I have been a little distracted this weekend by grad school and end-of-the-trimester activities, but I wanted to post about something kind of exciting. On Thursday after a little arm twisting from my district technology director, John, I joined the OLPC community. Well, truthfully it wasn’t much arm twisting. He explained he ordered one, convincing me that I wasn’t the only crazy person wanting one of these little green machines.
For any readers who may not know, OLPC is the acronym for the One Laptop Per Child program. Its a program that seeks to provide laptops to children in developing countries. The laptops provided as part of this program aren’t just any old laptops The XO Laptop is a Linux-based system designed with children and learning in mind. This computer has also been developed to be wireless and rugged enough to survive life in a third-world country.
I imagine you are wondering, “Why would you buy one? You don’t have any kids. You have a great computer.” Well, here are my reasons.
1. First, of all it seems like the right thing to do. In my own classroom I see the differences between computer-haves and computer-have-nots. This digital divide has produced 8th grade students who can hardly use a mouse sitting right next to expert digital video producers. I can only imagine how much larger the divide will be for children in countries without computers. In my class at least my videographers can help their neighbor navigate right-click and left-click.
2. Truthfully, the more I learn about education and technology, the more I am shocked we don’t already have a national 1:1 laptop program. Its shameful we keep giving our students paper textbooks and paper assignments. I realize the textbook lobby is very powerful and the generation controlling educational decisions feels much more comfortable with textbooks similar to the ones they had (in the 1950s) than with computers. On top of that, paper assignments require much less financial investment than digital assignments. However, does anyone really think this prepares our children for 21st century careers? When was the last time a corporate executive handed out hand-written memos or created a presentation with markers and a piece of butcher paper? If you had to learn to use a new piece of software, such as Flash, would you really want to read the book or watch an Atomic Learning tutorial? While the XO Laptop produced by OLPC may not be perfect for every student at every grade level, I think it may be a start. By supporting this program I hope that more machines like these will make their way to my classroom and every other classroom in America.
3. Okay, now that my ethically-correct reasons are out of the way, I have to admit that I am simply excited just to have a new piece of technology to check out. I have never really had the opportunity to fiddle with a Linux-based computer. I have been planning on turning my XP Dell into an Ubuntu system, but this gives me an opportunity to play with out committing to a Windows-less existence. On top of that my now 2-year-old nephew will probably be pretty excited to have his own computer in a year or so when I am done checking the XO out.
4. The final reason why I made this purchase – free T-Mobile Hot Spot Access. US residents who participate in the Give One Get One program receive one year of T-Mobile Hot Spot Access at Starbucks, Borders, and a few other places. So during summer vacation I will be lesson planning while sipping on venti lattes and the coffee shop and book store down the street.
As of tonight you have 9 more days to join the Get One Give One program.