Learning From OLPC Experiences in Niue and Elsewhere

   
   
   
   
   

On Monday we reported that the Pacific island-state of Niue which had been the first country to have distributed XO laptops to everyone in its school system now also became the first country to stop a multi-year OLPC project.

Paraguayan student deep in thought
Let's focus on learning

As a reaction to that announcement Michael Hutak (OLPC Association's Regional Director for Oceania) posted a series of thoughtful entries on the OLPC Oceania blog which are all well worth a read:

I would strongly recommend reading all three posts in their entirety but here's a quote from the second article that I really want to emphasize:

The good news is that the countries which are just beginning their engagement with OLPC are taking these lessons on board and are benefiting from the experience of our early pilots.

Everyone working within the context of one laptop per child - OLPC Foundation and OLPC Association, Sugar Labs, the several dozen deployments (both small and large), the many independent projects and local communities around them, international development agencies and similar entities, and independent researchers - should really figure out how to collaborate to learn what works. And maybe even more importantly: what doesn't work.

After all the only thing that's worse than reinventing the wheel is what Alan Kay once referred to as his worry that:

...so many people in both computing and education are "reinventing the flat tire". (emphasis added)

To end this on a personal note: I simply cannot imagine a future where ICT is any less relevant to society in general and children's education in particular than it already is today. As such we will have to - and we will - find meaningful ways of how to integrate technologies with education and learning. However I'm increasingly convinced that what we really need to move ahead here is something like OLPC version 2.0, not an XO-3.

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4 Comments

I am afraid anyone who wrote the report does not understand OLPC at all.

If Niew has decided to stop OLPC its not because of OLPC. Its because per the report they do not even have money to pay for the internet.

Then again, they did not have to make OLPC dependent on internet for children to learn what they need to. Just one account for internet could have done the needful.

Alas, they have other reasons and the folks that are paid by Intel to talk about OLPC will run to town with the story with morals and all else to shout from the roof top that OLPC does not work.

This is unfortunate. Please come and see OLPC working in the remotest parts of India without anyone's support and it will gladden your hearts!

Nisha, we'd be more than happy to read about your OLPC experiences and perspectives in India. Do you have a blog or something where you document them?

Hi Christoph - Jonathan from Australia here - where I can very happily say that the OLPC program here has learned from the past and is demonstrating a very different approach to the classic OLPC 'device-centred' one with solid training programs and post-deployment support now.

Hi Jonathan, thanks a lot for your message. I spoke to a couple of different OLPC Australia people over the past few months and it really seems like you're on to something. I hope to find some time soon to write up my impressions so others can also learn from your experiences... :-)

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