One Laptop Per Child

Apr 302006
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Next year, every school-aged child in Nigeria will own a laptop.

That’s the plan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the One Laptop Per Child organization (OLPC).

MIT students and faculty have produced a Linux laptop that will start on the market at a $135. Operating on only two watts of power, the laptop will be charged with a hand crank or foot pedal.

The laptop can function as a regular laptop with a word processor, Internet access and peer-to-peer software, or as an electronic book.

In January, the United Nations voiced its support for the plan and pledged to help distribute the laptops when they are ready.

The laptop plan has received criticism from Bill Gates, some assume due to the use of a Linux operating system. Many feel the laptop will not have enough programs to be truly useful.

Even my middle school students were critical of the plan. They said we should send food to Africa, not computers.

Food is important. But if wealthy nations provide basic resources alone, poor nations will develop at a snail’s pace, if at all. The educational prospects of OLPC are key to bringing undeveloped countries to first world status.

Technology improves achievement in at-risk populations. In the United States, technology is a great resource for disadvantaged children.

Poudre School District places students who fail a grade twice into an online learning program as opposed to the typical classroom environment.

My students, at an average level, demonstrate greater attention and learning when completing Web quests online.

Books are not readily available in developing countries. Paper, pencils and other basic school supplies are not exactly abundant.

The laptops are designed to work as e-books as well as laptops, allowing students to own all the books they need for study and the ability to take those books home at night.

The peer-to-peer file sharing on these laptops would allow students to practice their writing and complete assignments without the need for common school supplies and then transmit assignments to their teacher for grading.

The Internet holds a wealth of information, especially if students are taught how to find credible sources.

Teachers could provide students with information unavailable before and students could explore subjects of personal interest through Internet connections.

Undeveloped countries will catch up with the rest of the world much more quickly if students of today learn how to use technology.

Children pick up technology quickly and on their own. A head start for them in school will secure high-tech jobs and greater development in their countries down the road.

Ben Bleckley is a senior majoring in English education. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.

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