I recently came across an advertisement on TV about free laptop computers being given to young Filipino students. The laptops looked quite different and appear to have been custom-built for children. I was curious so I searched the net, hoping to find more information. It turns out that the ad is about a global project called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). The project is an initiative of a US-based non-profit organization, having the same name as the project, created by MIT faculty members. OLPC aims to provide children in different parts of the world with rugged, low-cost, low-power, and ecological laptops to make learning more interactive and fun.
Called “XO,” the laptops were designed with children in mind. XO laptops are small, light, and capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions. They’re energy-efficient and have sun-light readable display screens. Other hardware specifications include: 1 GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of flash storage, video camera, water -proof keyboard, 5-cell battery which lasts for about 16 hours, and WiFi connectivity. There is no hard disk, but the flash storage is upgradable to 32GB. XO laptops operate on a Linux-based operating system, which come with a collection of educational tools and software for kids, such as: calculator, games, puzzles, chat, journal, measuring tools, paint and drawing, e-book, recorder, music, word processing, and even a Wiki-Browser. Particularly interesting is the capability of the XO laptop to directly connect to another XO, using wireless peer-to-peer technology. This is possible even without routers or the internet.
The laptop is priced at around $200 per laptop (around Php 6,800). OLPC sells the XO laptops to different governments around the world. In the Philippines, the first recipients of the XO are grade 4 students in Lubang, Mindoro. The laptops were secured through the efforts of their mayor, an NGO, and numerous private donors.
OLPC goes a step further than just providing the hardware and software; under the project, it is the child, and not the school, who gets to own the laptop itself. This is commendable and I fully support the project. I once taught high school students and I know how excited they are and eager to learn whenever computers are used to aid in the discussion of the subject matter. However, I believe that computers are just that – they are tools to facilitate learning. They shouldn’t be considered as substitutes for discussing ideas in class, hitting the books, or interacting with schoolmates outside the classroom or the home. I hope that the students who got XO laptops realize this. I hope they truly learn and have fun learning.
C M Prado, Entry # 6