One Laptop per Child

I heard a lot of skeptical comments about MIT’s 100 dollar laptop project on a recent research trip to Prato, particularly from the Brazilian participants. Everyone talks about a “digital divide”. So it’s easy to assume that’s all that’s needed to solve the problem is the right gadgets which would allow poor/black/developing country people to “cross” the divide and join the information society.
So since then I’ve been reading more about the MIT project, which is officially called the One Laptop per Child project (OLPC). Seymour Papert comments in his column on the project wiki that the project is really about children, and complains that most media attention on the project fixates on decisions that have been made about hardware and software.
In relation to literacy, there are some predictably geeky ideas to be seen on the project website – teaching Esperanto, translating the interface into Klingon and so on.
Since the design of the devices and the software they come with will constitute something of a global curriculum for the children in these countries, it’s worth looking at the assumptions that are currently informing the designs. I found it interesting that the project seems to be founded on similar ideas to those I’ve encountered South Africa’s Khanya project.
Read more about the project’s educational assumptions