Today we will present the first of what will ultimately be a three-part series where we take a closer look at OLPC Oceania. We're going to start off by giving you a brief summary of their extensive concept note which contains a lot of interesting and relevant information on their plans to achieve One Laptop per Pacific Child. On top of that we have conducted an extensive two-part interview with two of the key people behind the initiative which we'll post over the coming days.
Looking at the concept note the introduction highlights one of the core questions that OLPC has been trying to address since day 1, what kind of education is needed to prepare children for the challenges they will face once they leave school many years down the road:
In 1996, internet access was restricted and novel in global terms, today it is wireless and approaching potential ubiquity. So much has changed in technology in the last 12 years, how can we know what will 2020 look like? In education, how do we prepare children for a world we cannot predict? What should education be when information is just a few clicks away?
Here are some things we do know about the school leavers of 2020:
- They will be competing for jobs on a global market
- They will be working with as yet undeveloped computational devices, many in still to be imagined industries, in digitally connected communities;
- They will need 21st century skills to succeed: information literacy; critical thinking; innovation & creativity; open‐ended problem solving; technological fluency...
Based on these premises the concept continues to ask:
... the question for Pacific leaders is not whether laptops for children are appropriate, but whether they are going to be early or late in supplying them.
After an introducing of OLPC and the XO the concept outlines the educational outcomes which are expected from implementing One Laptop per Pacific Child:
Outcomes associated with deployment of the XO in schools include an immediate reduction in absenteeism and truancy, greater engagement on the part of children, reduced need to apply discipline, increased engagement of parents in school life, a greater focus on the school at the centre of the community.
Later the paper draws upon the work of Dr. Saurav Dev Bhatta in "Tackling the Problems of Quality and Disparity in Nepal's School - Education: The OLPC Model" (see blog.olenepal.org for more information) and lists four key-tasks to be worked on in order to make an OLPC deployment successful:
- digital content development
- teacher preparation
- network and power infrastructure development
- government capacity development
While the first three points are often mentioned in connection with OLPC the last one probably receives too little attention in the discussions around the project. One way or another this list is certainly something to keep in mind when thinking about the core challenges faced by ICT-for-education initiatives in developing nations.
Last but not least one other aspect of the concept which I like best is its focus on broad community involvement. The first point listed under Annex 1 "Draft principles for the deploying the XO laptop in communities" states:
The XO Laptop should be deployed through a process of community consultation; should only proceed with assent of the entire community, taking account of their needs and concerns; and should be fully integrated into existing systems and tools.
Overall the approach that OLPC Oceania appears to be taking here sounds very promising. Instead of relying on little green laptops to be the silver-bullet-solution the focus seems to be on integrating the OLPC program into a wider development process that tightly integrates the many communities and stakeholders affected by such an initiative. I'm definitely very excited about OLPC Oceania's work and will keep a close eye on it so even after this mini-series is over you can expect some updates on the developments there in the future.