Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

I have been gearing up to write about this for sometime but I was delaying it because most of what I had originally planned was unflattering not about the OLPC but about its possible adoption (actually lack of adoption) into the New Education Reform sectors ‘focus’ on ICT. I have always complained that the people in power seem not to keep up with these issues especially when it comes to ICT and thank goodness I’m wrong. I am totally fired up since I learnt from Justin that the Ghanaian Government (His Excellency John Agyekum Kuffuor) has made pronouncements on adopting the OLPC.

The One Laptop per Child association (OLPC) is a Delaware, USA based, non-profit organization created by faculty members of the MIT Media Lab, set up to oversee The Children's Machine project and the construction of the XO-1 "$100 laptop"

The OLPC project is an initiative to provide the almost 2 billion children of developing and third world ( I so dislike this word) countries with no little or no access to educational tools with the XO laptop, a children's machine designed for “learning learning” and “tap into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own”. The laptop was originally priced at $100 dollars but is currently being offered at around $175.

I must first make the point that as with any such project it has both its good points and also its criticisms. I will however focus on the good points here as I am convinced the idea in general is laudable.

In my search for articles on the OLPC project and its Ghanaian connection I stumbled upon (Again!) a really interesting blog detailing how the OLPC reached the eyes of His Excellency President Kuffuor, who has endorsed the program and announced that he planned for every ‘Class One’ (1st Grade) student in Ghana to have a laptop. Read the article “The Week Everything Changed”. It is quite an interesting and long entry so please read it using the link provided.

I believe if the ‘jaw-jaw’ becomes action and a good education model is built around the use of the XO laptop for learning, it would be fantastic. Education in Ghana as we all known is too theoretical and boring and making it more playful for the young ones will grow their minds, so much more (This is not a DSTV advert).

There are several ideas on educational content and educational models for using the XO laptop effectively to fit into the educational systems. Most of the ideas are based on “constructionism” which basically is “a philosophy of education in which children learn by doing and making and explore and discover instead of being force fed information”. The main proponent of this philosophy is Seymour Papert whose ideas are deemed to have influenced Nicholas Negroponte to start the OLPC and therefore most of the educational models have constructionism at their very foundation. The field notes from the test of the XO laptop in Thailand is a must read to see just how exciting and refreshingly different this can all be.

PS. Read more about the technical aspects of the XO laptop

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