One Laptop Per Child's G1G1 XO Plan is Punting to the Pilots

   
   
   
   
   

"Punt!" When your options have all run out, sometimes the thing to do is just kick the ball as hard as possible and hope that it goes somewhere helpful. While this may seem a nasty comment about the One Laptop Per Child's "buy two, give one" approach, it really is not.


Two early XO computer punters

In the early days of the personal computer (1975 - 1980) we did nothing but punt. We put out hardware that only early adopters could love in the hopes that someone would write software to make them useful. Eventually, someone did.

It required a large base of early adopters, but we had that, and it seems as if the XO-1 laptop will have an even bigger base. In order to result in development there must be a matrix of communication, but that's not hard with wikis, etc. (we had none of those back then and had to rely upon club meetings and newsletters).

There also being a significant body of experience with open source software development, it should be much less difficult for people to work out how to get programs developed as a group effort. What will be necessary is some significant input on educational software and courseware - the experimental stuff as well as the established approaches.

Here much work remains to be done - all the software geeks in the world won't necessarily have the critical mass of clues about what to try. Developers will need to bring into their matrices of communications a lot of people who are students and faculty in colleges dealing with education (where an awful lot of "the same old stuff" gets taught but who may have some radical ideas that could now be put to the test), as well as lots of teachers and ex-teachers who hunger to break out of the ways they have to implement "the same old stuff".

OLPC punter
A new OLPC player emerges

With luck, some daring professors will use the "$100 laptop" as the platform for their students to use in developing class projects. The "Give 1 Get 1" or G1G1 program offers the opportunity to break open the issue of courseware development for the XO and implement the ethos of "fast, cheap and out of control". Anyone who can get together $400 can play.

A good proportion of what results will be relatively worthless, except as inspiration to others to do better. They laughed at our early efforts, too. But somewhere in there will emerge the Visi-Calcs - programs and courseware that has never been done before and that turns drudgery into fun.

But please remember - it's not just about writing software. It's about creating courseware and the software that runs it - and this takes the intimate involvement of people who do very different things than software geeks do, in different ways.

While Nicholas Negroponte previously derided pilot projects as "ridiculous", he is now forced into a position to sell into a user environment consisting of nothing but pilot projects. Don't worry, he will take full credit for any desirable results.

That's the way the game is played, especially around MIT. Even if they have to punt.

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7 Comments

One Laptop per Child selling them to anyone.

Yes, the true reason OLPC has come up with this current "offering" is because developing nations aren't interested at $188 per laptop.

It makes one wonder if they ARE really interested at $100 per laptop.

The real offer should be: sell the U.S.A. consumer one for $188, and then they can sell a 2nd for $100 to a developing nation?

Or even better yet $276, $188 + $88 contribution to allow the $100 price per laptop for them to invest in their nation's own FUTURE.

If they don't have to pay anything, then they WON'T make a serious long term commitment to educating their own young people.

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat a meal, teach him to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life."

The same principle applies to this laptop offer too!! If they HAVE to invest some money, then there will be educational reform.

Why should the U.S.A. consumer pay the total bill for both laptops?

"Why should the U.S.A. consumer pay the total bill for both laptops?"

Because they want to? Is that prohibited?

"It makes one wonder if they ARE really interested at $100 per laptop."

I suggest you ask them.

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat a meal, teach him to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life."

Actually, wherever they did that to more than one man, the end was all fish gone and nothing left. It is currently happening in Lake Victoria. You should alter this in:

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat a meal, teach him to fish and he'll eat until all fish are gone, teach him to farm fish and he'll earn a living."

Winter

The road ahead may prove very bumpy. The American public has historically rejected low-end computers. A perfect example is Walmart's Lindows machine.

It will be interesting to see just how many people will actually buy. I predict it will be far less than one thousand, after the usual returns - when people realize the many shortcomings:

1. No storage mechanism
2. No 3rd. party software available
3. No printing options
4. Undersized keyboard
5. Underpowered processor
6. Battery life significantly shorter than promised
7. No techincal support channels
8. No clear warranty policy.

The list goes on and on...

It is interesting to hear what Seymour Papert said in a keynote speech over a year ago:

http://interactive.colum.edu/partners/squeakfest/sfPrelimProgram.aspx

The idea was to just create an infrastructure and to "punt" the content and courseware to the teachers and students themselves. If only one out of 1000 teachers could think of something interesting to do in the first year, she could then share it with the rest and you might have 200 repeating it the following year. This would be possible because everybody would have the same machine and software and because communication is being built in as deeply as possible.

About the interest from the various countries in a $188 laptop, it is important to remember that most of the increase in price was due to OLPC listening to feedback from people using the machines in these countries. Brazil currently has an international request for bids for 150 thousand educational laptops. So it would not be fair to say that nobody is interested.

"It will be interesting to see just how many people will actually buy. I predict it will be far less than one thousand, after the usual returns - when people realize the many shortcomings:"

I think you will be wrong. I want one, for instance.

The selling point for me is a unique combination: Light, rugged, long battery life (with hand charging if necessary), and readable in bright light. So I can actually take it on the bus and train and write. This is simply too cumbersome to do with any other laptop I have tried.

Any other laptop I have used was too heavy and cumbersome, fragile, ran out of power during commuting, and was difficult to read in the sun.

I know, you can get the low weight and long battery life elsewhere, but not at this price point. The only contenders, the Asus stuff, are not really more powerful machines, and have short battery lifes. And really, cramped on a bus, a "desktop" is the worst metaphore to do work. So I won't miss it for a minute.

I even expect rich students to get one XO extra on top of their home desktop PC.

Winter

"While Nicholas Negroponte previously derided pilot projects as "ridiculous", he is now forced into a position to sell into a user environment consisting of nothing but pilot projects. Don't worry, he will take full credit for any desirable results.

"That's the way the game is played, especially around MIT. Even if they have to punt."

So true. This part, and the whole post. :lol:

1. No storage mechanism
2. No 3rd. party software available
3. No printing options
4. Undersized keyboard
5. Underpowered processor
6. Battery life significantly shorter than promised
7. No techincal support channels
8. No clear warranty policy.

In developed countries here's where marketing comes in - if it's marketed as an adjunct to your existing PC 1,2,3,5 are irrelevant- you already have a laptop/PC to do those things, you can transfer data via the USB/wifi. This product is selling portable/rugged.

4 is not an issue to people used to texting on a cellphone.

6 the battery life seems ok to me

7-8 - there's the real issue to the average Joe, you want me to spend $400 on something with a 30 day warranty? Where do I take if if there's a problem. However, if it's as easy to fix as they say free enterprise will take care of that.

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