Saturday, March 01, 2008

One Laptop per Child: A Brain Booster for Poor Kids

Some days seems it feels like I could just do blog posts all day long. Top of my list are several blogs about the importance of music for brain boosting including Rock Band, and Guitar Heroes

And I’ve got great info on grading neighborhood schools. And a new game for geography. And how MySpace is moving forward to protect your kids from sexual predators.

Of course, we have to see why kids in Finland are the smartest in the world. The Wall Street Journal just published the latest test scores. The U.S. rank? Not good news! What do the Finns know about brain-based-learning that we don’t? The picture of these Finnish teens sure doesn't tell us much?

Have a couple of posts planned on best sites for information about the brain that are learning oriented, fun, and not too technical or theoretical.

And there’s always more on reading. And, of course, Brain Gym Whoa. Slow down. One post a day is enough!

After all I need to finish my Brain Boosters ebook, do the next Brain Gym Basics TeleChat on March 11, and get the new ADHD TeleChat that’s coming up in April ready to roll. (I’m so far behind on that project, I can’t even give you a link.)

But today it’s all about One Laptop per Child founded by Nicholas Negroponte, an MIT professor. His plan was—and despite enormous hurdles—and still is to provide his open source XO laptop to 2 billion children in poor and remote parts of the world.

Because most of Negroponte’s kids don’t have electricity at home or school, the XO is hand cranked or recharged through a solar panel and uses less than two watts of power. In comparison, your laptop uses 35-40 watts of power. The sturdy XO costs $187 right now. Negroponte’s goal is getting it down to $100 and then even lower.

And it’s not just about passing out laptops. This MIT prof has a terrific view of education. You can Listen to him For starters, because his laptop is open source, means the kids can suggest changes, can add to the software, can be involved. It’s all about sharing and collaboration.

One child suggested getting rid of the all caps key. Negroponte complied. How many times have you accidentally hit the caps lock key? The child was right. It’s a nuisance.

The XO is even being used in some New York City schools where kids are too poor to have a computer at home.

Some precocious kids in countries all over the world (including Rwanda, Mongolia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Brazil, Afghanistan, to name just a few) are writing html code and improving on the hardware.

They’re sharing their creations on the One Laptop per Child wiki The wiki, translated in more than 17 languages, has 5, 377 pages and 2,000 contributor files.

Negroponte argues fiercely that it’s not a laptop project, it’s an education project. He emphasizes learning by doing, peer-to-peer teaching, exploring, and expressing themselves.

“In one school, 100 percent more kids showed up for 1st grade the next year. They were not coming from the neighboring village. No. What happened is that the six-year-olds in school told those who were not that school is cool.”

And the teachers support Negroponte’s view:

“Pupils go even beyond what I can teach in the class. It's a very interesting thing to use. I personally have a better idea about teaching... We discovered that giving them time to discover something and to do it in their own way, they feel more happy and they are so excited in using it that, ‘Yes, I discovered it! Yes, I can get it!! Yes, I can do this on my own!!!’ Teaching is getting more interesting and less stressful.” — Mr. O., Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria

What do the kids think?

“I use my computer very carefully so that it will not spoil. I use it to type, I use it to write, I use it to draw, I use it to play games... I'm using my computer at home to type assignments.”

Negroponte’s predicting 2-3 million computers distributed in 2008. Read more of the distribution specifics and challenges.

Meanwhile, let’s all contribute to this fabulous project $200 will pay for the laptop and delivery. Keep watching. It won’t be long before $200 will pay for two laptops.

I just emailed to find out if a class or school can sponsor XO laptops, get pictures of the kids who receive them, email back and forth, and so forth. I’ll let you know when I hear back. I hope so. What a wonderful classroom project.

Of course there’s been lots of criticism. So if you’re a “both sides of the argument” person, you can read what some people don’t like. Scroll down to criticism. Kermit Pattison’s article “No Child Left Offline” talks about the corporate backlash and has a great interview with Negroponte.


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