Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, reponded in the comment section of a post in which Alanna suggested that the “dream of one laptop per child is over.”  Here is Negroponte’s comment in full.  (NB: Negroponte says this is a “UN site.” It is not.)      UPDATE:  Some readers are having trouble seeing comments on Alanna’s post.  I’ve copied those comments to end of these posts.  We truly appreciate alternative perspectives on this question and enjoy the debate. 

The dream is not over. When OLPC started there were no low cost laptops. We created the category less than four years ago and it now represents almost one third of the world production of latops. I am not aware of too many technologies that have gone from “impossible” to such wide adoption.

The million laptops, our little green ones, that are in the hands of children, are currently in 19 languages and 31 countries. Another million are on their way. Not bad. But even better, these countries include Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, as well as places like the West Bank (and next month Gaza). Even better, eh?

I suggest you look more carefully at Uruguay, Peru and Rwanda. In the case of Uruguay, every child has one. That is pretty amazing. Peru is headed there. Rwanda too. In fact, we have moved our learning group (as of early June) to Kigali perminently, to be in the field and get the kind of feedback you claim we ignore.

Anyway. I do not normally answer press and blogs, because we would spend all our time with words, not actions in the field But you are on a UN site and the UN is our partner. Check out Kofi Annan’s words — they have been fulfilled. Has it been harder than I expected? Yes. But do you know why? It is not due to what I had anticipated, things like corruption and logistics. It has been due to commercial interests and press, stories like yours.

As a small non-profit, humanitarian organization, it is hard to battle giants who view children as a market, not a mission, and have other agendas. In spite of all that, the change is huge. I no longer hear people arguing against “one laptop per child” as a concept. The issue is purely a matter of funding and there are many ways to do that. Wait and see.

Nicholas Negroponte

More comments below the fold.

 

The Dream is NOT over at least in Uruguay

This is a response to Alanna Shalikhʼs post of September 9, 2009 titled “One Laptop Per Child – The Dream is Over”

Will not repeat the excellent points brought by previous responses including Mr. Negroponteʼs.

This is my own personal view, I am one of the over one thousand volunteers working in Uruguay, in a group called Red de Apoyo al Plan Ceibal, RAP Ceibal.

The OLPC plan in Uruguay is well and alive, with no plans to disappear.

One important fact: The main opposition candidate in next month presidential elections, has gone to extremes to explain how good the Plan Ceibal is.

He publicly recognized it as one of the good projects implemented by the current government.

My wife and I lived and worked in New York City for over forty years.

During those years we participated first-hand in the introduction of two new technologies in our business.

In 1983 we introduced the first computer in our office.

In 1997 we started a website and used it as the center for our business.

Those two introductions of new technologies were no different from what we see in Uruguay with the XO computers and Plan Ceibal/OLPC.

The normal reaction of most human beings to any new technology is fear.

And the immediate reaction to fear is rejection.

Yes, a lot of people, have a negative first reaction.

Particularly the older individuals who have had successful careers for many years without the new technology.

Those who repeat their comments without thinking, of course don’t help the process of accepting new modern tools.

But technology doesnʼt go away so easily. And much the less when young children without prejudices or fears have tested it, liked it and approved it.

And much the less when those children are all the elementary school students and every year more and more in high school.

They keep the computers after leaving elementary school where they received them as their personal treasure to keep.

We should not worry about those rejecting the idea.

Pretty soon they will see others succeeding and find out they too could succeed.

And those detractors will imitate the leaders.

Let me finish with a success story that makes me very proud.

We recently had the pleasure and honor of helping a school teacher from Uruguay, Fabiana Marella, make a remote presentation of her paper to Squeakfest USA 2009, an international conference at UCLA, University of California at Los Angeles.

Recording of her original presentation:

http://squeakland.org/resources/audioVisual/movie.jsp?id=54

Our spanish version of the same presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A61eiW7r4annotation_id=annotation_127705…

Carlos Rabassa

OLPC’s dream lives in Sugar

Few people are aware that Sugar, the collaborative learning environment developed for the One Laptop Per Child project, is now an independent Open Source project delivering a rich set of activities for low-age children.

Sugar can be used with any hardware capable of running a Linux desktop, including many low-cost netbooks and existing computers in school labs. Using the Sugar on a Stick (SoaS) distribution, children can carry their personal copy of Sugar in their pockets and use it both in school and at home.

 

OLPC in Cambodia

Note: For anyone using XOs out there: we had someone come in and do a research project on our XO program who helped to match the Cambodian curriculm with XO programs and come up with learning ideas. If you want to learn more about this, contact us at PEPY www.pepyride.org

I think this is a very myopic view on the potential for change OLPC has started. If you had looked at the Apple2e computer I used when I was a kid maybe you would have only seen the basic programs I was using and not see what is possible today. We use the OLPC laptops in Cambodia and when I look at them in use, I see my Apple2e. It’s very basic now in some ways, but that’s the point. It’s opensource. The people in the places that are using these can, will and are developing better and better programs for it.

I have been to the schools the Negropontes sponsor in Cambodia, which was our impetus to apply for laptops through the give-one-get-one program. Spend a day in one of their schools, and I guarantee you will change your mind, at least in terms of the potential for change, based on these tools.

If there was no word “laptop” in the name, they would have gotten a lot less press, but naming it a “learning tool” would have been a more correct choice and perhaps saved them a lot of criticism. It’s not a “laptop” meant to replace what you and I are working on. It is a tool for kids to guide them through their own learning – when their teachers don’t show up, when there is a huge differentiation between levels in one class, when there are too many students for one-on-one instruction.

I don’t agree with Nicholas Negroponte that any child can pick one up and know how to fix the inside. I do agree with Alanna that, for the best learning environment, you need a great teacher or ideally facilitator, but that is the same for anything you are learning. I have seen in our students and the other OLPC programs we work with in Cambodia, that these tools are inspiring children to lead themselves into areas of education that they are not given access to in their normal government classes.

The word “lesson plan” is evil in the constructivism world of Papert followers and the child-led learning model of OLPC. No “how-to” guide is not an accident but was planned. I agree with Alanna that for most people, who have been spoon-fed their knowledge all their lives, they are not capable of making the leap and learning on their own. In a place like Cambodia some of the most educated young people I know are used to that: they teach themselves all they want to learn via the internet. We have found those people make great facilitators for the program and we don’t follow all constructivist methodologies in our classroom, in fact we brought a researcher in to observe and analyze lessons our teachers had developed and to turn those into “lesson plans” (gasp!).

If you really believe “But it’s not going to change the world, or even affect it all that much.” you have not made all of the connections to all of the ways it already HAS changed the word. It has some of the newest technologies in environmentally friendly parts, screen visibility in bright light, battery life, mesh-technologies, etc etc… and all of those things are ALREADY changing the world as others take them and continue to improve upon them.

Here in Cambodia, there are groups of young Cambodians who meet regularly to translate OLPC programs into Khmer. The new versions we just got have Khmer script and we are now using Scratch in Khmer as well. Walk into a classroom where we work with and see older students teaching younger students how to read Khmer via the animated Khmer testing program they designed themselves, and you will change your mind a bit. Talk to our computer teachers, young Cambodians who taught themselves how to use the XOs, and yes, they will tell you there is a lot they don’t understand, but they are effecting change. You can’t see that from your office, but I can see it here. It’s just the start! Each new version of the XO we get is better and better and will continue to be.

If you want to learn more about what we are doing with Scratch on the XOs or about the “lesson plans” our team developed to match the Khmer curriculm, contact us at PEPY www.pepyride.org

new dreams can be succesfull

We are a foundation in the Netherlands and since december 2007 we have done several projects with the XO laptop of OLPC and with other laptops like the Intel Classmate 3 and the ASUS EEE 901 and 1000H.

We disagree with your conclusion. The laptop is excellent and now the XO 1.5 is presented we know it will be good enough for all countries. The XO 1.5 is dual-boot, maybe this is the solution to reach more target groups. It is still the only laptop suitable for developing countries. Sugar is very nice although some things need to be finished.

In the Netherlands the XO has been tested at 2 poor schools. It was a big step forwards from every classroom one old computer with Windows 98 to every child a laptop. Since October 2008 the kids have used the laptops intensively. When you read what they chatted about it was 95% about what they discovered in the educational applications and on the internet, not about things outside education. One pupil discovered how to upgrade the software, explained it to the class and after 10 minutes everybody had the newest version, for free! Reading digital schoolbooks is very nice with this screen. After 9 months all laptops still did their job although they have also been used at home every day. In a few weeks we will publish our report about this pilot.
If this laptop could play Flash in a proper way they would like to order much more. Maybe the XO 1.5 is the solution for this problem.

Our projects in Nicaragua, Ghana and Tanzania have showed the same positive results. And learned us you have to be patient: education needs evolution, not revolution.

But working with the organisation OLPC is almost impossible. Bad communication, no support for NGO’s, difficult to order XO’s (now it is impossible) etc. We understand it is necessary to focus for such a small organisation with limited resources. However our own experiences and what we have seen about OLPC projects in countries like Mongolia (10.000 laptops still in stock, 1500 stolen) there is only one conclusion: OLPC has the wrong focus. If you have to start small in countries like the Netherlands where you need several years to really implement IT in education how can you expect you can do such a job in such countries in several weeks or months with hardly no support?

I have visited OLE Nepal, a local organisation of 20 persons collaborating with the government. They do it in the right way. Start small (2 schools, after 1 year 6 schools, now 23 schools), develop local content, use everything which is developed elsewhere, train the teachers, train people of the government in training teachers, set up internet connections, schoolservers etc. They have enough XO’s now but there is a shortage of good people to manage new projects. Teachers and pupils are very happy using the XO’s. OLE Nepal will report soon about it.

My dream is to start a new version of OLPC: Every Child A Laptop. Same concept, other focus, more collaboration, local manufacturing, willing to listen. Use the excellent R&D of MIT to develop the XO 2.0 and collaborate with companies and NGO’s to implement it in a proper way. A small webshop to deliver laptops etc. to NGO’s, grassroots and individuals. It is a pity OLPC is not interested. Maybe other organisations like to cooperate with us?

Frits Hoff

chair of the foundation OpenWijs.nl

www.openwijs.nl

Ignorance can justify assuming truth in false statements

It’s amazing how ignorance of what is happening in the real world can be disguised so grossly to attempt to pass for truth what is simply false. I am responsible for the delivery of 300,000 (so far) XO’s to Peruvian rural one classroom school children and we will be delivering 300,000 more next year. Let me address the statements one by one:

  1. “It was going to revolutionize education in the developing world.” It has, our initial impact studies show student reading comprehension level increased to more than 100% the national average in the pilot school. Intrinsic motivation variables have increased about 50% in the first stage in a sample of over 100 schools. Discipline probles reduecd to zero as well as absenteeism.
  2. “They abandoned the human-powered power source.” We don’t want our undernourished children to spend their scarce calories generating power for a computer. A well fed human being can generate 20 watt, forget about children extenuating their breakfast less bodies in running the XO’s after walking 4 hours to school. It seemed attractive to people who have no idea of what poverty really is.
  3. “They abandoned the special child-friendly OS“. False again, Sugar is our OS of choice. Microsoft did a smart move designing a version of its XP OS that runs on the XO’s but they still have to demonstrate it is worth the investment. It certainly opened a window of opportunity for secondary schools where learning to work with Office can be a valuable asset for employment opportunities. By the way it allowed us to receive a 1,000 XO-XP dual boot donated units that are serving secondary schools.
  4. “We fell in love with its tremendous promise and adorable shape.” That is the problem with wealthy people, illusion about easy fixes that will magically solve problems to pacify their consciences. What is needed is hard work and conviction, on top of passion, not just falling in love.
  5. “nce the laptop finally started arriving in the developing world, its impact was minimal.” Says who? what is the hard data you have to show.
  6. “We think.” It doesn’t show, who else besides you (singular) makes that we (plural). How can I tell you really “think”.
  7.  “No one is doing much research on their impact on education” Do your homework, ask those who know. An impact study will not be trsustable before at least one year. Our initial studies are with limited samples and vcannot be published seriously. We (all the team at the Ministry of Education of Peru) are conducting an IDB sponsored two year impact study that has just begun. We use to say making a child takes nine months, no matter how many wone devote themselves to the task so you will have to wait to see the results.
  8. “OLPC didn’t provide tech support for the machines, or training in how to incorporate them into education. ” False once more. So far we have had people from OLPC both technical and pedagogical with us all the time, every problem that arised was solved almost immediately. For a 22 year IBM veteran like me, OLPC response time was really surprisingly fast.
  9. “Teachers didn’t understand how to use the laptops in their lessons; some resented them.” That is not a XO problem, may teachers are poorly educated because society does not seem to care about education more than talking about it, The amazing happening is how better education is resulting even with ill prepared teachers just because they now own a piece of technology. We knew our challenge was going to be to improve quality of education in spite of the quality of individual teachers, and it is happening. Teachers are slowly improving without children having to wait.
  10. “Kids like the laptops, but they don’t actually seem to help them learn.” How did you find out? any reference. We have lots to the contrary.
  11. ” Businessweek called it two years ago. ” If you read the whole article and slide show by Gerry Smith in Businessweek http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_24/b4088048125608.htm and not only the headline you will see first hand how the life of a rural andean community was cahnged for good thanks to OLPC.
  12. “He points out that supporting de-worming programs has more impact on child learning than the OLPC laptops” Any data to support this?
  13. “they’re now being outcompeted by commercial laptops” False, it is impossible to run 50 watt fragile high skill maintenance machines like the netbooks in rural villages that are weeks away from any form of civilization.

Think before typing, good luck

Oscar Becerra

Chief educational Technologies Officer

Ministry of Education of Peru

The end is the beginning?

I actually think that the problems OLPC is facing is creating a better actual process, as seen in the wider community providing increasingly large support for things like curricula development and technical manuals, and with things like the OLPCCorps semi-grassroots projects and the revamped Contributors Program that grants small numbers of laptops to seed community projects (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_Program). Projects like these create a groundswell for sustainability, enable the creation and sharing of locally-relevant content, and help reveal real-world constraints in the real cost of the program. Now, perhaps they should have tried this more natural diffusion process through seed projects and change agents from the beginning, instead of pushing for huge, million-laptops-plus orders, but I think (hope?) that the real long-term and more sustainable dream is just beginning.

inaccurate article

This blog post makes several questionable and false statements. And it has a generally nasty and condescending tone which makes me rather sad.

OLPC did not “abandon” human power sources, however conventional wired <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –> electricity, generators or in some cases, solar power are much more efficient. Making children do hard physical labor to power their computer is not such a great idea. The hand crank was fragile and did not provide enough power. However, foot-treadle devices such as can be used to power a truck battery work reasonably well.

OLPC has not “abandoned the special child-friendly OS”. It has shipped approximately 700,000+ units with Sugar and perhaps 7,000 with Windows (my unofficial estimates). OLPC has provided funding and support for SugarLabs to continue this free software development work, and Sugar is available as a desktop on any Fedora or Red Hat desktop post Fedora 10. The number of XO laptops sold for poor countries is about ten times the total number sold though the several “Give One Get One” promotions in North America and Europe.

The idea that the laptops were developed without end user input is patently false. There is an active and vocal community of OLPC users thoughout the world who participate — see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Participate through the OLPC wiki at http://wiki.laptop.org and many locally-based organizations. Among these are Plan Ceibal in Uruguay, OLE Nepal, and OLPC Rwanda. A partial list of regional groups can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Regional_groups . There are many local grassroots small deployments in dozens of counties. Last night at the Berkman Center for Internet Law and Society Open House we heard about a local grassroots deployment in Haiti spearheaded by Kevin Wallen(sp?) and Helene Dietrich(sp?) and the tremendous empowerment and social transformation and pride it has brought in that community.

The phrase “to call a spade a spade” has rather unfortunate racist connotations and seems singularly inappropriate on this UN blog.

OLPC pioneered the netbook market. It has set an unequaled standard in simplicity of maintenance, low power consumption, ruggedness and durability, high quality screen, long-range dual wireless capability, use of free and open source software, and openness to community collaboration. Designing and developing the hardware, software, applications, distributing the computers, and coordinating the hundreds of local initiatives was done by no more than 23 employees (at one time) including me.

Hundreds of volunteers work on the OLPC project through developing applications, answering end-user tickets via the support gang, helping administer the back-end infrastructure through the Volunteer Infrastructure Group and many other initiatives.

The XO has brought joy, pride and a window on the world for hundreds of thousands of children in poor and working class communities throughout the world.  Although I left OLPC in January, I am very proud of the work we have done and consider the year that I spent there as systems administrator to have been the high point of my life intellectually, educationally, and morally.

sincerely,

Henry Edward Hardy

Cambridge, MA, USA

inaccurate article

This blog post makes several questionable and false statements. And it has a generally nasty and condescending tone which makes me rather sad.

OLPC did not “abandon” human power sources, however conventional wired electricty, generators or in some cases, solar power are much more efficient. Making children do hard physical labor to power their computer is not such a great idea. The hand crank was fragile and did not provide enough power. However, foot-treadle devices such as can be used to power a truck battery work reasonably well.

OLPC has not “abandoned the special child-friendly OS”. It has shipped approximately 700,000+ units with Sugar and perhaps 7,000 with Windows (my unofficial estimates). OLPC has provided funding and support for SugarLabs to continue this free software development work, and Sugar is available as a desktop on any Fedora or Red Hat desktop post Fedora 10. The number of XO laptops sold for poor countries is about ten times the total number sold though the several “Give One Get One” promotions in North America and Europe.

The idea that the laptops were developed without end user input is patently false. There is an active and vocal community of OLPC users thoughout the world who participate — see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Participate through the OLPC wiki at http://wiki.laptop.org and many locally-based organizations. Among these are Plan Ceibal in Uruguay, OLE Nepal, and OLPC Rwanda. A partial list of regional groups can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Regional_groups . There are many local grassroots small deployments in dozens of counties. Last night at the Berkman Center for Internet Law and Society Open House we heard about a local grassroots deployment in Haiti spearheaded by Kevin Wallen(sp?) and Helene Dietrich(sp?) and the tremendous empowerment and social transformation and pride it has brought in that community.

The phrase “to call a spade a spade” has rather unfortunate racist connotations and seems singularly inappropriate on this UN blog.

OLPC pioneered the netbook market. It has set an unequaled standard in simplicity of maintenance, low power consumption, ruggedness and durability, high quality screen, long-range dual wireless capability, use of free and open source software, and openness to community collaboration. Designing and developing the hardware, software, applications, distributing the computers, and coordinating the hundreds of local initiatives was done by no more than 23 employees (at one time) including me.

Hundreds of volunteers work on the OLPC project through developing applications, answering end-user tickets via the support gang, helping administer the back-end infrastructure through the Volunteer Infrastructure Group and many other initiatives.

The XO has brought joy, pride and a window on the world for hundreds of thousands of children in poor and working class communities throughout the world.  Although I left OLPC in January, I am very proud of the work we have done and consider the year that I spent there as systems administrator to have been the high point of my life intellectually, educationally, and morally.

sincerely,

Henry Edward Hardy

Cambridge, MA, USA

One Laptop per Child

 

 

OLPC

 

Get occasional updates from UN Dispatch

* indicates required

Want Our Social Media List?