On OLPC and the diversity educational environments

A reply to S. Varghese

One of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations is to offer a sound elementary education to all children of the world by the year 2015 and to increase their access to information and communication technologies. One Laptop Per Child has worked since 2006 on this urgent educational mission in collaboration with public and private organizations in some forty nations, mostly in developing countries.

The great diversity of educational environments – or the lack of them – is the principal challenge here, and needs careful programming based on local conditions and human resources. OLPC is founded on five principles: ownership, early ages, saturation, connectivity and free and open source collaboration. This is the result of decades of research and development in advanced centers of study, and the XO laptop and the Sugar platform are two remarkable products of this international collaborative work. Other products will come soon as OLPC evolves to give answers to the increasing demands of education.

The central question is how to scale up the OLPC program from a town to a province to a country, in order to satisfy the educational requirements of different student populations. The agenda is getting more complex with the expansion of the geographic area involved. The local authorities must establish a detailed agenda in several steps, to provide a sound educational program to different cohorts of students, continuous training of teachers, and distribution of laptops to all children and teachers. Also the implementation of servers and internet connectivity in schools and public places, the logistics of repair or substitution of the laptops, etc. This whole process is part of a dynamic “cultural evolution” that produces a great variety of results, some unpredictable and innovative.

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Educacion 2.0 : the next decade

BBC Mundo writes about “Educación 2.0“, noting OLPC’s programs in Latin America, Argentina’s Conectar Igualdad and Spain’s Escuela 2.0 projects. It discusses laptops, tablets, and access to knowledge online, and with a nod to the proposed full-saturation projects in South Korea and Thailand.

While there are many approaches to a connected classroom, there’s no question that this is where schools everywhere are heading. The simple question is when each system will make the transition, and at what age students will be allowed to make those connections. A more interesting one is how teaching and school systems themselves will change when the logistics of learning – and of identifying children’s talents and interests – is separated a bit more from the physical layout of schools and homes.