USN Lower School Technology!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's XO Laptop Week in the Lab!

NEW NOTE: Three XO laptops will start going home for two nights each with students whose parents choose to "opt in" to the loaner program. Parents click the "Opt In" button in the sidebar to the right and take a minute to fill out the information in the resulting form. From a list of students opted in, completely random selection will be made each time an XO is returned. The loaners start going out on March 10th, take a break over Spring Break, and will resume after the break. Will we make it through the list of interested students and families? That depends on how many "opt in!"

The XO Laptop, Nicholas Negroponte's world-changing "One Laptop Per Child" vision now being implemented more or less successfully throughout the developing countries of our world, aims to put a hardy, inexpensively manufactured, yet functional laptop computer into the hands of every schoolchild in the world.

Sound far-fetched? Consider this:

A table at the OLPC wiki lists purchases to date totalling 697,000 units. These hail from the USA, Peru, Mexico, and that other developing country, Birmingham, Alabama (whose online citizen outrage over the hidden costs involved heralds trouble for the School Board, who purchased 15,000 XOs for public school students). 167,000 of these orders came from the much-heralded "Buy Two Get One" program, which is how we at USN came to be in possession of the three laptops I'm sharing with the Lower School students this week. We bought 8, we received 4, one for each tech coordinator and one for our tech director.

Some others in our community, I'm discovering, also took part in that program. One child each in 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grades the very first day shared that they have one at home. Another family has ordered one but has been informed that it may be a month or more before it can be delivered. Reportedly, the subcontractors OLPC relied upon for distribution have dropped the ball, seriously, and there were other problems.

Delayed delivery is not the only controversy surrounding OLPC, but it's clear that this project is underway and I want our children to at least get a glimpse of how big it is. While the littlest ones in my lab have pretty much seen all that I feel is necessary for them, the 4th graders will be doing a bit of Google searching next week, looking for OLPC resources to share with the world.

Finally, I hope to work out a way to send these devices home beginning next week, for one or two nights, so that I can provide the children with a real chance to experience this technological innovation. We've talked about how the remarkable screen and the open source operating system may provide some motivation for other hardware manufacturers to emulate the low price and ruggedness of the XO laptop.

While the XO Laptop is not currently available for purchase in the U.S., Asus and Intel have teamed to release the Asus eeePC, a low-cost alternative to the traditional laptop that utilizes many of the XO's innovative strategies for hardware and software. Intel's offering, which I can't see is available yet for purchase, is called the Classmate PC, and promises yet more competition in the arena.

Here's a map of current OLPC distributions:

View Larger Map

and here's a link to a video of the first report out!

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