Monday, February 11, 2008
One Laptop Per Child
I had heard about this project, and seen news items about it, so when a friend of a friend had one of the 'One laptop per child' laptops in the pub on Saturday I was wildly excited to get my hands on it.
The person the laptop belonged to is a self confessed computer geek who explained to me that for a short period of time the laptops had been available to buy in the USA, the makers of them knowing that such people would be excited to get hold of them, and would be the very people able to help the project in terms of programming etc. The person this one belongs to has already managed to get msn installed and working as well as firefox. He'd also, somehow discovered that the makers have installed the whole of Hitch Hikers Guide to the galaxy on them in a form that enables you to pull up random quotes.
I'm not techy enough to answer detailed questions about the specification, but it quickly became clear that was an advantage in learning to use the laptop as everyone else present was in some way involved in the computer industry, but I found the laptop easier to use, which apparently is the intention. The size of my hands also helped, but even though is a laptop designed for little hands, and as such I found it much easier to use than a standard keyboard, it still needs work in that area.
The laptops are incredibly robust, as they have to be, and are also nice and lightweight, the source of much amusement from Ziggy who suggested one might be suitable for me as it would be difficult to break. He had to attempt to fix my pc after it met with a nasty accident involving (we think) a cup of tea and my falling over. These laptops would survive such abuse and unlike my pc would not melt inside.
The holes you can see in the carrying handle are so a child can thread a ribbon, or piece of string through and sling it over their shoulder, or it can just be carried in a similar fashion to a lunchbox.
It has many applications on it that would be exciting to children (as well as geeky adults!) including those to draw and make music with. There is even an oscilloscope on there. There is a webcam of excellent quality and all manner of educational programmes preloaded.
Unfortunately they are no longer available to buy in the way this one was, which was under an initial scheme that meant you had to buy two, one for yourself, and one for a child in a developing country, but there are facilities to donate on the One Laptop Per Child site.
Overall, I can't help but feel there are more important priorities such as health, peace and food, but the vision of this project is incredible, as are the laptops and it was very exciting to see in action.
Edit: I should have included a bit more detail in this post about the One laptop per child project. It's a project intended to bring technology to the developing world, the laptops are a very low specification designed to be powered from whatever is available, solar generators, car engine batteries, anything can be converted to charge them. They are soley for educational purposes and so come pre loaded with a the school's curriculum for say a term, then can all be updated at once. They aren't the kind of laptop you'd buy for a child in the developed world who would want to surf the internet, play games on it etc.