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OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)

The author learned about OLPC while working on the latter stages of this book.  This organization seeks to provide inexpensive (in terms of construction cost and energy use) laptops worldwide to students from 6-12 years of age.  They focus on five core principles.  The first is child ownership.  The child owns the laptop.  Students have possession of these laptops outside of school, so that learning and teaching can take place anywhere (laptops can unitize solar power as well as a battery).  .  Ownership includes protecting, maintaining and sharing this learning tool.  This ownership develops a sense of responsibility.

The second principle is that of low age.  As stated above, the age range is from 6 to 12 years, children in elementary school.  Learners of other ages are not excluded however.  There is a strong focus on fun as the basis of learning.  Applications are included the facilitate the acquisition of  new skills, such as reading and writing.  There is an annual assessment of student performance.  This assessment is portfolio-based and provides learners with the opportunity to exhibit their growth as learners.

The third principle is saturation.  OLPC is dedicated to providing laptops to children in Third World nations.  Their goal is to achieve a level of “digital saturation” that is best for a given area.  This would mean that every student and teacher in a given area would have a laptop.  Furthermore, digital saturation would lead to a community focus on education.  Students and teachers would receive support from individuals, groups and institutions around them.  This, in turn, leads to better connectivity within the community.

The fourth principle is connection.  Laptops provided by OLPC are provided with a wireless network connection that can be accessed from anywhere within the community.  Thus, learners will have Internet access at home, just as they do at school.  This connection is automatic and includes a chat application as well as network and Internet access .  Students can always be in touch with teachers, friends and peers to share work, art or ideas.  OLPC seeks to create an expanded school, which extends beyond physical walls.

The fifth principal OLPC (and the principle that led to their inclusion in this book) is that of free and open source tools.  OLPC firmly believes that learning is a collaborative process that involves students working as both learners and teachers.  This generates a learning community in which new ideas are developed.  Towards this end, there are no restrictions regarding the modification of OLPC software and hardware.  There are also no restrictions on the redistribution of said hardware and software.  This organization provides a wonderful opportunity for the deployment of educational technology now in regions of the world where it was heretofore believed to be a goal of the future.