One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is facing uncertainty by politicans who are afraid of risk, according to this BBC News article. To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised.
In generally, people all over the world don’t like change and tend to quickly prevent themselves from seeing the value of a school lacking basic necessities using laptops to teach their students. After all, we’ve learned math and how to read and write back in the 20th century without computers, right? And eating, clothing and school supplies is much more important than a computer, right?
I haven’t looked into exactly what students are learning with the laptops, but I’m pretty sure they are learning how to read, write and do math the old way first. Or at least the laptops come with reading games and such. You get the idea.
No matter what you do— proposing the idea of corporate blogging, allowing Facebook at work, whatever— there will always, always be the majority who fear the unknown. And they always need to be shown why they don’t need to be afraid and sometimes this needs to happen in small steps.
In this case, it’s the politicians and education ministers who are afraid of risk. Check out the BBC News article where it describes how Bill Gates and Intel are sulking over being beat to their game (5th paragraph below the video). Vista vs. Linux. Intel vs. AMD.
The big picture is providing these children the opportunity to someday work in the global economy which is dependent on computers and the Internet. This gives them the opportunity to learn English, French, German, Mandarin, Cantonese and perhaps Hindi (unless of course everyone’s learning business English anyway) through software and online websites such as livemocha.com.
I’m wondering if proceeds from the OLPC (or all those help fight AIDS in Africa initiatives The Gap and all the celebrities keep talking about) could fund the school’s infrastructure such as solar and wind power, water, whatever. Remember, the Western economy is taking full advantage on capitalizing on developing nations. In Africa right now, mobile phones are used for communicating over the Internet instead of blowing salaries on an expensive computer. I’m pretty sure Microsoft or Intel or some other tech company has invested in wireless towers in these areas.
Anyway, imagine once the students start blogging! Or posting photos on Flickr or… drawing their own comics on their website?
It’s interesting to think that the underlying concepts of education have not changed for over 100 years even in the United States. The blackboard has changed to white, a teacher still stands at the front of a classroom while presenting content to students, and students still read outdated textbooks. It may be that students in Africa who receive a laptop will be better off (education wise) than many students in the US.
Great post! Thanks for mentioning LiveMocha.com.
Great observation, Aseem! I didn’t even realize that. Strange isn’t it, education doesn’t get enough funding (here in Canada, too) but Americans are helping fund education in other countries. Not to say that they shouldn’t, it’s just a little bizarre. Kind of reminds you of the launch of Sputnik. Suddenly education became important.
Anyhoo, I’m sure these low-cost laptops can also be purchased for North American schools. If it’s an increase in production that will lower their cost down, then I can’t see why OLPC can refuse.
I think OLPC should provide laptops for all countries, since there is poverty everywhere, and not only in Africa. After all, it’s “One Laptop Per Child”.
Indeed, no country should be excluded.
This would be great in Puerto Rico, too. Especially with the horrible quality of education that is being given here. And I seriously mean that.
(Adding to my previous comment.)
That is, if these laptops are really made to provide poor children with better education.
Or even better, schools should not ban the internet from the computer laboratories, but look for a way to implement it in the classroom, while at the same time keeping it safe. There is always a way. Of course that abuse will always be present, but that cannot be avoided.
Actually, the laptops are for all countries. In fact, Uruguay is reported to have ordered quite a lot of the laptops. The project is in its infancy and because the idea is so radical, I’m sure it will take a while before other countries order laptops, too.