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Of course, communication infrastructure is one of the first targets of any invading military force to control or destroy. Therefore, one may say, a nationwide cellular network would not survive the depredations of any military force.


While NN may now think this is now just a laptop project, and be ready to turn it over to Gates... we are getting open systems into the field, so forget what they want to do down the road and take some ownership over what you can toward the 'original' OLPC mission right now. Everything missing from the packages now, especially in the way of lesson plans, software, textbooks, experiments, etc., YOU can help supply!!!.
Lee, this is another step in the right direction, but I'm looking for more... If you don't want to wade into the olpc wiki, start up your own educational computing stamp collectors wiki and/or forum and run it like your old club, targeting it toward small and large systems, from linux phones, PDA's, XOs, Deskmates, all the way up to clusters. (hmmm.. XO cluster...) Be the bridge between the ivory towers and the villages! I'm sure Waylan will keep it linked in for reference to olpc folks, whichever way you take it.

John Huelsenbeck

I like this entry, and just want to comment on your stamp collecting analogy using phylogenetics. Your comments are right on. I started work in phylogenetics around 1990. (Your brother was central to my development in the field. He responds to e-mail correspondence within minutes, it seems, and he answered many of my early, dumb, questions with patience.) The field was not treated very seriously for a long time, and I believe that many people who were working in the area in the 1970's and 1980's had difficulty being funded. It is remarkable how the field of bioinformatics has essentially grown up around phylogenetics. I think many of us who were working in the area 15 to 20 years ago feel a little like Chance the gardener (Peter Sellers) in "Being There"; the utterances of stamp collectors are now respected by people interested in making sense of genomic data.


One of the first article that i have found about the OLPC-XO had a profond effect on me. In it was a statement by M. Negroponte that all of this was not about a laptop but about an education project. A new way of empowering the children in third world country by giving them a learning tool that they could use in and out of school to gain new knowledge and aquire new skill that where previously out of reach for them.

Before reading it, the XO was just another piece of clever technologie to play with.

I believe that you are right about the need to get more peoples from the education world involve in the project. A lot of work needs to be done to make this tool as effective as possible.

People like me are usually more incline to dig into the technical aspect and to often forget about the actual "mission" of a device like the XO.

Thanks to the ideas of peoples like you we, sometimes, get back to earth and start tinking in the right direction.

Alexandre Enkerli

Quite refreshing!
I happen to be testing out an OLPC XO-1 (loan from a friend) and reading documentation by and about the OLPC. Was getting increasingly concerned that people close to the project were shutting out dissenting voices and that few people outside the project had a nuanced view of what it really was.
I first found some thoughtful comments through Erik Hersman's White African blog (including Binyavanga Waiwaina's Bidoun piece). Then I found your blog through a comment left on one of the OLPC FAQs.
I'm an ethnographer and a (university level) teacher. As it so happens, I was raised by a practicing constructivist and I can relate to social constructivism in many learning/teaching situations. Yet, I'm quite uneasy about the approach favored by the OLPC people. It does sound as if they were experimenting blindly, without even paying lipservice to *current* research in pedagogy, educational psychology, or educational technology. It sounds as if they all live in a bubble and get defensive any time someone applies critical thinking or creativity to their pet project.
Your stamp collector analogy seems fitting. Those who have done the groundwork are willing to help, easy to reach, and able to work. Why are they not heard? Such a high-profile project needs to collaborate with the largest number of people possible. Of course, I would include teachers, social scientists, and academics from the "host countries."
I still get excited by the OLPC's original mission. Not because I think laptops are the best way to help children all around the world. But because it could help everyone have an honest conversation about learning and cross-cultural communication.
Too bad the OLPC is now a technology project...

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About Lee Felsenstein

  • Based in Silicon Valley, Lee currently does electronic product development, due diligence, expert witness assistance as well as speaking engagements and participation in conferences such as the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences. The most unusual places he has spoken were at the Waag in Amsterdam and a squat in Milan, Italy. He was named the 2007 "Editor's Choice" in the Awards for Creative Excellance made by EE Times magazine. He holds 12 patents to date.