OLPC XO vs. Apple iPhone

   
   
   
   
   

Today the new Apple iPhone will make its North American debut and techno-lust has gripped the USA. Lines have formed outside Apple stores and cell-phone scalping will certainly ensue. But is all the hype really warranted? Is the iPhone all that, when compared to the OLPC XO? And how long would the lines be for a retail XO laptop?

While I enjoy my Nokia N95 and watch iPhone lines in wonder, Maison Bisson has developed a comparison of the iPhone to several techno-marvels, including the OLPC XO. Before you read the chart, remember that none of these devices are general purpose computers, they are very targeted computing applications, what Maison Bisson calls "information age devices" which allow for networking without the need for a conventional, bulky laptop.

Of the four, the iPhone is the smallest and lightest device, and has significant battery life. Yet, it does not match the OLPC's power supply and while the iPhone has a cool touch screen, the XO's dual-mode screen still rocks out in sunlight. The OLPC also has a full-size (for kids) keyboard.

The one significant difference between all these computing platforms and the OLPC XO is the almost rabid desire for the end users to modify the operating system and service the hardware.

Another difference is that only the OLPC is not available to retail customers, no matter who said what to the BBC. Only governments, and maybe rich donors, can buy OLPC's and only then in blocks of 250,000.

But not to worry, even with its differences, the Children's Machine XO will not dilute the iPhone hype today. Not even Fake Steve Jobs can do that.

29 Comments

Wayan,
"The one significant difference between all these computing platforms and the OLPC XO is ..."

I don't think you can compare the two - even just looking at the very basic functions XO brings like the eBook reader, word processing, internet browsing and communication/collaboration, the XO is much more powerful and, thanks to its power management and dual-mode hires screen, more useful machine at the fraction of the iPhone's cost...Of course, when you start looking at the hundreds of easily portable to XO Linux apps this is even more evident. iPhone is much smaller but then my watch is smaller still...As I said: no comparison.

As far as I know, the n800 has an Opera web browser, which is *not* mozilla-based.

Dephi,

There is no direct comparison between OLPC & iPhone, of course, one is a gadget that can make phone calls & the other is a computing revolution. Or to put it another way, I wouldn't wait in line for the iPhone, but I've had techno-lust for an XO since it was announced.

All,

Apple and OLPC are allies and would not want to compete with each other. Attached is a link to a predecessor of OLPC in Maine, organized by Seymour Papert and Apple Computer's "Apple Learning" division. Papert,Negroponte, Alan Kay, and Steve Jobs have all worked together in the past.

http://www.mcmel.org/MLLS/mlti/Power_1to1.pdf

T"he Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), a project of the Maine Department of Education, provides schools sufficient laptop computers and wireless networks for each student and teacher. The project is currently in every 7th and 8th grade classroom in Maine, and plans are underway to extend the project in high schools. MLTI is not just another "technology buy," however. The initiative is firmly focused on improving learning for students and provides teachers with extensive support and professional development."

Does this sound familiar? They used Apple Laptops.

Robert,

OLPC XO and Apple iPhone do not compete. One is a toy for the digitrai the other is a learning tool for children in the developing world.

Of course it would be a great day when OLPC participating countries are rich enough, through investment in education, economy, etc that their children can be like Americans, and spend frivolously on fashion technology.

Wayan,
http://www.mcmel.org/MLLS/mlti/Power_1to1.pdf

I was just pointing (see the above link) that Papert and Apple have worked together in the recent past. Actually, Apple did place a bid for the OLPC, but they lost to RedhatLinux.

Apple computer has always been in the schools (see the Apple Learning Interchange):

http://edcommunity.apple.com/ali/

However, they still have to sell iPods and iPhones to pay the bills...

There is another hardware hype in preparation aiming at the low cost, educational market:

The AMD/Microsoft "IQ PC" is a desktop computer to be sold in India this November for $500 as part of Microsoft's "Unlimited Potential" initiative.

http://www.itvarnews.net/news/journal_comments.asp?JournalID=5206
http://www.engadget.com/2007/06/28/microsofts-educational-iq-pc-for-india/

Microsoft is claimed to have already trained 100'000 teachers in PC-based-instruction where multiple students share one PC.
While the IQ PC price does not compare with OLPC at least Microsoft is well ahead with their implementation by training teachers. Obviously Microsoft does not disdain teachers like OLPC leadership does.
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/one_laptop_per_child_education.html

100,000 is a pretty big number and the claim to have trained those teachers depends on how training is being defined. Given that it's Microsoft making the claim I'd take it with several large grains of salt. MS has a long history of using FUD to destroy rivals and stampede customers.

There's a better alternative to N800, iPhone and Pepperpad called the Archos 605 WiFi coming out in two weeks:

200$, 4GB, WiFi, Opera browser with full screen Flash video support, 4" 800x480, horizonthal on-screen keyboard, HD video playback support of all Mpeg4-DivX/h264/mpeg2/wmv/rm video codecs, mp3/ac3/wma/aac audio codecs, Linux based, Opera widgets and full video-on-demand support without the need of a pc/mac.

Check about it on my website http://archosfans.com

"However, they still have to sell iPods and iPhones to pay the bills..."

C'mon Robert don't be naive. Since when is Apple making consumer products to "pay the bills"? If you believe this, you should also say that Microsoft is selling Windows to pay Gates's bills on his educational effort (which in both cases is not true).

Apple is a company with shareholders. They may have an interest in education, but the bottom line is really just the bottom line. iPods and iPhones are cash cows, but I don't see anywhere Apple making low cost computers (or trying to help) for developing countries using those profits.

It's true Jobs proposed to offer OSX for free to OLPC. The main reason he lost was simply OSX being closed source. OLPC were specifically adopting Linux for being open.

Great that people are finally looking for also other gadgets than OLPC, as an alternative for education.

What it comes to “remixability”, people should have a look of the n800’s Maemo -site http://maemo.org/ - the community working with the n800 Linux/Debian OS and software.

Boing boing was calling iPhone "Jesus phone". Is OLPC the "Jesus computer", then? :-) Don’t know.

Teller,

I mean "pay the bills" the same way people say "there's nothing going on but the rent". There is a difference between what you want to do and what you have to do.

Steve Jobs has gotten into trouble over his "alternative" ambitions before. I have been following him since the seventies. Apple and NeXT cube computers were aimed at schools (classes and research). Steve Jobs has lost two companies; the original Apple computer and NeXT. He has learned two lessons: office PC's aren't for him (Apple 3 and Lisa), and education doesn't pay (Apple 2 GS and NeXT cube). I hope this clears things up...

Besides, I am very suspicious of the OLPC. Why is it only in far away and exotic places? If this technology is so great, then why can't we see it here? I don't need to go to a foreign country to see poverty; I can see plenty of it right here: rural Mississippi, the Ozarks, the Alleghenies, Appalachia, the Native American indian reservations (they look like concentration camps). None of these places have electricity, running water, or infrastructure.

Why can't we have a One-Laptop-Per-Native-American-Child? Why can't trailer-park kids have little green computers? No one at this website has answered that question.

Another problem that I have with OLPC, is that they have no leeson plans and no classroom materials. It takes two years to train a Montessori teacher, and ten years to educate a Montessori teacher trainer. So, how can OLPC or somebody like Microsoft claim to just give teachers a few weeks training and send them on their way? When I look at real lesson plans from alternative classes by Barbara Clark, Linda Silverman, Alexandra Golon, Maria Montessori,Carla Rinaldi,Rudolf Steiner, etc...I don't see the same level of detail and effort in OLPC. Ok, you put laptops in the class...then what??? At least Maria Montessori had lesson plans on how to teach children to read and write...where are the lesson plans for OLPC classes?

Thanks for the clarification, Robert. I agree completely on your second post, and I guess many people in this forum. The lack of implementation plan has being discussed deeply in the forum, and as far as I can see it, it has to do with the constructivistic philosophy that OLPC is following. In other words, give the "kids the tool and let them play" seems to be all that is needed. I strongly disagree, and my disbelief arise from reading the "children machine" book from S. Papert. All is boiled down to empowering the kids (which is good), but with no creative guidance (as in the montessori's method). I am not surprised to see this approach failing before (as reported in this forum), and for this reason I don't have great expectations from OLPC either.

As I have tried to explain before, what we see from Seymour Papert is not the true Constructivism. Constructivism was invented by Papert's teacher, Jean Piaget. Jean Piaget was the president of the Montessori Association in Switzerland, so this should indicate the beliefs of Piaget. Montessori, Jean Piaget, the Reggio Emilia method, and the Waldorf method are all in agreement. Abraham Maslow can also be added to the list.

However, what Papert expounds is actually a radical type of Constructivism called "Constructionism". This "Constructionism" of Papert's is a radicalized and extreme sort of rogue in the field of "Student-Centered Learning". The kind of "Constructivism" the US gifted classes are using is a mix of Piaget/Montessori with the latest research in brain science, called brain-based learning. If you look closely at the Montessori method, you will see Visual tasks, Kinesthetic (motor-skill) tasks, etc. Brain-based learing research tries to find the student's best type of task for each student for learning a topic...like a tailored version of Montessori/Reggio Emilia/Waldorf. Papert's Constructionism says that european Constructivism is a waste of time, because the structure isn't needed. The problem is that kids need structure, it's more so that they don't need the "brain-washing" attitude of traditional classes. Traditional school is more about programming kids to be good little citizens.

"Besides, I am very suspicious of the OLPC. Why is it only in far away and exotic places? If this technology is so great, then why can't we see it here?"

-Here- almost every student already has a powerful computer and internet access. And -Here-, you have ubiquous power. -Here- you also do not need a watertight laptop against heat and humidity. And -Here- is also world famous for a political system that listens very carefully to monopolistic companies.

"It takes two years to train a Montessori teacher, and ten years to educate a Montessori teacher trainer. So, how can OLPC or somebody like Microsoft claim to just give teachers a few weeks training and send them on their way?"

This argument can be summarized as: If we can't have enough well trained teacher, give up on education.

If I look over all these arguments, then it is a lot like "Let them eat cake" (which I understood, was actually not said by the king's love)

The OLPC starts and ends by the fact that there are not enough teachers and no opportunity to train them.

The OLPC is the only one who has some plan to improve education that has a good chance to work. All other plans I have seen are rehashes of spectacular failures of the past.

Winter

> The OLPC starts and ends by the fact that there are not enough teachers and no opportunity to train them.

Not entirely sure what this means but I'll take a stab at it.

That observation that you impute to the OLPC organization, that distributing a bunch of laptops is the answer to a teacher shortage, is going to be accomplished how? We've been seeing the hardware for some time, we can down load the system software so where's the educational software that'll serve as the solution to the teacher shortage? If you're certain it's there then describe it because I haven't seen anything resembling a post-delivery plan.

Better yet, tell us where it can be downloaded so we can play with it ourselves. The hardware and system software has gone through fairly serious testing but nowhere do we see the software that's supposed to give the OLPC its purpose. If there is no specific software to educate the kids then what's going to do the educating? Does the mere presence and access to, the OLPC cause learning to occur? If that's it then why be coy about it?

> The OLPC is the only one who has some plan to improve education that has a good chance to work.

Kindly share your reason for thinking so.

My experience with computers in education, and it goes back some thirty years, is that whatever the secret is to making computers effective in education hasn't been discovered yet. The *uniform* track record of computer education is of high costs, always, and unremarkable performance. So where's you reason for thinking the OLPC will break that losing streak?

> All other plans I have seen are rehashes of spectacular failures of the past.

What other plans? I'm no fan of government-supported education, the indoctrination function and the political nature of public education interferes with the education function, but they do send a fairly high percentage of kids out into the world with some education and some with pretty good educations. That's not spectacular success but neither is it spectacular failure.

By the way, you still haven't bothered to address the length of time the OLPC will have to be distributed before worthwhile results are seen. If it takes ten years to train a Montessori trainer and two years to train a Montessori teacher, how long does it take to do whatever it is that the OLPC will do?

"Kindly share your reason for thinking so."

http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_effective_violin.html

http://www.olpcnews.com/content/localization/american_laptop_child.html

http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/comparison_laptops_edcuation.html

"What other plans? I'm no fan of government-supported education, the indoctrination function and the political nature of public education interferes with the education function, but they do send a fairly high percentage of kids out into the world with some education and some with pretty good educations. That's not spectacular success but neither is it spectacular failure."

If you say such things, you can be quite sure that you will not be welcome anywhere in the developing world.

It is one of the most unproductive viewpoints I have ever seen on OLPCnews. Private schools have failed almost all poor children everywhere and at any time in human history. For poor children, it is government education or no education.

We are talking about governments who are desperate about their failure to educate their children. So desperate that they contemplate spending a sizeable chunk of their GDP on educational improvements. And you are deriding them for that.

The failures I am refering to is to limit all intervention and hopes on more and better teachers. It is as with teaching children: A teacher has to work with the kids she gets, just as the children have to do with the teachers they get.

There are no more worthy kids to teach, and no better teachers to get. In the long term, both children and teachers can improve, but at that time, the current crop will be dead and burried.

Winter

"Here- almost every student already has a powerful computer and internet access."

Only affluent suburbs have that technology. How many people in the housing projects of Druid Hill Park in Baltimore (the government commandeered their houses under federal "eminent domain") or the abandoned-house squatters of Dundalk in Baltimore (and they're Anglo-Saxon white kids) have that stuff. How many kids at the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation in South Dakota have that tech. Those kids are living in particle-board shelters with no water, electricity, or even cement. How many kids in the shacks and shanties of the Ozarks have computers. When people say the USA is wealthy, they mean the "nation-state" is wealthy. We have many of the same problems of the 3rd-world. It's just that the affluent suburbs never see it on TV.

The real solution is for organizations to make parents and communities take real responsibility for their chidren. What we have are cultures that see children as a burden and not a resource.

Even in the USA, things like Virginia's "Standards of Learning" programs are just an excuse for parents to side-step real responsibility.

We have MANY alternative education methods, but all them require parental and teacher commitment.

It looks like the OLPC is going used the same way parents used the TV in the 1970's: It will used as an electronic babysitter. It just another way for lazy parents to avoid responsibility.

"The real solution is for organizations to make parents and communities take real responsibility for their chidren. What we have are cultures that see children as a burden and not a resource."

I am not an American. I have only visited the country a few times. It must be a much bleaker country than I have thought.

In Western Europe, where I live, most (almost all?) children have access to a computer and the internet. Not just the wealthy suburbs. Furthermore, all the parents I have met were genuinly concerned about the wellbeing of their children.

Schools are paid by the governments and are generally good. Governments also ensure health care, public libraries etc. Most people can do with one day-job with ample holidays, so children normally can be cared for. Seems to differ very much from your picture of the US.

"Even in the USA, things like Virginia's "Standards of Learning" programs are just an excuse for parents to side-step real responsibility."

You mean things like home schooling?

Personally, I think it is extremely inefficient if every parent teaches her own children. One trained teacher can easily teach 25-30 children really well. The children also learn to work in peer groups. Especially in high school, specialized teachers can teach subjects like science, language, arts, and humanities. That can be done at levels difficult to reach for individual parents.

So if parent really care for their children's education, they should get together and hire trained teachers. That way both the children get a good education and the parents can do something useful with their time. Eg, make their own education productive for the country. Obviously, parents will want to set good standards for teaching.

Which brings us back to the subject of government involvement in schooling. As trained teachers are both scarce and expensive in the developing world, a different strategy is needed. Parents normally do not have the luxury of home-schooling their children.

I am afraid your views about the superfluous nature of governments is not shared by more than a handful of people outside the US. It is certainly NOT shared by many in South America or Asia.

If you want to engage parents and children from these regions in education, you will have to deal with the government, or the unions. Often the unions are the better partners. Sadly, in Africa the situation is often so dire that indeed, the state can be the worst possible partner. But here you will have to deal with state-like tribal organizations which can function as substitutes.

Winter

Winter,

I will be patient with you, because you are not an American:

1. We do not have universal education or universal healthcare in America. If you want to see our system in action, then you should see the Michael Moore movie "Sicko". Millions are without healthcare or old age care. Many minorities go without education, because racial segregation (America's version of Aparthied) has been declared legal for schools. If your skin is black, red, or yellow; what you see and experience is very different from what kids with white skin can have.

2. Many of our teachers are volunteers. Look up the "Teach for America" program at www.teachforamerica.org. We have many such programs: Knowledge is power program (KIPP), Teacher Corps, FreedomCorps, AmeriCorps,etc.

3. Just so you know, Virginia's "Standards of Learning" means that a teacher teaches for a test instead of an actual subject. There is another version of this called "No Child left Behind" where the teacher teaches for a test instead of a subject like math. If their students can pass this test, the students are declared "educated", but it doesn't really mean that they know anything.

4. American city schools have a 65% dropout rate, that means only 35% graduate. We call these dropouts "At-risk children". Most of these children are victims of parental neglect.

Only 20% of the population have ever seen a university class. Even when American children go to school, many American schools have drug crime called "drug crews" , organized crime called "Gangs", child prostitution, teenage pregnancy, and HIV/Aids. Our schools are hardly a good learning environment. We have so many children with guns, knives, and daggers, that our schools have metal detectors.

5. It is hard for foreigners to comprehend that the USA spends billions of our currency on vast Naval ships and Air Force planes, but most urban and rural children go without breakfast. We have NGO programs like "Headstart" to help stop children from going to school hungry.

6. In the early 1970's after the invention of the mass produced television, American parents would leave their children alone at home with the television as their virtual electronic companion.

7. It is true that we have Telecommunications giants like AT&T, but it is also true that many Americans have no phone.

8. Haven't you ever wondered why all American television shows are filmed in New York or Hollywood. Why not Arkansas or Iowa? The United States projects what they want the world to see, and hides what they don't want you see. If you want to see the real America, then you should volunteer for something like "AmeriCorps".

9. Your Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, and Montessori type schools are far superior to anything we have.

Our education researchers go to Europe to study. The problem with Seymour Papert is that he was sent to Europe to study under Jean Piaget, but what he expounds is not what his teacher taught him.

We are working on something called "Brain-based learning" which is a hi-tech version of a Montessori type methods. It is years away from perfection and the only kids using it so far are "Gifted Students" (Binet IQ above 120). We are at loss for students below Binet IQ 115.

I hope this gives you a clearer picture of the United States. We admire things like the Reggio Emilia education method, but we can only really just admire.

Winter,

I sent a detailed explanation, but for some reason the web server is still processing it. In the meantime, let me say that nations in Europe, Asia, and South America are not Military Superpowers. You have no idea what happens when you entrust the government. We have no say in what happens at the schools. How can you complain to people with nuclear weapons, stealth planes, and legions of the tanks. The answers to our complaints are usually something like "Shut Up!" You other nations don't have tanks rolling down your streets and helicopter gun-ships flying above you. When your government spends all your resources on things like "Full-Spectrum Dominance" and "Power-Projection", let me know, and we can have this talk again. I suspect the power gap between African governments and African people is probably more like ours,(The "I said shut up!! treatment).

It just came to me that forbearance is the least appreciated virtue.

> Private schools have failed almost all poor children
> everywhere and at any time in human history. For poor
> children, it is government education or no education.

For anyone unfamiliar with his work, I recommend Dr. James Tooley.

Unlike many armchair experts he's actually gone to some of the most wretched places on Earth. There he discovered that desperately poor people value education so highly that they're willing to part with their meager earnings to pay the tiny tuition asked for by shabby, little private schools that spring up to satisfy their needs. It's that or nothing because the various governments can't be bothered with the poorest of the poor or their children. So they make due.

Article in The Atlantic which is an easy read:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200703/crook-schools

And an article by Dr. Tooley in the UNESCO Courier:

http://www.unesco.org/courier/2000_11/uk/doss22.htm

"There he discovered that desperately poor people value education so highly that they're willing to part with their meager earnings to pay the tiny tuition asked for by shabby, little private schools that spring up to satisfy their needs."

Indeed. Chinese (folk) literature is full of stories of parents who sacrificed everything for the education of their sons. I also know that in many extremely poor regions in, eg, Africa, state schools are dangerous places for children.

Still, as far as I know almost any form of state supported general education is better for the poor than these unregulated private schools. So I do think as a system, private schools are no replacement for government schools.

Winter

"You have no idea what happens when you entrust the government. We have no say in what happens at the schools. How can you complain to people with nuclear weapons, stealth planes, and legions of the tanks."

I am sorry you feel this way about your government. In general, these kinds of problems tend to be resolved by introducing democracy. So I would advice you to join a pro-democracy movement.

The above might sound condescend, but it is not intended that way. The USA prides itself to be a democracy. If it isn't up to your standards, you should act, peacefully, to remediate that.

I know no example in the whole of human history where these kinds of problems were solved by abolishing government. And I see no indication that such feelings are found in the developing world.

Winter

I must confess that I have never seen a private school for poor people, it sounds like an oxymoron. Where I am, only the rich can have private schools. I was not asking about abolshing government. I was talking about governments being unresponsive.

What I was saying is that in many places people have already asked for schools, and the government has already said "No". I pointed out in an above post that many teachers here are volunteers. What I was asking is what do you about things like education after the government has already said "No".

The example that I was pointing to was the Italian town of Reggio Emilia. Their community came together to make an alternative school system.

"The example that I was pointing to was the Italian town of Reggio Emilia. Their community came together to make an alternative school system."

This can only be aplauded.

Many countries allow parents to start their own schools according to their own believes. Montesori and Dalton schools are distributed all over Europe.

Winter

I have an iPhone and love it. But the idea of the OLPC XO has me drooling, too.


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