Let me first say that I am a believer in the possibilities that exist for laptops in learning, and I've followed OLPC as much as my free time will allow. OLPC presents itself as a learning company rather than a laptop company. Calls to constructionism, collaboration, and children as "learning by doing" are pervasive in the website. There's this vision of how the laptop can change learning and schooling and give the our children the right tools to thrive:
What I have not seen, however, is substantive and concrete ways that the VP of Learning, David Cavallo, has introduced to turn this vision into a reality. (Please note that I did see something on the wiki called a curriculum jam, but this doesn't seem to be organized or endorsed by the Learning Team. Further, this site states that the problem is a lack of activities for teachers and students interested in using the laptops.)
I agree that it is important that the design of curricular materials be something that comes from within, after all locations know their context better than outside constituents. But in a vision for learning that is so different how can OLPC expect that teachers, administrators and others will just suddenly change their ways and develop everything by themselves without some clue as to where they might head? Where are the materials that help scaffold teachers from their reality into this new vision?
Where are the concrete examples that enable anyone, teacher or not, to embrace the ways that this laptop can empower the type of learning that Cavallo talks about in his papers. He and his students have done some impressive work, but the connection between what he has done in academia, and what he expecting to be done all over the world now is not clear to me.
If any technology initiative is going to be successful, there must be proper support and development of the people who are going to implement them. While this support may not look the same everywhere, the reality teachers must face in any deployment on any continent must be addressed properly and orderly to ensure they can fully capitalize on the power of the machine.
My hope is that the Learning Team will take the ideas that they have implemented in various places and create opportunities for the rest of us to design powerful learning experiences.
The post author is a concerned student who will be pursuing a career working with America's primary school education system