The Children’s Machine

There’s a great article about the OLPC at the Heise Mobil website:

OLPC screenIt’s the first comprehensive article I’ve read that covers both technical and political aspects of the project with up-to-date information and a balanced appraisal of the challenges ahead. It even ends with some market analysis of how Microsoft and Intel have responded to the OLPC project as it has evolved.

Another interesting issue is faculty development– the article suggests that the Papert-inspired child-centered approach of the OLPC almost seems to side-step the need for teacher training and involvement. The kids will construct their own learning experiences, which sounds exciting, but at the same time I’m a bit concerned about the concept of taking adults out of the picture in their cultural settings. I’ve seen decades of student-determined experimentation with technology (mostly game and communications-centered), often with thousands of hours invested by individual kids, but the results are a bit less than revolutionary…

We’ve seen kids develop their own culture of use around IM and texting and social networking, and I’m sure they’ll go further. As mentioned in the last post, however, I don’t see kids automatically creating an academic culture of technology use on their own. The OLPC has software and hardware specifically designed to do this, but the end result could be much different than imagined. Within the cultural structures of their communities, displacement issues could be considerable.

Good article– much to think about.

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