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May 22, 2007

Social Computing for Kids Around the World

Olpc_2 I regularly read a blog called "Groundswell" by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. A recent post discussed the XO machine being built to provide social computing for children around the world. The initiative is called OLPC (one laptop at a time). Yahoo News described OLPC and it's founder Nicholas Negroponte as: "The founder of MIT's legendary Media Lab wants to provide low-cost laptop computers to as many children as possible in every developing nation." Josh Bernoff mentioned a few things that make the machine unique. He also has an interesting post about his interview with Nicholas Negroponte.

XO is built from open source software (which is free), an interface that supports collaboration, and the machine is low cost as well as power efficient.

There is controversy around the machine. The New York Times article " For $150 Third World Laptop Stirs Debate" published this quote from Larry Cuban, a Stanford University education professor:  “I think it’s wonderful that the machines can be put in the hands of children and parents, and it will have an impact on their lives if they have access to electricity. However, if part of their rationale is that it will revolutionize education in various countries, I don’t think it will happen, and they are naïve and innocent about the reality of formal schooling.”

Intelcomputer Intel is also working on a low cost education notebook for developing countries. The press release from 2006 had the following information:

"Intel’s small notebook PC design for students, code-named “Eduwise,” is the result of extensive ethnographic research to provide an affordable, collaborative learning environment specifically for teachers and young students in developing communities."

All I can say is that I hope the programs work. The image of children around the world collaborating, communicating and having access to information is an amazing one. And maybe a good step towards formal education.

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