I regularly read a blog called "Groundswell" by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. A recent post discussed the XO machine being built to provide social computing for children around the world. The initiative is called OLPC (one laptop at a time). Yahoo News described OLPC and it’s founder Nicholas Negroponte as: "The
founder of MIT’s legendary Media Lab wants to provide low-cost laptop
computers to as many children as possible in every developing nation." Josh Bernoff mentioned a few things that make the machine unique. He also has an interesting post about his interview with Nicholas Negroponte.
There is controversy around the machine. The New York Times article " For $150 Third World Laptop Stirs Debate" published this quote from Larry Cuban, a Stanford University education professor: “I think it’s wonderful that the machines can be put in the hands of
children and parents, and it will have an impact on their lives if they
have access to electricity. However, if part of their
rationale is that it will revolutionize education in various countries,
I don’t think it will happen, and they are naïve and innocent about the
reality of formal schooling.”
Intel is also working on a low cost education notebook for developing countries. The press release from 2006 had the following information:
"Intel’s small notebook PC design for students, code-named “Eduwise,” is
the result of extensive ethnographic research to provide an affordable,
collaborative learning environment specifically for teachers and young
students in developing communities."
All I can say is that I hope the programs work. The image of children around the world collaborating, communicating and having access to information is an amazing one. And maybe a good step towards formal education.