Thursday, 10 November 2005

Sub-$100 Laptop

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an organisation established by MIT's chairman and co-founder Nicholas Negroponte, which is seeking to enhance worldwide primary and secondary education through developing a USD100 notebook. It is hoped that the laptops would then be marketed directly to ministries of education who could distribute them like textbooks. []

The idea is to distribute 100 millions of these laptops to underdeveloped countries where is not no network access and electricity. So these laptops must be rugged, powered by mechanical means (such as hand crankle) and will form a mesh peer-to-peer network among themselves. has a recently announced specs.

There was a lesson I learnt years back when I was still in Hong Kong. The then-British-colonial government spent a lot of money in providing schools with computers, but locked in "computer rooms" with no teacher-support training. The result, many computers were locked in the computer rooms most of the time.

The difference this time is to give a child a laptop computer which the child can bring back home at night and use it for the benefit for the whole family. Access to information, if connected to Internet via some base-station, would provide incredible opportunity for all kind of education and learning.

I am still very aware that the availability of information is NOT equal to learning. Someone needs to provide guidance. Information needs to be organised in ways which a child can progressively master, enjoy and make use of.

Currently, there are wikibooks, OpenTextBook, California Open Source Textbook Project, etc. There are other open source book projects such as Project Gutenberg or Open Content Alliance. However, it seems to me that the only one learning support site I can find is Open Learning Support using eduCommon.

If we really care about educating the disadvantage, something more than giving hardware and information is needed. We also need instructional design expertise (whatever that may mean to you) to help the disadvantage to maximize the utility of the resources available to them.

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