I am Edward Cherlin and when we think about how to use the OLPC XO in education, the easiest idea is to create free electronic versions of existing textbooks. But this is to waste most of the power of the computer. I don't mean electricity, but the power to inspire, the power to open new doors. Let me give you an example:
From the invention of printing to the beginning of the electronic age, the best way to increase literacy was to print and distribute more books. Under favorable circumstances, such as the US in the 19th century, many children who could not attend school attained literacy by reading at home. In the 20th century, children's books like The Wizard of Oz flourished.
Putting an infant in your lap and reading out loud leads inevitably to the child, over time, insensibly starting to read along. Experience shows that this is far more effective than classroom learning. But what can illiterate parents do? Can they learn to read so as to teach their children? The ones who are still illiterate are the ones who think not.
It turns out that the most effective literacy program for adults in India is same-language captioning of Bollywood musicals, using the karaoke technique of coloring the syllables as they are to be sung. Audiences in India will go to a popular movie five or six times, memorize the words, and sing along. With same-language captioning, people who thought themselves too old to learn reading find that they are reading right there in the theater.
So far, so good. Parents can learn. Now what about the computer? Well, the computer can present captioned music videos, or can read books aloud with text-to-speech (TTS) software. We could get TTS software that colored the words on the screen. So now we have the child on a lap, and a laptop on the child's lap, and the parent and child singing along to their favorites, as I once did to Burl Ives on the record player.
The child probably learns to read faster than the parent, but however that may work out, both learn not only reading but sharing learning. Our current educational systems sadly neglect this essential point.