OLPC Staffing Plan: Great Geeks But Wrong Emphasis

   
   
   
   
   
olpc attention misdirected
Still focused on the flashy laptop

Congratulations to One Laptop Per Child for hiring of Kim Quirk as Gen-1 Product Manager, to oversee transition of the OLPC XO laptop design into its deployment as a hardware and software solution. I am sure she will be a great asset to the program, for as Walter Bender says:

Kim comes to OLPC with over 20 years experience managing projects in industries ranging from network products to e-commerce to educational software.
There is only one small problem with her role in deploying Children's Machine XO's to participating countries. That would be her limiting job description:
Your primary responsibility is to plan schedules and ensure that decisions are made to keep schedules on track. This includes completion of the hardware design and housing, its delivery to the manufacturer, completion of the operating system and core applications, coordinating content, working with the manufacturer on QA, and ensuring timely arrival of the laptops to the port, but not for the actual deployment of the laptops in country.
Read that last phrase one more time; "but not for the actual deployment of the laptops in country." Here we go yet again with OLPC misdirecting its creative energy towards the flashy-shiny thing, and not the real determinant of success - in-country implementation. Another reason to believe this is a laptop project, not an education project.

With the continued focus on hiring technology geeks One laptop Per Child is missing out on developing a sound implementation plan, the central aspect of any attempt to change established practices, especially in education. In fact, the glaring omission of any in-country support is probably one reason that we have all this OLPC + XP confusion.

Brazilian OLPC
Where the focus should be: schools

Its Ministers, not Presidents who are buying and without a comprehensive OLPC solution, they could be hedging their bets with Microsoft or even Intel in case implementation magic doesn't work out. Just read the FUD that Microsoft is spreading via AP:

"We have had requests from government officials who are looking at that device, to ask us if it can run Windows," Poole said. Negroponte seemed to deliver a definitive yes to that question: "We will run Windows," he said last week. Asked for elaboration, a spokesman for Negroponte wrote in an e-mail: "He was stating a fact - not a hope or a desire."

But Poole said the answer should have been maybe: "I cannot make any promises," he said. "There's work still to be done. People should not bank on having Windows."

With that kind of uncertainty, OLPC needs to move away from its technology focus, to forget the geeks and focus on the real decision makers - non-technical Ministers, educators, and community leaders. The thought leaders who are thinking about educational content.

Otherwise we may have Ministers building schools instead of buying laptops, no matter how great the new economy of OLPC purchases has become.

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7 Comments

"Otherwise we may have Ministers building schools instead of buying laptops, no matter how great the new economy of OLPC purchases has become."

Actually, without a school building, you cannot really use the OLPC laptop. So this is a false dichotomy. It accusses the OLPC project of trying to substitute laptops for schools. That would be a crime against the children. This is the same type of accussation as the Laptop or Water dichitomy.

So where is the evidence that the OLPC project ever tried to redeploy money destinated to building schools?

Furthermore, whether or not the OLPC laptop can run windows is not in the hand of Negroponte or the OLPC project. Only MS can deliver on that. And as MS have never admitted that they can do it, I really doubt whether MS have a useful version of XP ready yet.

Rob

> So where is the evidence that the OLPC project ever tried to
> redeploy money destinated to building schools?

When a government department's budget is involved, in the short
term it is a zero-sum game.

"> So where is the evidence that the OLPC project ever tried to
> redeploy money destinated to building schools?

When a government department's budget is involved, in the short term it is a zero-sum game."

The question is then, which projects are cut back. It is a rather rash conclusion that this will come out of the building budget.

However, I read that Pakistan ordered 700,000 Classmates. Maybe someone could analyse this very real deployment of Wintel computers in the same way as the OLPC is scrutinized. Btw, this batch costs $280 million without distribution. That is more than the one million batch of the OLPC.

We could now determine, say, which children won't get water, vaccinations, or school buildings because some others get a Classmate. Also, how these laptops are stolen and redeployed as lamps. Furthermore, we could watch how this will (not) improve education.

In short, the classmate laptop is more expensive and less functional than the OLPC. It has a lot of problematic features (eg, lack of security). It is marketed really strongly by Intel.

Nowhere do I see even a shadow of the level of criticism that I see levelled against the OLPC. It is as if only the OLPC is seen as a problem. Why would that be?

Winter

Winter, to quote Nicholas Negroponte, he's implying money should be spent on laptops, not schools or teachers:

"So really, if you are going to affect education, you cannot just train teachers and build schools. That will take you the next 30 years and it's a long and slow process. So the only alternative is to leverage the children themselves and that's what One Laptop Per Child is."
http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_netevents.html

"he's implying money should be spent on laptops, not schools or teachers"

In this point, I completely disagree with anyone who advocates substituting laptops for schools and teachers. The only point I see that could be of importance is if the country is unable to train qualified teachers (which is not always a budget question).

Then it could make sense to help undertrained teachers with ICT.

Winter

Today the Minister of Education has been announced Peru is part of OLPC. The OLPC will be used by peruvian kids the next year.

Luis,
that is good news!
What is the legal commitment of Peru? Did they sign a memorandum of understanding?
What is the number of XOs that Peru intends to order?

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