OLPC’s & NSW Netbooks

The BBC posted a video clip from one of their roving technology reports. The reporter Rory Cellan-Jones is visiting a school in Kigali, Rwanda.  The school has 3000 pupils and the students all have OLPC’s .

The clip shows the students engaged in various actvities using their OLPC’s as the report wanders around. Its great to see and it raises a number of questions/statements for me.

  1. Why are we not seeing more of this? I would love to see more examples of OLPC’s being integrated into schools. The OLPC site has a link to countries with the programme embedded – its a google map. If you look at the list of countries utilising this its not that extensive. They include: Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, haiti Rwanda, Afganistan, Nepal & ethiopia and some others – there are (excluding the USA) 27 countries.
  2. While many third world countries are unable to provide such facilities and rely on charity, why are we not seeing more 1st world nations embedding portable technology programs?
  3. Some people are adopting these programs and on a wide scale – New South Wales announced its Netbook program.  200,000 units to every year 9 student in the state. WOW! This is a great start, but I started to read some of the fine print on this and I did have concerns with the hardware spec and the software pack. A Netbook with 1Gb Ram Running MS Office and The Adobe CS4 suite. These are serious software packages. This raises the questions for me about suitability. With my students I teach them to design products that are
  • suitable for the audience
  • suitable for the purpose

Is the hardware they have selected suitable for the software they have choosen? Don’t get me wrong on this. I am very pleased that NSW has taken this step!. Each product is a winner in its own right, but I wonder if its abit like giving the kids a single lane mountainbike track (a netbook) and providing them with a high performance road racing bike (The software). The two seem mismatched.

4. Another NSW Question.  What were the educational goals and objectives defined for this program and how did the Netbook  with this software load match these drivers? I would hate to see a paradigm breaking program like this damaged by technical barriers.

The two strands of this post are tied together really with this question of suitability for audience and purpose. In both the OLPC and NSW Netbooks there is a need that is being met or attempting to be met. Each component is in its own right educationally powerful, enabling, transformative and useful. But I do wonder about the selections being made. With the OLPC the software is selected and deployed with a focus on cost and functionality. With the NSW netbook, the software selected is not, I believe well matched to the hardware platform. I would hate to try Photoshoping an image on a netbook with only 1Gb of ram or working with multiple documents and embedded images and media. or…

Using this software, students will be able to create videos, edit photos and make presentations for class assignments and projects,” Rees said. “Students and teachers will also be able to set up video conferencing and collaborate on assignments using the built in Web cameras and software within the department’s secure network.”  Source: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/297696/nsw_education_drops_150m_267_000_school_notebooks

I have to say OLPC gets a tick the netbook with Office and CS4 gets a X. Each in their own right is good but together…well….

    4 thoughts on “OLPC’s & NSW Netbooks

    1. 27 countries is a huge huge thing for what is still mostly a volunteer basis.
      I suspect you’re not seeing it, becuase you’re not living in our target areas — the laptops are for “the world’s poorest children” – In australia this has thus far meant deployments into the Northern Territories.. If you’re in Sydney, that’s why you haven’t see it.

    2. That is a really useful analysis you have given. I agree with you about the software, and to paraphrase Fiona, life is too short to be editing Photoshop images on a tiny screen.
      I went over to watch the video you linked to hoping to see something inspiring and what a *@*% that guy was making the video! Seemed overly impressed by the number of XO’s and didn’t actually sit alonside any kid and ask what they were doing with them or how they were learning. eg Guy with Video Camera;”Oh here’s Neil Armstrong on the screen!” to listening student, “Who’s that?” Answer, “Neil Armstrong”.
      Wonder if anyone actually has found out how, why, what etc about the programme?

    3. 27 countries is a great start, but the numbers in these countries are often small (in the hundreds). This is an amazing project, and it is a volunteer driven one. I am not concern about not having seen or played with one (I have actually and it was cool) rather I am concerned that this brilliant tool, this enabler of learning is only slowly being deployed.

      Just think of the cultural shift that could happen as young people the world over are able to communicate? Would cultural barriers and divides be challenged? Would our students become more international?

    4. the only country with “hundreds” is Niue – every single child and teacher has one now.

      Elsewhere the smallest deployment was 5,000 in Sierra Leone.
      There are hundreds of thousands of laptops per country in Rwanda, Ghana, Colombia, Peru, Uganda… check the table on the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olpc

      Would we like a better laptop? for sure – but that would mean changing the name for “one laptop per 3 children” – because better laptops cost more.

      But it’s unimportant – the laptop is up to the job of education – who wouldn’t want a bigger screen to edit a jpeg? but it’s not worth reducing the numbers just for that, when it’s already a great textbook, physics simulator, measuring tool, collaborative drawing tool and so many other things.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>