Saturday, December 1, 2007

Incredible Laptops

OLPC is a program with a mission to supply laptop computers to children in developing countries. The specs of their XO computer are pretty impressive. The computers are designed for kids in the developing world to use and therefore are extremely durable/weather resistant, consume very small amounts of power, have incredible batteries, and are versatile. The features combined with the price of this thing are incredible.

I wonder why we can't get something like this going on in the States for poor schools. For instance, one of my brother's classes in middle or high school (neither of them "poor" schools) tried to give a laptop to every student enrolled in that (I think it was science) class. I never saw it, but I'm pretty sure the program failed.

What is a laptop going to teach a kid about general science anyway? Maybe you could have interactive dissections where instead of cutting open a real frog or pig fetus, you move a blade across the screen. I know that I didn't understand electron hybrid orbitals until I saw an online cartoon of how they form. HOWEVER, our kids have access to computer labs everywhere. Developing country children have probably never seen a computer in their lives.

Imagine the amount of information that can be loaded on an XO laptop and shared with different classes. In a way, it's better than textbooks because of its size and weight. Also, the architects of the project are pretty sure that children will begin to reprogram much of the software that comes on the machines.

I hope that these computers will not be taken by adults who are in a quest for power to be perpetuated by either violence or suppression. I guess I'm mostly thinking of Africa...I don't see this as a problem in Peru. OK, last laptop per child is a little too dense. Maybe one laptop per pair of children would be feasible. I'm not sure how long these things are supposed to last before breaking or becoming obsolete, but I think a couple rounds (not generations) of children could use the same computer during its lifespan. These guys are on to something.
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