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India Rejects One Laptop per Child Program 374

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the children-make-the-best-lab-rats dept.
ex-geek writes "Seems like Negroponte's One Laptop per Child program has been rejected by the Ministry of Human Resource Development of India. Among the objections are concerns about the effect of extensive laptop use on children's health. Better uses for the monies, which would be required to roll out the OLPC project, are also named. Most insightful however is the observation that not one industrial country has so far implemented a similar program for its children, which casts doubt as to what the pedagogical use for notebooks in class really is."
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India Rejects One Laptop per Child Program

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  • Passing the buck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 9x320 (987156) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:34PM (#15787323)
    If every industrial country is waiting for the others to make the first move, who is going to go first?
    • by 10sball (80009) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:37PM (#15787339) Homepage
      north korea
      • by Spazntwich (208070) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:44PM (#15787382)
        I think they're still working on their "one missile per child" campaign.

        Though before that gains any momentum they'll probably need to complete their "one functioning missile" campaign.
      • The markting is bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by elucido (870205)
        I do not think you can market a program like this as "One Laptop per Child Program", and it just happens to be from America, and just happens to include the name Negroponte. I mean, I'm not trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist, I'm an American, but what government will agree to this when it's marketed like this?

        Most people question anything that is so cheap that it is nearly free, they ask why if laptops are so cheap that only the third world can have them? Since when did we design laptops or anything
    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:41PM (#15787363) Homepage
      Nobody has to go first. There are already plenty of schools in this and other industrialized nations that provide laptops for every student. Studies need to be done to determine if those laptops actually help (or perhaps hinder) learning in these schools. It would be silly to spend billions of dollars a year providing every child with a laptop if there are no studies that indicate there is any educational advantage to every child having a laptop.

      Also, the concern about health effects may seem silly, but there have been plenty of cases where things that were relatively harmless for adults turn out to have adverse effects on still-developing children. Given this, and given that these children would presumably be using these laptops for many hours a day, asking for studies on this does not seem unreasonable.
      • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:50PM (#15787414) Homepage Journal
        As with all computer use, I would recommend caution against sitting kids down and using powerpoint* to set them up in life.

        Good teaching implies using the computer as a tool rather than as a quick fix, some subjects are meant to be difficult some lessons need to be learnt.
        Its exactly the same with calculators, know how to use one but only after you have tried engaging your brain first.

        I feel this way after visiting a few secondary schools for my son recently, there are some which place the computer on a pedistal as the fix all, and then there are others (notably the 'poorer' schools) which have teachers being more involved and interactive.

        *This is not a microsoft dig, it could equally be open office impress or any other program.
        • by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @08:50PM (#15787984) Journal
          Computers in schools are overrated. We need TEACHERS to TEACH. Not to mention the price of maintaining the computers is obscene - especially if you live in a district where the computers are likely to get ripped off, sold for drugs or destroyed.

          We don't need more than one computer per classroom - for the teacher to use to do her own job.

          -uso.
      • by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:53PM (#15787430)
        Studies need to be done to determine if those laptops actually help (or perhaps hinder) learning in these schools.

        No kidding. I've watched school districts in the US spend insane amounts of money on computer technology on the basis of blind faith that computers will automagically improve the quality and effectiveness of education. Even if most such programs were not sabotaged from the start by failing to allocate funds to actually train teachers to use them, there is seldom if ever any effort to measure results.

        (To be fair, while I was working for a school district, I saw some really creative uses of computers, but these were a) the exception, and b) still not very good uses of money compared to other things that it could have been spent on.)

        The other problem that is not often considered at the outset is the maintenance cost. A school district full of computers needs a full-time support staff, which takes away money that could have gone to hiring new teachers and reducing class sizes, and it also requires regular replacement. One-third of the IT budget for the district I worked in was devoted to replacing obsolete machines.

        Surprisingly, the best use I saw for computers was reducing the amount of time it took teachers and staff to take attendance and collate grades. That actually did some good because teachers had more time to teach.
        • ... the best use I saw for computers was reducing the amount of time it took teachers and staff to take attendance and collate grades ...

          Ah yes, I've seen this a lot. Rejecting computers as being helpful to students, while embracing them as helpful to teachers. And to think this was written by someone who uses a computer to access the Internet. I wonder how much money they contributed to studies to determine if their time was being put to good use.

      • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:56PM (#15787440) Homepage Journal
        Also, the concern about health effects may seem silly, but there have been plenty of cases where things that were relatively harmless for adults turn out to have adverse effects on still-developing children. Given this, and given that these children would presumably be using these laptops for many hours a day, asking for studies on this does not seem unreasonable.

        FTA: "Both physical and psychological effects of children's intensive exposure to the computer implicit in OLPC are worrisome, to say the least.

        The psychological aspect seems to be more important and worrisome, IMHO. The things developing children interact with are known to cause a long-standing effect on their psychological development - particularly creativity, analytical skills and imagination. Most people (and geeks) including me can relate to how Legos had a +ve impact on their mental development as kids and how the newer "specialized lego sets" hamper this development by being too restrictive. The same can be said for many other articles/games that kids are exposed to in their developing ears.

        I would venture to say that extended interaction with a particular GUI/software/interface could have a negative impact on development of these mental faculties. I'm not saying that it will, but it is quite likely that it will hamper/restrict the child to think only along a certain way, and it is quite reasonable to prevent a large-scale project such as this before adequate medical studies have been done.

        • by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:24PM (#15787584) Homepage Journal
          "The things developing children interact with are known to cause a long-standing effect on their psychological development - particularly creativity, analytical skills and imagination."

          I remember going over this in psych 101 and even the author of our textbook, Peter Gray [wikipedia.org] seemed skeptical. What is the criteria by which we measure the things children interact with? Does a toddler who only has cardboard boxes to play with grow up stupider than one who has plastic puzzles in primary colors? IIRC, Gray wondered if an inner city child who had no toys, but interacted with extended family in the house and watched cars go by each day was in any less stimulating an environment than a kid who had nintendo or plastic blocks. Is there any objective measurement? The child who interacts with adults is arguably in a more stimluating environment. Understanding, predicting, and manipulating adult minds arguably takes more mental faculties than doing the same with blocks.

          When I was a boy, I remember a stick being variously a rifle, a magical staff, a metal sword, a light saber, a spear, even a spaceship. Are my analytical skills impoverished because I ran around in the woods and played with sticks instead of playing the living room with shiny, plastic transformers? I remember being bored to tears by He-Man and G.I. Joe figures that required no imagination -- everything they did was pre-determined. I prefered playing with leaves in puddles or making figures out of mud or clay.

          I did *want* those toys that other kids had -- but when I got them, I certainly couldn't play with them. They were much to boring. They just sat on the shelf as models. That's really what they are.
        • As long as we are randomly spouting "facts" about the damages to creativity inherent in using an interface, I'm going to point out that my artistic creativity has been seriously hampered by being forced to convey my written thoughts in a series of pre-determined archaic "letters". If I had been able to create my own words and letters, think of how much better my art skills would have been. Lets break down all conventions! Interfaces only work to constrain and limit communications.
      • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:05PM (#15787489)
        the concern about health effects may seem silly

        I have been wondering how easy it is for a young child to keep the laptop batteries charged. This would seem to be at least an order of magnitude more demanding than a Lifeline radio.

      • Oh, trust me, there are lots of studies out there, many with conflicting results. Mostly because no educational research is ever 100% controlled - it happens in a real classroom rather than a laboratory, where a million things could be contributing.

        One thing that seems pretty clear is that how useful computers are is directly correlated with how much ongoing training the teachers and administrators receive both on using the computers and on integrating them into the curriculum. Getting the administrators

      • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte@fre e n e t h e l p.org> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:36PM (#15787642) Homepage Journal
        "Also, the concern about health effects may seem silly, but there have been plenty of cases where things that were relatively harmless for adults turn out to have adverse effects on still-developing children."

        Actually, almost everything that is harmful to children is also harmful to adults, though perhaps greater quantities are needed to inflict the same damage to the latter, sometimes.

        Thus, you choose your words 'relatively harmful' very well. ;-)

      • by bitt3n (941736)
        As a minister in a far eastern country that shall go unnamed, I am very concerned about the health effects of these western laptops.

        Exposing children to toxic chemicals and complicated heavy machinery in sneaker factories and similar industrial environments is regrettably one of the ugly necessities of partaking in the spirit of new enterprise that allows us to join the global community. I believe the expression is that "it is required to break many eggs before one enjoys the omelet."

        However, instructin

    • The name "Negroponte", and free laptops will make any government alittle bit suspicious. This would be like the last names Clinton and Bush joining forces to give out free laptops, and offering it to India.

      I think it's a good idea, but just, don't I think even people in India know the name Negroponte. So I'm not surprised they rejected the one laptop per child program. It just seems political even if it isnt.

  • How about (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bacterial_pus (863883) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:37PM (#15787340)
    working towards a 'food and shelter for every child' program first
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:41PM (#15787365)
      India has too many people already. I recommend a "One Child Per Laptop" program! :)
    • Re:How about (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The obvious comment in every case is "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day... "

      But it's deeper than that. By giving free shelter or food, you destroy the shelter and food providing industries in the countries. The textile industries in many "third world" countries have been wiped out by cheap or free second hand clothing from the west.

      If you get people educated and doing something then the contribute valuably and generate a real economy. Have a look at some of the work of the charity Intermediat
      • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:39PM (#15787659) Homepage
        Don't apply the same model to food that you apply to shelter. Your core insight, that well-meaning infusions of charity can have unexpected and unpleasant consequences, is well taken. But not all markets work the same: housing is sui generis (particularly when it is land and location that is the cost-driver.)

        Also, education is not a panacea. You can over-educate a population past its economic opportunities and create a variety of problems, from the widescale loss of the best-and-brightest to other countries, to a population of resentful, overeducated people who are only able to find jobs in the lower ranks of the agricultural and industrial sectors (this is much of what happened in parts of Latin America - the Sendero Luminoso of Peru was largely officered by a generation of well-educated poor youth who found no job opportunities awaiting for them after their much-vaunted education was finished.)

        England did not have the most widely educated population back when it was the richest, most powerful nation in the world. I think you might find the correlation between education and prosperity, historically, to have a number of suprises.
    • Re:How about (Score:5, Interesting)

      by qortra (591818) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:46PM (#15787394)
      How about not? See, we could give the huge population of India food until the rest of the world runs out of money, and it wouldn't help that much. The children need a way to earn their own food, or else nothing will change in the long run. A starving child who can program a computer or manage a business or teach history won't be starving for long, especially in a place like India that is just starting to be recognized as a potential high-level worker pool.
      • Re:How about (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Clyde (150895) * on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:01PM (#15787470)
        Actually, it would take very little money to feed the hungry of the world. The money that third world countries pay out ever year in debt maintenance is greater than the cost of feeding the hungry.

        http://www.jubileeusa.org/jubilee.cgi?path=/learn_ more&page=why_drop_the_debt.html [jubileeusa.org]
        • Firstly, it isn't like debt payments drop off the face of the earth. They go to other corporations or countries who in turn feed their poor or employ people who can feed their families with the money.

          Secondly, I'll give you 1 guess concerning how countries get out of debt....
          ....
          ....
          They educate their citizens to generate capital!
        • Okay, I flat out refuse to listen to any website that tells me to do something because the bible says so, but another thing that whole debt thing misses is that if people started announcing they wouldn't pay back their debts, then we would see global economic collapse.

          However, the money is the smallest part of the cost. The real issue is that giving people food only helps them in the short run. While that is valuable and sometimes necessary, it is more necessary to address long-term problems. What happe

        • Re:How about (Score:5, Interesting)

          by pherthyl (445706) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:22PM (#15787572)
          The side effect of feeding the hungry is that it effectively destroys their entire local food production business. The farmers who previously supported themselves selling food can't compete with free and are suddenly themselves dependant on handouts to survive.

          Do some reading on how the flood of donated clothes from the western world destroyed the textile industry in many areas of Africa. Handouts are a terrible long term solution.
          • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:27AM (#15789532) Homepage Journal
            The side effect of feeding the hungry is that it effectively destroys their entire local food production business. The farmers who previously supported themselves selling food can't compete with free and are suddenly themselves dependant on handouts to survive.

            Depends on how its done. Aid agencies such as oxfam have recognised this for a while - and rather than importing food to troubled areas, try to either give locals money to buy food or buy from local farmers.

            Government agencies don't particularly like that however, as they'd rather spend their aid budget within their own country, helping their own farmers (its amazing how much of the average first world nation's "aid" budget will be spent within that country).
      • ... a potential high-level worker pool.

        You have no idea that an outsourced Indian 'Mike' you talk on the phone is from a royal caste, literally. Only the cream of the cream of the elite get to qualify for the outsourced jobs. There is no hope for the rest!

        No laptops, no business. 60% of grownups in India cannot read

        In a country whose No. 1 public health goal is halfing public defecation by 2012 (a real problem since over 20% of the population are infected by hookworms: http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu/super [pitt.edu]
        • No laptops, no business. 60% of grownups in India cannot read

          Exaggeration. According to the CIA World Factbook, [cia.gov] about 60 percent of adults in India can read. The figure weighs disproportionately in favor of men -- 70 percent are literate. In women the figure is less than 50 percent, but still not as low as the 40 percent you suggest.

          • No contradiction:

            The link refers to people over 15 that can read a little.

            This 'factbook' masks the real problem, which is that 30%+ of the population is under 15 (according to your very link), most of whom are illeterate (and die off before they ever learn).
        • In a country whose No. 1 public health goal is halfing public defecation by 2012 (a real problem since over 20% of the population are infected by hookworms:

          Ahh, I'm glad you cleared that up I guess the "effect of extensive laptop use on children's health" is just a secondary concern (I'm not actually aiming my sarcasm at you here; I'm just curious how the Indian government could care about E.M. radiation when there are much larger concerns).

          Providing children with reading lessons...

          I bet you'll ne
    • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:49PM (#15787412) Homepage Journal
      There is no reason not to simultaneously provide medical aid, food aid, aid to repair infrastructure, and etcetera, and computers. That is a phony dichotomy.

      One of the big failings of aid and development programs in the past has been a lack of appropriateness; clueless big projects which do little or nothing to help.

      It is possible that the One-Laptop-Per-Child project is one of these clueless projects. It could, however, end up as a sort of force multiplier, a source of intelligence (in the "information" sense of the word) and a form of feedback that would let aid organizations know what is really needed and where.
      • "There is no reason not to simultaneously provide medical aid, food aid, aid to repair infrastructure, and etcetera, and computers. That is a phony dichotomy."

        It's not mutual exclusive, that is true. Yet, seen the limited amount of money being spend (it's not as if the budget for foreign aid has no limits, after all), there is *something* to it: you really can't do everything. At least, not becoming meaningless: say, hypothetically,j you have a budget of 10 dollar, then you can spend it on 2 or perhaps thre
    • Don't be $illy, it'$ ju$t not profitable enough.
  • MS counter move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:37PM (#15787341) Homepage
    Gates have been courting India for quite a while. This move is a political move nothing to do with the merits of the program.

    I really don't care about India but would love to see Bangladesh adopt the OLPC program. They have thanks to Yusun and his Microloan program almost eradicated poverty so they seem to be a more innovative people. Remember 10- 15 years ago you almost always heardf about the plight of Bangladesh? Heard anything lately? I rest my case

    • "Remember 10- 15 years ago you almost always heardf about the plight of Bangladesh? Heard anything lately?"
      I don't know what world you are living in, my friend, but Bangladesh still has ~35% of the population below the poverty line [geoplace.com]. I'm not dissing Bangladesh, which is a lovely country, but your statement which is quite ignorant.
      • I don't know what world you are living in, my friend, but Bangladesh still has ~35% of the population below the poverty line. I'm not dissing Bangladesh, which is a lovely country, but your statement which is quite ignorant.

        Now, I'm not disagreeing with you, but I do want to point out the fallacy of referring to a "poverty line". Here in California, I've spent more time living below the Federal poverty line than I have spent living above it, yet I have usually had a car, always had a place to live, alwa

        • Re:MS counter move (Score:3, Informative)

          by alphakappa (687189)
          I understand, but the truth about India/Bangladesh is that the poverty line as defined by the government really is a poverty line i.e. it's barely enough to survive.
  • Some Good Points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@gmai l . com> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:37PM (#15787345) Homepage Journal
    The Director makes some good points, but I think there is also a sense that no country wants to be seen as needing the program. I wonder if the program itself could be seen as an affront to the pride of many of the target nations.

    Maybe the pledge to buy two laptops to donate to get one free really isn't such a bad thing after all. Governments have a difficult time tturning away things that are free.

    • by rmckeethen (130580) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:27AM (#15789248)

      Agreed. India has nuclear power -- and, of course, nuclear weapons -- plus indigenous satellite launch capabilities, the largest film industry anywhere (a.k.a. Bollywood), the fourth largest economy on Earth measured in purchasing power, the second largest global population and, to top it all off, India is the home to one of the world's oldest pre-industrial civilizations and is the origin of not one but *two* of the world's major religions, Hinduism and Buddism. Somehow, I don't think the Indian government is going to be keen to accept a program that seems adapted to third-world nations, not regional superpowers struggling for first-world status and recognition. Hell -- just based on how much software development is going on in the country, the $100 laptop ought to be a sure-fire winner, so it's hard to justify India's turning down the program for reasons other than politics and national pride.

  • I know if they came out with a simple cheap and durable laptop with software and hardware that just worked and lasted a decade I would buy one for sure. We're all so used to buying new computers and components and constantly updating and patching software. A lot of wasted money, pollution, resources, power, and time. It would be nice if a company put time into something to get it right. So far the closest one is apple and their old g3 and g4 lines. The new intel ones have a lot of maturing to do yet IMO.

    btw
    • We're all so used to buying new computers and components and constantly updating and patching software. A lot of wasted money, pollution, resources, power, and time.

      I've done the exact opposite: put in a slower, older GFX card, slower RAM and downclocked the CPU. I don't really notice the loss, even with games, and it's saving on the electricity bill.
  • What, is he afraid that India will turn into a country where everyone has a really muscular right arm?
  • Nigeria accepts OLPC (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gord (23773) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:42PM (#15787371) Homepage
    Worth pointing out that according to this, brief, article [allafrica.com] Nigeria has ordered 1 million of these laptops at $100 a throw.
  • Two words (Score:5, Funny)

    by twofidyKidd (615722) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:42PM (#15787373)
    "...which casts doubt as to what the pedagogical use for notebooks in class really is."

    Sex Ed.
    • Re:Two words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:16PM (#15787536)
      Not funny. Insightful. Do you know how much ignorance there is in developing nations about STDs, birth control, pregnancy, etc?
      • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nimey (114278)
        Do you know how much ignorance there is in developed nations about same?

        Ssshhh... don't let on about birth control education, or the Catholic Church will condemn the program.
      • Re:Two words (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:54PM (#15787737)
        Not funny. Insightful. Do you know how much ignorance there is in developing nations about STDs, birth control, pregnancy, etc?

        Which may be one of the reasons countries reject these laptops. Regressive idealogies, particularly the ones that think women are only good for babies tend to reject that kind of knowledge. I know a girl who used to teach that stuff to women in the villages at the southern end of the philippines and the men there were not happy to have her around (she's a "radical feminist" by /modern/ filipino standards which would make her about average if she lived in the in US).

        Beyond reproductive health and self-dominion, there are lots of areas of knowledge that many societies would rather not give their children (or adults) access to. Like a pastie-covered boobie at a sporting event.
  • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:44PM (#15787380)
    Industrial countries have and can pay for nearly new textbooks to give to each child. Most parents in industialized countries have computers their children can use. OLPC replaces books and gives the entire family access to information.
    • Um, not quite. Most school textbooks are in poor repair and antiquated in the US. Secondly present textbook publishing is volume driven, with the content often dictated by Texas and other large red state markets.
      The use of an OLPC would not only allow for up to date textbooks but would allow more enlightened states to avoid present least common denominator content.
  • I bet they only saw it as a threat, people importing something to their country, other then cash.

    Sort of like 'outsourcing' but backwards. Cant have that, might upset the balance of money flow.

    Kids? who cares about the kids, unless we can sell them for a profit.
  • by theCat (36907) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @06:55PM (#15787436) Journal
    Over the years, a few US states and many individual school districts have experimented with one-student-one-computer, to general positive results. It's not without its detractors, of course, and I suspect that lately these programs have to a degree fallen under the wheels of the "teach toward the test" canflagration now sweeping the nation.

    I think anyone who says "feed them first, then give them a computer" misses the point that if all you do is ever feed people and then move on, that's as far as they get. I get the impression that while most people living in poverty will happily accept a meal, they will likewise fight hard and loudly to better their condition even at the risk of someone going without a meal in the process. You don't have to be a rich Western geek to understand that filling your belly today doesn't guarantee a full belly tomorrow, and food aid is notorious for drying up once a current crisis is abated.

    These poor people need a leg-up, and they need it now. The emerging information market will forget they even exist if they don't learn how to interact with it on its own terms. Out of sight is out of mind, and out of mind is quickly dead and forgotten.
    • Over the years, a few US states and many individual school districts have experimented with one-student-one-computer, to general positive results

      Care to link to these positive results? I've only seen studies that show how overall useless, if not negative, computers are in the classroom, especially when you give them to students. They get broken easily, they're generally used in non-educational ways, and they're a big distraction. I doubt you can find some clear, unambiguous gains for students with laptops.

      • by loquacious d (635611) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @08:29PM (#15787896)

        The Alaska Association of School Boards is implementing a 1-1 laptop program [alaskaice.org], based on a similar successful program in Maine [convergemag.com] (which I believe has just gotten its funding renewed). From the executive summary of Maine's two-year retrospective report:

        In summary, the evidence collected for this evaluation indicates that a large majority of Maine's middle schools have successfully implemented the one-to-one laptop program, and there is already substantial self-reported evidence that student learning has increased and improved. Additional research needs to be conducted in the coming years to document and understand the long-term impacts of the laptop initiative on teachers and teaching, students and learning, and on schools.

        The report notes that there likely needs to be much more professional development and integration of technology into curricula, but it seems that even in its nascent stages the 1-1 program has helped keep students interested in and proactive about their learning, and improved the quality of their work.

        One neat thing about technology in schools is that it lets you do completely new kinds of schoolwork. A new kind of project that many of my English-teaching acquaintances are starting to like is the fake-novel-movie-adaptation-trailer, or artsy-literature-inspired-music-video. Going outside the bounds of the traditional two-page book report or reading journal really helps students think differently and more deeply about the subject (especially for students not compatible with the text-based US school system). Film also really lends itself to literary tropes like symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony. This kind of thinking is just not possible (or at least very difficult) without prevalent access to technology. I've heard anecdotally that music students love GarageBand for recording state honor band/choir audition tapes, or just for practicing in general (recording yourself is notoriously one of the best ways to figure out all the myriad ways you suck). And the sheer amount of good information and media available on the internet is rapidly rivaling even the best-equipped public school libraries.

        Obviously the $100 laptop isn't going to be a great video editing machine (though, if you can do it on an Amiga [wikipedia.org]...), but even the basic functions of word processing and Internet capability (the Wikipedia, for chrissake! how great would the world be if everyone had the Wikipedia?) have the capability to dramatically improve the baseline quality of education for developing populations.

        From my own experience, I have been lucky enough to use computers since I began school in the mid-80s, and I feel that they shaped my development in a very positive way. Computers are fantastic tools for teaching critical thinking, reading comprehension, model-forming and abstraction, mathematical concepts (especially geometry), and with the internet, efficient internalization of data from multiple sources. David Chalmers and Andy Clark have argued [consc.net] that external resources, when properly utilized, can effectively become part of our cognitive process. By teaching children to take advantage of the astounding power and resources that computers make available to them, we do them a far greater service than cramming multiplication tables and D'Nelian handwriting exercises [abcteach.com] down their throats for 180 days a year from the age of 5 to 13.

        After all, people should be generalists, [metafilter.com] and computers are the generalist's tool. What would we humans be without tools? Shivering, unathletic apes. $100 is cheap [mytoolstore.com] for a tool that

    • by Bastian (66383) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @10:44AM (#15790911)
      Over the years, a few US states and many individual school districts have experimented with one-student-one-computer, to general positive results. It's not without its detractors, of course, and I suspect that lately these programs have to a degree fallen under the wheels of the "teach toward the test" canflagration now sweeping the nation.


      As a former student of a school with a one-student-one-computer program, I'd like to point out that I'm not convinced by the positive results people are reporting. When you spend God-only-knows-how-much-money and muck around with kids' educations with a program like this, admitting you screwed up is just about the dumbest thing a person could possibly do. I can't speak for anyone else, but my high school really screwed up with that idea. That didn't stop the administrators from bragging and bragging and bragging as if these laptops had turned everyone into a genius child. (Rather than just being one more distraction.)

      The part of this whole computers-in-the-classroom thing that nobody seems to be getting is that a computer is not a solution. A computer is a tool. I place people who wave the computers in the class banner all the time in the same mental category as people who are convinced that $PROGRAMMING_LANGUAGE is a gift from God and perfect for every situation.

      If we want to fix up our schools, we should start by reviewing our crufty old educational plan that hasn't been revised for decades and basically ignores all major research on how people learn. Once we have a new plan, we can go about figuring out how to implement it. I'm sure that computers will be the best way to implement some details of the plan, but they should be used only for those things, and if it turns out that there's a better way to do something else (lectures, for example, are almost guaranteed to suck if PowerPoint is involved), then they should be avoided.

      But stuff like the OLPC program seem to work from the assumption that computers are this magic bullet that will instantly improve education - through some hand-wavy magic computron field, maybe?

      I agree, these people need a leg-up. I just worry that exporting this educational cargo cult we've been constructing for the past few years to countries that already have even more problems with education than us has more to do with tripping them into the mud than giving them a leg up.
  • - fear of change? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EnempE (709151)
    If your current marketable resource is cheap labour, why would you educate your populous with access to world media? Would this not just increase their expectations regarding an acceptable standard of living ? Would this not increase the level of communications between the youth with mesh networks bridging communinities? This level of communications could perhaps lead to a level of organisation that could be a powerful political force? Could this element upset your current long range planning for your coun
    • If your current marketable resource is cheap labour, why would you educate your populous with access to world media? Would this not just increase their expectations regarding an acceptable standard of living ?

      Some governments may think this way but you certainly cannot say this of India. India over the last century has moved more aggressively in the area of education than perhaps any developing nation. Moreover it has a very strong educational and literary tradition going back centuries, if not millenia

  • not one industrial country has so far implemented a similar program for its children, which casts doubt as to what the pedagogical use for notebooks in class really is
    The need for laptops like these is not so great in countries where there already are computers everywhere.
  • by kaoshin (110328) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:03PM (#15787480)
    There may be a better use of the money, but the bit about children's health is pretty lame. What do they think that kids will go blind? Reminds me of when my Mom used to tell me "Dont sit too close to the television set!". Even the eye doctors said crap like that. I started using computers as a child and my vision was also poor. My optometrist said that if I kept using computers constantly like I was then I would end up requiring glasses or corrective surgery or something. Even after an increased amount of usage (I now have multiple monitors in my face for 12+ hours a day) my vision has actually improved to 20/20. Am I genetically superior to most nerds, or was it all just a load of crap? I can understand my vision not changing, but how it actually got better by increasing the time and amount of radiation my eyes are exposed to IMPROVED my vision boggles the mind. Socially though, they may be correct. I'm not a fat nerd, but if you get into computers you will have to work with fat nerds, and who wants that? Besides, I'd rather discourage Indians from learning computers because they seem to be taking all my jobs from me. So yeah, I say they should maybe punish children who use computers, perhaps with a shocking monkey.
    • There may be a better use of the money, but the bit about children's health is pretty lame. What do they think that kids will go blind? Reminds me of when my Mom used to tell me "Dont sit too close to the television set!". Even the eye doctors said crap like that. I started using computers as a child and my vision was also poor. My optometrist said that if I kept using computers constantly like I was then I would end up requiring glasses or corrective surgery or something. Even after an increased amount of

  • not one industrial country has so far implemented a similar program for its children, which casts doubt as to what the pedagogical use for notebooks in class really is

    One effect is to distract the students with email, instant messaging, games, web surfing, porn, cracking into other computers, anything but pay attention to the material which is, obviously, not conducive to learning. [sciencedaily.com]

  • And introduces a more advanced, grand and definitely a more cost-effective 'Kill Off Those Without Laptops' program.
  • From TFA:
    • It [the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development] also finds it intriguing as to "why no developed country has been chosen" for MIT's OLPC experiment "given the fact that most of the developed world is far from universalising the possession and use of laptops among children of 6-12 age group".

    That's because Negroponte, like the people who adopt from China or Korea, still believes in the White Man's Burden [gmu.edu]. It's racisim and elitism and imperialism, pure and simple. An undiluted form of bi

  • ..to think the word "books"? Really, this isn't rocket surgery here. This is one of the primary uses of these proposed laptops, cheap e books easily shared and duplicated, to go to areas where a SINGLE dead trees book is an expensive luxury. It's right in their proposals! I'd call that a "pedagogical use".
  • lord (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danzigism (881294) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @07:26PM (#15787591)
    i think they just need to market the damn things.. i'd gladly pay $150-200 for one, for my kid.. just manufacture them damnit!! i think the idea is great to give kids these things and all, but i'd rather buy the kids tons of books and put the money in to providing them a good education, with good teachers and a nice working environment..
  • Far better (in my mind) than one laptop per child is simply "one computer per classroom" for third world countries, and make sure that computer has a huge monitor, backup power, and an internet connection of reasonable bandwidth.

    I say this because having access to current information -- especially when presented in contextually-rich ways, such as google earth et al -- is a tremendous teaching tool that a good instructor can use to teach more effectively. On the other hand, putting individual machines in the
  • Given that we haven't heard more about this since then I am not taking it too seriously. Here in Brazil we have lots of similar articles where some government official is interviewed and claims "Brazil rejects OLPC". But that official is not involved in the decision process and those who are continue to be very positive about it.
  • Apparently the Indian government isn't going to bow to what the white folks think is best for them. Good for India! Negroponte has deigned to create a solution in search of a problem, but his "beneficiaries" have other ideas.

  • 1. one laptop per child demands a hell of a lot in terms of teacher training. Any such program would have to be gradually introduced, as most teachers have never used a computer themselves, forget using it as an educational tool.

    2. i highly doubt the laptop supports all of India's 33-odd "recognized languages", disregarding others commonly taught in schools (Arabic, Farsi, etc). The vernacular lobbies would have a field day claiming that the government is deliberately excluding their languages. Which is a v
  • by jalfreize (173125) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @07:47AM (#15789966) Journal
    In India, there are basically two kinds of schools -- the high tuition, exclusive schools run by Christian Convents or rich, privately funded educational institutions, and the 'municipal' schools run by the government.
    Most children that go to the former category of schools come from middle class/upper class families and already have access to computers at home.
    Presumably, the OLPC program is for the second type of schools, which mostly children who live close to or below the poverty line attend. Most of these schools will have teachers who have never used computers, and who are likely to resent any drastic technological change such as computers in the classroom.
    So, along with an OLPC program, the government would have to run a massive teacher-education program to teach the use of these computers in the classroom -- not to mention overhauling the coursework so that it makes effective use of these machines.
    In addition, the government would have to put in place infrastructure to service and repair these laptops at affordable prices throughout India.
    All of this to be done in a country of more than a billion people speaking hundreds of known languages and dialects.
    When you think of these factors, those laptops are going to cost way more than the 100$ MIT claims.
    I could go on and on about the fallacies of this scheme, but clearly, it would be crazy for India to adopt it at this point in time.
    The government has wisely rubbished OLPC. India cannot progress from slates and chalks to laptop computers in one stroke. It has to progress at an organic rate and accept technology in education gradually, ensuring the teachers are comfortable with it before it gets to the children.
  • by vhogemann (797994) <.moc.nnamegoh. .ta. .rotciv.> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @08:52AM (#15790151) Homepage
    I recommend you to take a look at the OLPC site (http://www.laptop.org).

    The project is amazing, it's not just about handling a laptop to a child... They're producing a collaborative environment called Sugar (using GTK, Gecko and Python), to help children share content. Also, they're working on educational content, and educational applications.

    The mesh network idea is just incredible, it will make possible to the children create their own content, and share it with their colleages even where there's no access to the internet, since the wireless card keeps on running even when the laptop is on sleep state. It also make it possible to share internet access throght a large area, since every laptop act as a router.

    It's really fantastic, and you can see that there is a real commitment behind this. And, since everything is OpenSource, YOU can help them! You can contribute wiht code, or content, or ideas!

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