Free the XO Laptop For Chilean Children

   
   
   
   
   

I am Luis Ramirez, of "one computer per child" in Chile. Our goal is to achieve free and permanent access to computers for at least 1 million Chilean children living in poverty before our bicentennial (2010). Back in November, I gave an update on The Chilean way to One Laptop Per Child. Today I'll give another update:

olpc chile
Not a future Chilean classroom

In 4 words: No XO in Chile

Despite all the troubles with OLPC, most of us have remained faithful followers of the tiny XO laptop. That is why we are sad with the latest news:

After months of fruitless negotiations between the Chilean Ministry of Education and the OLPC Foundation the door for a pilot in Chile has been closed.

To the best of our knowledge - which includes my own attempts to convince David Cavallo, OLPC's Director for Central and South America - the Foundation has systematically refused to get involved in a pilot in my country, unless Chile includes around 10 thousand students on it. That is virtually impossible for a pilot, at least for a conventional one.

In this report I want to explain why - in my opinion - we have reached to this point.

In Chile, OLPC is not UCPN

Back in November 2007 I wrote a post here called "The Chilean way to One Laptop Per Child" in which I described the strategy of a citizen-led campaign we have been working on since 2006.

olpc chile
Children before computers

In this campaign we have used OLPC's XO laptop as one the best examples of the technologies available to empower children at schools and beyond. However, the Chilean campaign 'One Computer per Child (ucpn.cl)' is focused on issues such as education, inequality, lack of opportunities, under-development, poverty reduction, reforming public schools, national competitiveness, and so forth.

For us, the XO has always been portrayed as a 'catalyst', never an end in itself.

In the meantime, the Chilean government has been piloting standard laptops since 2007. During 2008 the Ministry of education wanted to include Classmate PCs and XOs on the tests. Thus, after months of negotiation - including meetings with Brightstar executives -, Chile was willing to buy as much as 900 XOs for the pilot. The answer from OLPC was always negative.

In my view, the OLPC Foundation has made enormous efforts to remain loyal to the educational principles underling their project. The idea of 'scale' i.e., 'having a critical mass to change things' has been one of the most important issues for them. That of course have been changing from the original 'million' students to more realistic numbers.

Surely, many countries such as Chile are not able to - or willing to - get involved with such large scale deployments without proper pilots. Facing that, Negroponte's team is willing to 'sacrifice' nations such as Chile in order to focus their scarce resources on those countries where they perceive a clearer commitment with their core principles. Uruguay and Perú are the closest examples that come to my mind.

Let me be clear here: I have an extremely positive view about the goals and strategies behind the OLPC initiative. However, in my humble opinion maybe it is time to for central command to loosen up a bit.

olpc chile
Everyone loves the XO

Its Time to Free the XO Laptop

The XO is a wonderful invention, no doubt about it. So why not put it freely on the market right now? And why don't put all the learning models developed by the OLPC folks on the web, available for everybody without any restraint?

It is true that some developing nations would need a lot of assistance from the wise people of the OLPC team. Yet, I am sure some countries such as Chile - with over 15 years of experience deploying technology in the classrooms- can arguably do a decent job implementing XOs according to their own models.

Our friends at the OLPC Foundation have to understand that the 'one size fits all' approach can no longer be sustained. It is time for more flexible models that take into consideration the different realities of those nations they want to help.

I have no doubt to ask for it: Mister Negroponte, it is time to free the XOs.

Unfortunately, at least in the short term the Chilean children will remain untouched by the wonderful XO. In such scenario for us in the UCPN campaign there is no choice but to follow the same advice I gave the readers of OLPC News a year ago: "Put the XO at the end, and place the kids first".

In other words, regardless the technology, we will remain devoted to achieve the dream of having every single son and daughter of this nation with a computer in their hands.

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25 Comments

Luis Ramirez asks:

"The XO is a wonderful invention, no doubt about it. So why not put it freely on the market right now?"

Because the current price ($188) would be hugely increased if OLPC becomes legally required to provide the tech support, warranty, timely product delivery, refunds, service and features that mainstream companies provide.

Until today, The XO has been sold to OLPC followers, which means that buyers have accepted conditions that would be scandalous to the public at large: no tech support, no delivery times, no timely fixes for major bugs, no refunds, missing major advertised features, etc, etc.

Chile is doing the smart thing, based on the information you provide. Have you noticed how no rich country is rushing to provide its kids with a personal laptop? Why should poor nations go for it? It reminds me of the factory worker waiting for the bus on a winter night wearing a $5.000.00 Rolex...

If the USA, Japan, France, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the rest of the leading nations don't think it is necessary to give elementary school kids a personal laptop in order to educate them, why is it that poor nations should invest their meager resources on this VERY RISKY, UNPROVEN theory?

Do the right thing, Luis: joing the smart people in demanding that Negroponte and Co. conduct the required pilots before huge amounts of much-needed Chilean resources are committed to this very nebulous proposition.

Irvin is right that OLPC has chosen minimum price over all other considerations, and that OLPC's terms would be utterly unacceptable in commercial transactions. But I disagree with Irvin that the XO is unproven. It is cheaper than textbooks, and provides a number of other known and obvious benefits without considering Constructionist education. There is also clear evidence of the benefits of some of the Constructionist ideas and methods, although we could do with a lot more published research.

I agree with countries like Chile that want to conduct pilot projects, for many reasons.

*Because conditions in different countries are different
*Because teachers need training, and countries need to understand what training is needed
*Because there are also such issues as electricity and Internet in villages
*Because this is politics, not a top-down command structure. Legislatures have to see what they are appropriating money for, and may have to be able to show it to the public and explain it.
*Because stakeholders have concerns we don't even know about.
*And mainly, just because.

This is a case where the customer is necessarily right, regardless of what the seller knows.

Having said all that, I must now ask, Why hasn't Chile gone for GiveMany? A thousand units would cost $249,000. That's rather more than 900 @ $188, which comes to $169,200, but it isn't outrageous, especially compared with the other laptops they are trying out. On the other hand, that isn't actually for me to say.

What do you think, Luis?

@Irv: While the US may not have a national laptop program, there are many public and private schools that have begun using them in the classroom.

From what I understand, the program that Luis mentions IS a pilot with less than 1000 laptops and thus would not involve huge amounts of resources. In many ways it makes more sense for Chileans to conduct their own pilot rather than the US or any of the other countries handing down solutions that don't necessarily reflect the reality of a place like Chile.

As far as being "legally required to provide the tech support, warranty, timely product delivery, refunds, service and features that mainstream companies provide," why couldn't the Chilean government wave those terms and provide home-grown support?

Disclaimer: my family created the mascot for the UCPN campaign.

Start with Sugar on whatever hardware you can get your hands on...

Edward, your comment must have been posted while I was composing, thus the repetitive nature of mine. You ask a good question regarding GiveMany.

I'd also like to add that there is already some criticism* about the design of the XO being the product of a top-down approach. It seems like allowing countries to create their own pilots can avoid top-down implementation strategies as well.

*See: http://www.experientia.com/blog/what-happens-when-the-100-laptop-actually-gets-used/

Hermanos chilenos.

Con dolor en el alma por esta situación. Sé muy bien lo mucho que han trabajado, el apoyo que han recibido de su gente, de su gobierno. Les traigo el cariño que les tenemos todos en la comunidad de OLPC, con plena confianza que esto se ha de enderezar, pues lo debe ser por derecho, o como dicen ustedes, "por la razón o la fuerza", que sea la fuerza pacífica del trabajo que recibe reconocimiento y apoyo de quienes deben apoyar aunque no lo hagan.

Yamandú


"OLPC becomes legally required to provide the tech support, warranty, timely product delivery, refunds, service and features that mainstream companies provide."

ROFL! good one!

@robertogreco: While the US may not have a national laptop program, there are many public and private schools that have begun using them in the classroom.

Oh you don't want to bring that up.

Right away people will want to know how well those programs have done. The tattered mystique of the OLPC will hardly be mended by the admission that of the deployments of laptops in the U.S. there hasn't been a single unqualified success and more then a few resounding failures. If you include desktop-based programs the record is longer and wider but no less ignominious.

What's unfortunate is that so many people know with a certainty bordering on religious fervor that computers and education are somehow meant to go together. Yet for all that certainty a coherent picture of what that education's supposed to look like has yet to emerge. It's unfortunate because there's endless enthusiasm for the voyage and no clear idea of the destination.

Luis:

You say: "... The idea of 'scale' i.e., 'having a critical mass to change things' has been one of the most important issues for them..."

I work with politicians in my country. And it is the same with
every politician in the whole world: The day has just 24 hours
and they need to devote to causes that affect the biggest number
of people. That is the "good" reason.

The bad one (every story has a bad side!) is that for a politician
is "safer" to sell/buy/promote/speak/think in "BIG NUMBERS". If
If I propose you to buy 1 million computers and you say no... I win.
If you buy 1 million computers you will never admit any failure. I win.
If we (you and me) support ourselves in our "speach" then I can sell
more "1 million lots" and you will have support for your buying
because other countries have bought the same than you. I (we?) win.

My sales window (as a politician) is always open for "1 million" of
this or "1 million" of that. Not a "1 million sales"? NEXT!

A "pilot" is too dangerous (in every politician mind) because IF the
pilot fails then the very same politician idea fails. There
can be many related things involved with this: prestige, money,
power, work, reputation, academic relevance, etc. A pilot is
too dangerous.

You would need to be an inspired soul like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin
Luther King to go against the "common behavior" for all politicians
from the Roman Times. Even the biggest souls have their lesser
sides. So... we need to understand how politicians work and realize
that they are totally human with human instincts: survival is
one of those.

"... Negroponte's team is willing to 'sacrifice' nations such as Chile in order to focus their scarce resources on those countries where they perceive a clearer commitment with their core principles. Uruguay and Perú are the closest examples that come to my mind..."

Peru is not a good example of the right reasons to buy the XOs.
It was just a matter of circumstances.
a) About year 2,000 all the teachers in Peru were "trained" in
constructivist methods.
b) Some years ago the Dea (Principal) of one Peruvian University
visit MIT and got relationship with 2 or 3 people that impulse
the construccionism as a theory. Now, many years later, that
person has become the Minister of Education.

So in Peru is a combination of circumstances that have speed the
way in wich we acquire these marvelous machines (the XOs).

"... In other words, regardless the technology, we will remain devoted to achieve the dream of having every single son and daughter of this nation with a computer in their hands..."

Amen. Aleluya! That is the reason I am focusing in developing
content (good for any computer: Unix or Windows, any size: big
or small). A computer (any computer) can help many children.
In many ways, in many flavors. But education is more than
computers. Computer is a mean and not an end.

Keep trying Luis! Keep trying!

Edward said: "... But I disagree with Irvin that the XO is unproven. It is cheaper than textbooks... "

Sorry to disagree Edward!

1 XO = US$188
1 room/class with 10 XOs = US$1,888
1 School with 3 rooms for primary school education = 30 XO's = US$5,444

1 Book (in Peru) = US$10 (ten dollars). Legally printed, not pirate copy.
188 books = US$1,888. For one room.
544 books = US$5,444. For a small school.

In any moment, any day, in this or future live, I will choose to
give 188 books for a group of 10 kids (1 class or room) or 544 books
for a group a group of 30 kids (3 rooms or one small school).

Furthermore, 30 kids are not able to read 544 books at the same
time, so the scales is much bigger: 544 books is a small library
that can help many other kids. You do the numbers.

Saying that the computer brings "thousands of books" for the kids
and then it is cheaper to deliver computer than books... that is
nothing more than a theory: were are those free electronic books?
in spanish? How many ? I know many websites with
thousands of "articles" but very few sites with spanish books
(a book has many, many articles).
If someone can tell me were I can find updated books
in spanish languages I will appreciate it because I am collecting
all this info and thinking in a realistic way to put it in the
hands of the children.

Beyond that: a book no needs electricity, nobody will kill a
child to stole the book, and the kid will pass the property of
the book without problem to a next generation, etc. Not been
ironic, just trying to wake up and not get too focused on the
"just computers" idea.

I agree with the rest of your opinions Edward (we are in a Lucky
day! (smile))

Javier Rodriguez
Lima, Peru
[email protected]

I can't belive what I saw. What a shot on the foot olpc is doing. Sad, it all makes me very sad.

@Javier: This is a link for books in spanish language:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Libros/Espa%C3%B1ol#Audiolibros_en_Espa.C3.B1ol

@Walter: We are thinking something like this ( Please look the images)
http://luisramirez.cl/blog/?p=1135

Pato Acevedo

@ Javier

I listed a few links that you may or may not have found already.

Also, if you are not famailar with the deep or hidden web (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_web) , there is a wealth of information that can be found there, such as at INFOMINE http://infomine.ucr.edu/ Normal web spiders do not normally index the information in the deep web, which is why it is said that 75% of the web is virtually unknown to people using the standard search engines, however Google is starting to make inroads into this 75%.

University of Texas at Austin, Full texts online (Spanish)
http://www.lib.utexas.edu/subject/iberian/fulltextspa.html

@ Javier

Given the 3 link limit here are three more links.
University of Virginia, Spanish literature about 12 books
http://www.lib.virginia.edu/wess/etexts.html#spanish

Proyecto Biblioteca Digital Argentina. From Juan Bautista Alberdi to Eduardo Wilde, more than seventy authors are represented here across a wide range of literature in Spanish. Online in HTML.
http://www.clarin.com/pbda/index.html

Free Brasilian e-books More than sixty free titles from 26 authors, including José de Alencar, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis and Afonso Henrique da Lima Barreto. All public domain books or with author permission. Available as downloads for offline reading - formats include Word, PDF, RTF and some Palm PDB.
http://vbookstore.uol.com.br/nacional

For those who are looking for "laptop programs" in the developed world.

There are few rich countries left where a child can finish high school without access to a computer or the internet. In my country, this is simply listed together with books and a graphical calculator.

There is NO reason to dole out laptops to children whose parents can afford to buy computers themselves.

OLPCnews is about schools where NONE of the children or teachers have access to computers or the internet. Nor to school books and libraries. We are even talking about areas were the supply of paper and pencils is a problem.

So attempts to compare Nigerian schools to US schools is just a diversion from the underlying problems.

OTOH, small pilot programs frequently fail.

Gutenberg went bankrupt several times. And think about the usefulness of small pilots for a railway system, telephone, radio, or TV network. None of these "trials" would uncover the real significance of these technological developments. One of the most significant technological developments of the last decades was the introduction of the standard container. This revolutionized bulk transport. But only because almost everyone used it. Any small scale deployment would be expensive and cumbersome.

In that sense, I can understand the unwillingness of the OLPC towards pilots. All pilots I have seen described about computer aided instruction suffer from this same problem, that they simply do not fit in the curriculum, are to small to influence it and therefor end in desillusions. The same would happen if you would do a trial with school books in an all oral teaching culture.

Winter

"OLPCnews is about schools where NONE of the children or teachers have access to computers or the internet."

Says who? I didn't know we were exclusionary.
If you are right, then our only clients according to you - the ones with no access to computers - are the ones who also cannot participate (or for that matter read) OLPC News - they have no computers!. Which reduces them to be victims of our brilliant minds. Cannot think of a worse type of colonialism.

Sorry, cannot agree.

An even better interpretation of your thought: only those with no computers should share in and read OLPC News :-)
Now, THAT would make *some* people happy!
"In that sense, I can understand the unwillingness of the OLPC towards pilots."

Thanks for all the comments.

I just want to say something I did not mention above. It’s been really hectic for us down here in Chile. About a month ago, President Bachelet announced that for the very first time Chile is going to start moving towards a ‘one computer per student’ model. The laptop initiative she envisioned is rather modest –a few thousands- but is at least the first step. It begins in 2009.

We, as a citizen-led campaign- are certainly proud of that news because we know for sure that the presidential statement was the consequence of our two years of hard work. We were able to successfully introduce an inexistent concept into the elite’s imagination. Now key players in government, in the congress, in the political parties as well as other influential circles are embracing our ‘one computer per child’ motto.

For that reason, although we are sad about the news shared above regarding OLPC, we are also happy for the accomplished so far: We were able to ‘enter the matrix’ of those who still live stuck in the 20th Century.

In our view, the most important change in our society has to take place in the mentality, particularly of those who lead the nation. We are moving towards that. The technology will follow.

Gracias,

Luis Ramirez
www.ucpn.cl

Hello!

I like to see what the other countries in South America have done so far. I visit Cali, Colombia and have pointed to the other South American countries as examples when explaining the XO's usefulness there. In Feb., an elderly woman told me how nice the XO's were for the children of Peru, while I waited for my plane at JFK.

i want a laptop to continue my study please send me laptop at my postal address D-344 BILAL TOWN(49608) JHELUM, PAKISTAN i shall be very thankful to you

I'm wondering: why can't Chile get 900 by "going in" on an order with Peru?
Surely there's no good reason (to not do that).

One fears it's the shocking political games that Javier tells of.
Despite those, it seems the Chilean government (sensibly IMO) wants to do a pilot. (I'm very glad to gather their M'$oft deal doesn't preclude it.) As people have said, for proper support and locale-appropriate usage, it's good to have organic growth.
If necessary, hopefully Javier is in a position to save our Chilean cousins from frustration?

Congratulations and best wishes to Luis, Javier and everyone working hard for transformative success in Chile and Peru!

i need a note book laptop i am a student in nigeria i need this laptop for my studies pls i need it and i need a reply.

Hello, I am a BS Information Technology Student in the Philippines. I will be in fourth year college this coming June 2009. This year, we are about to start making database systems, but the problem is, I dont have laptop. I really need the laptop for my course and the laptop is very important in our course. We don’t have enough money to buy a laptop. I am searching sites who offer free laptops and I found this site. I hope i will be chosen. It will be a great blessing to me and a great help to me. Thank you again and more power. God Bless you and may you continue helping others.

ym account : leslie_pogs
email account : [email protected]

Why do other kids get laptops and our kids here in the USA don't. Must be a bunch of rich people running the programs who think and act like American children have everything - they've been watching to much MTV. My son needs one he's in High School - I have to pay rent, food, everything, we have an old computer that can't hook into printers and on-line programs so we have to go the the library for his school work. Oh yea, he's in America, and he's white, so he gets nothing!

Cecelia,

You might want to check your anger. American kids are getting XO's too, but only in communities where there is a committed agent for change - see the USA Category for more details.

The OLPC laptop is designed for younger kids. As Wayan says, it's being used at schools in the US. South Carolina is planning to buy several thousand for their students.

An Asus Eee PC is a laptop which costs less than $400 new, and maybe $250 used. I hope that can help.

im poor student kindly send me laptop
address
Kamran Khatti
C/o Danish Electronics
Quid-e-Azam road near
OCS office Badin Sindh Pakistan
postal code 72200

xo

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