and fits in with the Community Schooling Movement.

===Redundancy? Peers:===

The idea that children will not interact with the peers if they have laptops is questionable. Kids will send each other emails and do texting.  They will show-off their new skills and teach each other some of the finer points of surfing the WWW. Does anyone have empirical proof either way? We need a good scientific study on this point.

===Comments on funding of laptops and associated gear and training:===

One view is that the rich nations of the world have for several centuries "mined" the "colonies" and now are buying the land and water rights, which shrinks the available crop land even more for the local folks.  My hope is that by providing laptops to the local population, they can by word, deed and photos, raise this "land rape" issue by the wealthy nations and companies, on a world-wide basis. Communication is actually, in this setting, just as important as other issues.  It is time for the rich nations to "repatriate" the massive wealth they "stole" from the colonies. 

If the wealthy nations will not do so, then the developing states can use the eco-village approach, become self-sufficient for all local human and animal needs and then stop the transfer of resources and wealth to from the poor countries to the rich countries.  This approach is feasible, and solves the Peak Oil Crisis, the Peak Water and Food Crises, and now, the Peak "Theft of local cropland and water by foreign rich nations and companies" Crisis.

See: World Plan for the Garden of Eat'n, http://masallp.wetpaint.com/page/WORLD+PLAN+FOR+GARDEN+OF+EAT%27N, and The Feeding of the Nine Billion: Global Food Security for the 21st Century, http://masallp.wetpaint.com/page/FEEDING+9+BILLION+PEOPLE

Jim Miller

In transition to justice,harmony, productivity, and right living:
“It's understandable, isn't it, that workers who come of age in an autocratic, authoritarian, paternalistic environment, become reflections of it. It took some time for Camarãoto adjust to the innovating, democratic, participative atmosphere at Semco.”

MAVERICK, The Success Story Behind the Worlds Most Unusual Workplace,Richardo Semler, Warner Books,1993, p. 180; ISBN 0-446-51696-1

I have nevr imagined the existence of such a humanized project. Unbelievable! I look forward to learning more about this.

Kazadi Kiboko
Houston, TX

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