Politics: One Laptop per Child

As I said previously I'm quite interested in the $100 .00 laptop idea from Nicolas microphones.
I think one reason I think it might be a success is that books cost money, probably pretty close to $100.00 per child per year or two. If this could be replaced with a laptop and the books downloaded for free (probably written by government sponsored authors) it could pay for itself in a year or two. And if authors knew that their "book" material was going in a certain form factor within a few years I would expect the course material to be:
  • searchable,
  • linkable - to more and deeper content - possibly on the web,
  • dynamic - it updates itself with the most recent information,
  • multimedia - sound, movies,
  • updateble - like wikipedia,
  • feedback - you can test your knowledge of the material - right now,
  • interactive - show a physics experiment that you setup, for example.
So, if you think of the $100 laptop only as a replacement for books it's already looking pretty good. But as you know, computers can do a lot more as well. Writing, drawing, communicating and playing games. In fact, I've listen to an education researcher who argued that games are a good model for the future of teaching. If you look at modern games they totally engross the player, they'll play for hours on end, the game tailors itself to each player's ability, and so on. Of course you could same the same thing for books in the form of novels, but once you put them in a textbook - boring!
I do have some reservations with what I've seen regarding the implementation of the $100.00 laptop.
  • They may be overly concerned with low power requirements. They looked at some villages in Africa say, and there's no electricity. Because of this, the laptop has a hand crank for power. This also means,
    • There's no hard drive, also for cost, durability and power reasons.
    • They will probably have to skimp on the screen until digital paper is available more cheaply. I'd be dissapointed if the screen was less than, say, 1024x768.
A computer for everyone has been a dream for a while and there has been several flops (Simputer or Computador Popular). This one may have a greater chance since there are some big names and big brains behind it.


    Martin Giroux said…
    It's a cool idea. I wish I would have had a laptop, or even a computer, when I was a kid. My only concern is with respect to theft, loss and damage. I haven't read any of the articles but the kid has to be fairly old to carry a portable around.
    Scott Kirkwood said…
    It's a good point and Negroponte talks talks about

    One issue the lab is particularly sensitive to is the gray market for computers, Negroponte said. "It's a big deal for us whether laptops vanish in customs or are stolen," he said. "We want to have a machine that's so distinctive it'd be like stealing a post office truck." The lab is even thinking of having each child's name engraved on each laptop as an additional theft deterrent, he said.

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