OLPC USA Today - Let's Not Wait for OLPC America

   
   
   
   
   

Wayan Vota made a good point today in OLPC America Needed in Birmingham Pilot and Illinois Debate. I had almost forgotten about OLPC America.

I'm inclined to doubt that OLPC America exists, on the evidence I have seen. Of the 21,300 hits on Google for it, the top item is my Wiki entry quoting the announcement. Nobody at OLPC has added anything to it, not even the names of the director and chairman whose existence was announced. I would be happy to be proved wrong, of course.

olpc America

OLPC USA

Even if OLPC America exists, it is doing precisely nothing. So why don't we start our own OLPC USA and get things moving?

My father had to organize 50-state licensing for his company, for insurance policies, so I have some idea of what's needed. Getting XOs into 50 state education systems, or into numerous local systems while we work on the states, is a bit more complicated.

We have to track the legislatures, the administrations, and the education system state by state. We also need a way to explain the XO properly to the prospects. Kids get it immediately, but parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and other stakeholders who may have forgotten how it was when they were children will need our help to rediscover discovery. Then we have to get their attention.

Its up to us

So my question to you is, rather than wait for Somebody Else to do it, are you willing to take some time to assure your children's future? Wait, what am I saying? What else do parents do? Let's try that again.

Are you willing to work to get XOs into schools instead of something else you are currently doing, on the theory that it will have a bigger effect on your children's future? Don't answer right away unless you have already showed some children an XO, and then asked them how XOs in school would affect their lives.

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I am in Lubbock TX and my XO arrived this week. Are there others in this area who had one and/or how can I locate them? minifarms at gmail dot com

Homeschoolers might jump to it like there's no tomorrow. Of course, if they can buy them...
I admire your efforts, Ed, to get XOs to arrive to non-government users. Hope OLPC and Brightstar will listen...

To locate XO groups anywhere in the US or the world, search on the Wiki and in the archives of the Grassroots mailing list. To create a group, join the Grassroots list, introduce yourself, and make a Wiki page. When your group coalesces, request a mailing list for yourselves.

http://lists.laptop.org/

OLPC-Chicago has its own mailing list, and is planning to talk to the Illinois legislature about HB 5000, The Children's Low-Cost Laptop Act at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=5000&GAID=9&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=35963&SessionID=51&GA=95

Outside agitators (like me) welcome. ^_^ We can start here and then go national. Care to join us?

Homeschoolers might also want some solid evidence that the OLPC provides some educational benefit worth the cost. At $200 that doesn't have to be much of a benefit to interest them.

One thing homeschoolers are unlikely to be interested in is constructionism, constructivism and any other educational fadishness. They don't enjoy the luxury of having an unending supply of kids on whom to practice the latest source of professional excitement.

allen wrote:

Homeschoolers might also want some solid evidence that the OLPC provides some educational benefit worth the cost. At $200 that doesn't have to be much of a benefit to interest them.

:See http://www.librarianchick.com/ for one way to save money: A catalog of Free electronic textbooks.

:A bigger advantage comes to homeschoolers in a local association, who can use the mesh network for collaboration. This will be even more important for children who don't get to see each other every day. The mesh is good up to a mile and a quarter per hop in completely flat terrain, and of course rather less in hill country or at ground level in big cities. But the mesh is based on MIT Roofnet, and the solution in cities is simply to put an antenna on the roof, or go sit on the roof.

One thing homeschoolers are unlikely to be interested in is constructionism, constructivism and any other educational fadishness. They don't enjoy the luxury of having an unending supply of kids on whom to practice the latest source of professional excitement.

:I wonder what you think Constructionism is. It means learning by doing, by working together to discover the world. What every child does naturally before going to school, and what our schools presently put so much effort into preventing. We call it play, and most of us think it's foolish. The more fools we.

i'm curious about how one would pitch it. you cant go up and promise better test scores or anything...thats not what it is all about. you could promise that the students might enjoy learning more, but if it cant really be dictated as a score of some sort...then there wont be much of a way to actually prove it (other than doing a census or something)

i'm also not too sure about pricing. the computer would save them money providing the school had no textbooks, but the textbooks are already bought (probably before most of the parents of the students were even born) so you cant really argue much for that. Things like ink and paper for printouts are expensive, but per student it would never add up to 200 dollars (unless they recieve ALOT of handouts). Meanwhile some of these would have to be repaired or even entirely replaced. Seeing as how alot of people dont have 200 dollars to spare...a few broken ones a year would quickly add up to a deficit, and a few kids not having them.
Some of these issues do have solutions. For instance, you could have kids who were slightly better off buy their owns so that they dont have to return them or anything. Also, seeing as how the kids hands will start to outgrow the keyboard after a couple of years anyway, you could have a system where after a certain grade, the kids would turn in their XOs and, after being checked out, they would be given to kids in the younger grades who are just starting out.

I got to admit, as much as i love the (and my) XO, i really wouldnt know how to convince a school system that something like this is could really help them. Sure its got features such as the mesh network which would keep a classroom quiter, more organized, and more efficient. i'm not saying there arnt ANY selling points, i'm saying i dont know enough really important tangible points that i think could get them to buy it. any thoughts?

hahah that was odd. my name is abe (dont give out my last name on the internet tubes) and for some reason in the name box my name is "Edward Cherlin" hahah i must have accedently pasted that in or something. just wanted to say the post above this one that begins "i'm curious about how one would pitch it." is mine. and if Edward cherlin is reading this, i'm sorry about accedently using your name.

Abe asks about how to pitch the XO to schools, and about costs.

The pitch for the XO is that it assists children to learn collaborative discovery, not just textbook content that they will soon forget. The idea is to get children into the habit of learning for themselves, enjoying reading, making art, and making music, appreciating math and science, and so on, because they will not be on their own to do each of those things in a sometimes hostile society. They will have all of their friends from school to work with from home and from wherever they go next. In short, it will allow teachers to teach understanding and competence, and not just plow through the standard curriculum to prepare children to regurgitate it on the standard tests.

The XO can replace expensive dead tree textbooks with free interactive electronic textbooks. See, for example, http://www.librarianchick.com/. Getting print out of the equation means that California and Texas will no longer dictate to every other state what textbooks are available.

There is more to both stories than I can summarize here, but these points will do to begin with.

Edward Cherlin wrote:

"In short, it will allow teachers to teach understanding and competence, and not just plow through the standard curriculum to prepare children to regurgitate it on the standard tests."

I'm pretty sure that professional educators, after spending years in college obtaining and certifying their qualifications, will love to hear how the tried and true education system is so terrible, that all teachers do is "plow through the curriculum" and that the solution to the "problem" is the bizarre one proposed by a dimwitted hacker-wannabe who has never set foot in a classroom.

Very smart...

Abe writes:

"I got to admit, as much as i love the (and my) XO, i really wouldnt know how to convince a school system that something like this is could really help them."

The biggest problem pitching the XO (the same applies to Intel's Classmate, Asus' Eeee, etc.) is that, when everything is said and done, possession of a laptop is absolutely NOT required for children in elementary school.

Education, at the elementary-school level, is perfectly fine with or without kids owning a laptop.

Convincing educators that kids truly NEED a laptop is as easy as getting Tarzan to realize the need for a bow tie.

Edward Cherlin wrote:

> See http://www.librarianchick.com/ for one way to save money: A catalog of Free electronic textbooks.

I've made mention of open source textbooks in previous postings. I believe it was Maddie who pointed out that the pickings are actually pretty thin - not non-existent but thin. It might be more a matter of finding and integrating all the various open source textbook projects or it may be that open source textbook's time hasn't come yet. But yeah, open source textbooks are one factor that would be of interest to homeschoolers.

> A bigger advantage comes to homeschoolers in a local association, who can use the mesh network for collaboration. This will be even more important for children who don't get to see each other every day.

If we're talking about homeschoolers here in the U.S. then no, mesh networking isn't all that advantageous. Certainly not advantageous enough to tip the decision with the wide availability of broadband and even wider availability of dial-up. Collaboration can just as easily occur via the more conventional means of connectivity. Mesh networking certainly adds an element of immediacy and convenience but that's an advantage I don't see being exploited to any great degree.

> I wonder what you think Constructionism is.

I also know what it's *supposed* to be but that's approximately as worthwhile as a steak's sizzle.

Has your hypothesis, that constructionism encourages "What every child does naturally before going to school" been supported by experiment/observation? It's an idea that's been around for a while, Seymour Papert published "Mindstorms" in 1980, so there ought to be a good deal of support for its efficacy by now. Well?

I'll be blunt; it's a means of attracting grant money. It's fertile ground for the growth of doctoral thesis. It's a means of establishing authority without demonstrating efficacy. It's a source of obtuse jargon which conceals the absence of successful implementations.

It's a means of deflecting attention from the structural shortcomings of public education.

I'd be happy to be proven wrong but I'm not interested being defined as "not a fool" on the basis of my support of constructivism.

I don't know what Constructionism is but the OLPC represents a very 'child centered' view of education and public education is not into 'child centered'. They're into 'No Child Left Behind' which is 'school centered'. Homeschoolers I know (and I know school-in-a-box and unschoolers) would spend $200 on an educational tool (ie an inexpensive way to access the internet) but I don't think they'd want to work as hard as the XO asks them to. I also think they'd pay more for something that can be purchased easily, runs standard software (windows or linux) and has a decent warranty.

OLPC America might be better off targeting private schools, charter schools and homeschoolers.

Can anyone offer a solution to a problem of buying XOs. I emailed a list that I have it and how wonderful it is. I have received four emails from Americans who travel abroad helping children and schools. They want to buy some to take abroad. I emailed OLPC and received an answer from Adrian at Brightstar. Buy 100 and we donate 50. I said I want to buy the 100 and get the 50, also. She wanted to know what price I am selling them for, to who and to where. I told her that they are all members of The church of Christ, I will provide names, email addresses, countries, etc. The price will be what they cost us to get. She said no sale!!!! We are looking at the competition but prefer the XO. Do anyone have a suggestion to help us get them?

@Ken, can you contact me off-list, please? I believe we need to team up to get this going, and you seem to have some bits of info I do not. Ed Cherlin is also working in getting more availability for XOs to normal folks like you and me. my email in the page you access when you click on my name under this post.

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