Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The OLPC XO in Peru

Thanks to Beth Kanter for passing along this ABC News article on the OLPC's arrival in a small rural village in Peru: Laptop Project Enlivens Peruvian Hamlet

Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books can't get enough of their "XO" laptops.

At breakfast, they're already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits. At night, they're dozing off in front of them if they've managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

I found it interesting what the article pointed-out as two possible negatives:

Eduardo Villanueva, a communications professor at Lima's Catholic University, fears "a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers."

Perfect! That's exactly what you want. Except I doubt the teachers will be overwhelmed. I'm guessing that what happens will be something very different.

Then there is this concern about maintenance:

For every 100 units it will distribute to students, Peru is buying one extra for parts. But there is no tech support program. Students and teachers will have to do it.

Perfect again! Why would you want dependence on someone else to keep you running?

I've been playing around with my own XO the last couple of days, and it really is a fascinating device. It's going to be a huge hit. It's not too late to get your own. The Give One Get One program runs through December 31.


Anonymous said...

Kevin, it would be interesting to hear what you think will happen instead of teachers becoming overwhelmed by students. Personally, I think a couple of things will happen:

1. Some teachers will become overwhelmed and attempt to control or quash the use of the XO laptop.

2. Some teachers will view it as an opportunity and a resource. Their classes will become discovery experiences for themselves and their students.

3. Some teachers will ignore it. Students will be left to their own devices.

This set of responses will be unequally disrtibuted. It's unclear which will predominate. Personally, I think 2 is the preferred outcome but would view 3 as a step forward.

Anonymous said...

#4. Teachers will ignore and use it as a paperweight and not let students touch it.

Anonymous said...

Beth, Bud:

I hate to be such a pessimist myself. I'm fully expecting that the most significant impact of the XO will happen outside of the school environment. It'll be what the kids do with them on their own time. Which is still a huge positive. (Isn't that how it mostly works in the U.S. too?)