Thursday, May 21, 2009

One Laptop Per Child

In searching for materials (to help expand the English teacher's vocabulary in adjectives), I was surprized to find this Amazon ad in Time magazine. I took one look at the ad and said, hey! those laptops look awfully familiar. They're the same ones that the students at my school use--the XO.

Apparently in 2007, Uruguay was the first country to place an official order for child-friendly laptops from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative:
[OLPC] has a simple mission: to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each and every one with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.
Sounds like a walk in the park. But not all may be as rosy as it seems. This article has much to say on the topic. Among other serious problems, one powerful corporation is putting their weight against the internet provider contracted by the OLPC, Ceibal.
A major challenge for Ceibal, among several: the national telco monopoly, ANTEL, is not overly enthusiastic about free wireless internet. That is an understatement. Who will ANTEL get to pay their rates (4 times higher than in the US at 1/4 the GDP, thus 16 times more expensive than here!) when by using your kid's XO you get access for free?
Hurdle after hurdle the laptop program must face, but Uruguay is well on the way to achieving its goal of a laptop for every schoolchild in the nation. They only have Montevideo left to furnish with XOs.

Personally, I think the goal of laptop for every child is great. Even though the computers run extremely slow and teachers complain that the kids only want to use them to play games and download videos, I still think they have a lot of potential. Children have to learn to use the internet to be successful in today's world. Those without computer access are at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers in other countries. There is no way to escape the fact that technology has become a cornerstone of modern civilization, and children who do not have the opportunity to become versed in technology are missing a vital part of the education they need to be successful.

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