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Education Hardware

OLPC a Hit in Remote Peruvian Village 187

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the whatever-turns-your-crank dept.
mrcgran writes "The Chicago Tribune is running a feel-good story about the effects of OLPC on a remote village in Peru. 'Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago. At breakfast, they're already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits. At night, they're dozing off in front of them — if they've managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines. Peru made the single biggest order to date — more than 272,000 machines — in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed.'"
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OLPC a Hit in Remote Peruvian Village

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:44PM (#21809644) Homepage Journal
    Which may worry some people in power when impressionable children have access to all kinds of corrupting influences. "Daddy, what is 'capitalism'?" or "Teacher, why don't I have freedom of the press like my friends in America?"

    I predict some kind of censorship - under the cover of 'protecting' them, of course - within a year.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MPAB (1074440)
      Was the title [wikipedia.org] chosen intentionally?
    • by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:56PM (#21809724)
      and I think your comment gets to the heart of what the OLPC is supposed to be- a liberating device that can bring the internet to everyone, regardless of geographic location... what if one of these kids turns out to have the brainpower of an Einstein or a Hawking? If they have internet access, the world may be able to recognize them in ways that it couldn't before.
      • The older I get, the more convinced I become that many people gifted with truly exceptional intellects are frequently so discouraged by life that they essentially withdraw from society, functioning at what might be considered a "bare minimum" for most of their lives. I guess you could say the lucky ones find themselves in the right place, at the right time, with the right opportunities to excel presented to them. Sometimes all it takes is one opportunity.

        On the other hand, the world has always been this way, and always will be as long as we're human in terms of how the word is defined now. It's sad to think about what might have been lost already in our brief history, so I like to focus on the good in this world. In my opinion, any efforts geared toward bettering the education of a society are worthwhile.

        • by mr.hawk (222616) on Monday December 24, 2007 @07:33PM (#21810402) Homepage
          The older I get, the more convinced I become that many people gifted with truly exceptional intellects are frequently so discouraged by life that they essentially withdraw from society, functioning at what might be considered a "bare minimum" for most of their lives.

          I think you could easily generalize this to include any individual that is not in the right place. Doesn't matter if it's maths, sports, crafts, arts, music or whatever else their good at. A good environment which fosters diversity and recognizes special skills makes all the difference.

          Unfortunately it's probably impossible to cater to those that fall very far from the center of the mainstream.

          What I'm trying to say is that society should - IMHO - constantly strive to encourage and recognize diversity.
          • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday December 24, 2007 @10:09PM (#21811354)

            What I'm trying to say is that society should - IMHO - constantly strive to encourage and recognize diversity.
            And obviously a top down, monolithic, state run education system is a great way to accomplish that.
             
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by 1u3hr (530656)
              What I'm trying to say is that society should - IMHO - constantly strive to encourage and recognize diversity.
              And obviously a top down, monolithic, state run education system is a great way to accomplish that.

              Yes, because a completly private education system means that only the children of aristocrats can get or afford a quality education, the peasants' children mostly get none and end up as stoop labourers or factory fodder. A few very bright (or just lucky in who they know) will get scholarshops, but

    • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:56PM (#21809732)
      Did you think of all that in the designated free speech zone?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:01PM (#21809770)
      If you think that Peru is a commie state, your level of education is quite low, we are a free country ( and we have largely defeated those murderous commie pinkos called shining path ( I spit on the ground just thinking about that nefarious name) we have freedom of press, better news reporting than the ones I see in the US, the education outside the big cities is largely low BECAUSE of the lack of government interest, try visiting peru soime day, the biggest source of corruption there is from the government, not the other way around.
      • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:09PM (#21809836) Homepage Journal

        biggest source of corruption there is from the government, not the other way around.
        Yeah, that's what he said: capitalism.

    • Which may worry some people in power when impressionable children have access to all kinds of corrupting influences. "Daddy, what is 'capitalism'?" or "Teacher, why don't I have freedom of the press like my friends in America?"
      And therein lies one of the biggest problems with this toy: Rather than a tool to teach basic education skills, it's primary use is as a political propaganda tool.
    • by MBCook (132727)

      If it takes a year, don't you think it will be too late. Some of the kids will have already learned the concepts by then. They'll share the knowledge. Other kids (and adults) will hear about these concepts, and research them. Don't you think they'd notice that what they used to be able to look up, now they can't? Don't you think they'd question this?

      If they wanted to do that, then a year is far too long. It will be too late by then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)
      Huh? Are you crazy or ignornat? Peru is a capitalist country since about Fujimori's term in the 80s. The "shining path" that you slyly mention in your post title is a failed marxist movement. I cant imagine the various olpc countries having such a problem with the olpc, especially Perum perhaps with the exception of libya. Peruvians know that communism is a bad idea, doesnt scale, and has been a worldwide failure which usually leads into massive human rights violations and mass starvation, comrade.
    • Which may worry some people in power when impressionable children have access to all kinds of corrupting influences. "Daddy, what is 'capitalism'?" or "Teacher, why don't I have freedom of the press like my friends in America?"

      Well, this is the point of OLPC to teach different kinds of things, including these.

      You know, several years later, some of them may decide that blowing yourself up in the crowd is not such a good idea...

  • Education (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:46PM (#21809670) Homepage Journal
    Education is extremely important. All those saying "well, what they really need is better medicine, food, etc." what I have to say is: Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by phillips321 (955784)
      i'd like to see how fishing is done with a laptop....(even though i agree with your comment)
    • by eln (21727) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:56PM (#21809720) Homepage
      Give a man Internet access, and he'll surf porn all day and starve to death.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        By creating that opportunity, we could remove any genetic tendency for it from future generations. Would be wonderful.
    • by DrSkwid (118965)
      He'll eat until the fish run out, then wonder what he can do now he's destroyed the ecosystem, that's if he hasn't died of mercury poisoning first.
    • for them,
      "give a man firewood and he'll be warm for a day.
      Burn a man to death and he'll be warm for the rest of his life".

      I think it's called winning "hearts and minds", and works about as well as one would expect.
  • ob (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:46PM (#21809672) Homepage Journal
    Huh? I thought they'd concluded it was a meteorite? [guardian.co.uk]
  • Too early? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DefenderThree (920248) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:57PM (#21809740)
    I hate to be a buzzkill, but I think it's too early to start praising the success of the XOs just yet. Kids love new things, especially things that look like toys. It's no surprise that they're getting so much attention right now, especially since they just came in. Let's see a story in a few months or so about the Peruvian XOs and their educational benefits once the novelty wears off and the laptops start having problems that the kids will have to fix.
    • Re:Too early? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HaloZero (610207) <protodekaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:03PM (#21809792) Homepage
      And in this we'll see the XO version of a 'geek' - the power user who is more apt at correcting an outstanding issue with the OLPC than his or her peers. He has a problem, and it's fixed. His buddy has the same problem. 'Hey, let me look at that for you.' Fixed. Social skills on the up-and-coming, hopefully more successful than the rest of us.

      Christmas eve and I'm in the office. What a fucking loser.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      Let's see a story in a few months or so about the Peruvian XOs and their educational benefits once the novelty wears off and the laptops start having problems that the kids will have to fix.

      From the article you didn't read...

      50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

      And...

      For every 100 units it will distribute to students, Peru is buying one extra for parts. But there is no tech support program. Students and teachers will have to do it. "What you want is f

      • Re:Too early? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DrSkwid (118965) on Monday December 24, 2007 @07:24PM (#21810348) Homepage Journal
        One interesting feature of Mumbai life I recently witnessed is the pavement mobile phone fixing shop; soldering iron, some manuals, a few broken phones and it's a working handset from a box of scrap.

        • Re:Too early? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hey! (33014) on Monday December 24, 2007 @08:41PM (#21810828) Homepage Journal

          One interesting feature of Mumbai life I recently witnessed is the pavement mobile phone fixing shop; soldering iron, some manuals, a few broken phones and it's a working handset from a box of scrap.


          Child's play, really, for the country that produced Srinivasa Ramanujan.

          The most exciting thing about this project is the number of potential geniuses in the world who heretofore have had little or no access, or only one way access to information.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ConanG (699649)
          I made a visit to Africa on a U.S. Aid ship this year. One of the microwaves died during the voyage (wasn't a fuse, I checked). I was up there waiting for a shipmate so we could go out and get a drink. As soon as we pulled in, the cook dropped the microwave off at the gangway for one of the apprentices to throw out. Before he took five steps, one of the Benin dock workers asked for it and he sold it for I think five dollars.

          We thought I had seen the last of that microwave, but I was wrong. Shortly after, my
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "Let's see a story in a few months or so about the Peruvian XOs and their educational benefits once the novelty wears off and the laptops start having problems that the kids will have to fix."

      The geeks among them (there will always be geeks) will use the working lappies to learn how to fix the borked ones, and that will be just as valuable to them as similar experience was to us.
  • A nice rebuttal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:58PM (#21809748)
    Some mean spirited folks have been praying the OLPC is a disaster. Yes the OLPC has competition now from Intel and ASUS, but those programs wouldn't have existed without the OLPC. I hope in years to come OLPC is a huge success. Negroponte deserves karma for trying something that can help many lives. The naysayers meanwhile can should back to their Plasma TVs watching American Idol.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:59PM (#21809752)
    Most of the talk on tech sites has focused on Microsoft trying to stuff their unwanted OS onto the laptop and getting the hardware specs increased to handle their OS, but there is a strange and sad reaction that I see to the laptop that mirrors the reaction to universal health care:

    Poor people are supposed to be poor.

    You can't have winners in life when there are no losers. Poor people are supposed to be sitting around in filth like Michael Palin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And poor people are supposed to sit around in public hospitals for hours waiting for substandard care and dying early. That's their job in life.

    How can a white middle to upper class American feel smug about themselves when poor people are getting the same care as they are and have access to information technology to better their lot in life?

    • by Catbeller (118204)
      And the public hospitals are being demolished in New Orleans, along with the public schools. The Heritage Foundation large and in charge, telling the poor to get the hell out.
    • by chatgris (735079) on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:46PM (#21810106) Homepage
      > How can a white middle to upper class American feel smug about themselves when poor people are getting the same care as they are and have access to information technology to better their lot in life?

      They can't when they might work hard to earn their better care and technology, and others just think they are entitled to it because they are poor. I scrimp and save every penny to put myself through school, without any government assistance or student loans. I don't smoke or drink. The "poor" students at my university, who go out to pubs a couple times a week and smoke, put spare time into volunteering, then complain about being too poor to pay for education, expect taxpayers (like myself) to fund their lifestyles for them.

      I agree it's a whole different ballgame in Africa. But on a domestic scale, when I do without to save up so that I can get something better, it doesn't automatically mean that I should subsidize those who spend all of their disposable income, or subsidize those who think that us "nerds" are stupid for all of our hard work when they regularly go out and party.

      I don't have a social life, I work very hard to look after myself, save diligently, and as such I am well off financially as compared to my peers. Now I should just give my money to others?

      And yes, I'm white and male. I apologise, because it seems lately that it's something I should be ashamed of. Even though I started off with less than most of my peers.

      • by uhlume (597871)

        And yes, I'm white and male. I apologise, because it seems lately that it's something I should be ashamed of.


        No, you should be ashamed for being a self-righteous prick, overfond of broad generalizations about people he doesn't know.
      • Because of people like you, it's more just to base taxation on luxury expenditures rather than to income. I don't know if that's practical or not.
      • and yet the citizens of other countries (i'm assuming you're an american) manage to supply free health care and education to all.
    • by Cal Paterson (881180) * on Monday December 24, 2007 @07:05PM (#21810224)

      You can't have winners in life when there are no losers.
      You really, really need to learn some economic theory. To put it bluntly and briefly: one party does not have to lose in order for another to win. Go read Adam Smith.
      • by gomoX (618462)
        While he reads Adam Smith you should go read some newspapers.
        • I do. [slashdot.org] In fact, I have read at at least one newspaper each day since I was 11; and read it in an essentially cover-to-cover manner, excluding sports sections etc.

          And, since I go by my real name on the internet, I'm willing to put my name and reputation by that. If you think there aren't many examples of mutual trade benefiting both parties, you need to read the newspapers.
          • by gomoX (618462)
            I guess since you put your "reputation" on the line you are necessarily right ? How is that an argument? You can come up with my real name in about 2 seconds if you really care about it.

            The point is that no matter if it's possible or not to have a trade benefit both parties, there are many secondary costs involved which are generally where the trade-off happens. It's pretty clear that except in very few cases, 2 parties will sign an agreement if and only if they are both taking advantage of it. Still, you c
            • You are extrapolating my original point far further than I did, complete with bungled analogies and a poor grasp of my original point. You may also enjoy the third paragraph of this page [wikipedia.org].

              My original point was "one party does not have to lose in order for another to win.". I certainly did not make the point that there were "no losers" in a competitive system. I know my point would have been easy to disprove if it had been absolutist: but (unfortunately, for your straw man argument) it was not absolutist
      • by Carewolf (581105)
        And you really need to learn basic psychology. It is not the your absolute level of wealth that matters, it is how rich you are compared to others.
      • by Beliskner (566513)

        You can't have winners in life when there are no losers.

        Download the book Adam Smith Wealth of Nations [gutenberg.org] but also remember that while Capitalism benefits the wealth of the whole and the majority of participants it does not guarantee the increased wealth of all participants in particular countries with little resources and an unskilled low productivity labour force that have no money to purchase internet backbone/wireless routers even worse if landlocked by hostile countries that do not permit trade such as

  • by jg (16880) on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:12PM (#21809860) Homepage
    Carla Gomez's trip report had prepared me intellectually for what I would find when I visited in mid-October, but nothing can really convey the emotional impact. Here are some of the notes I took talking with the teachers. This was about 4-5 months after the trial started, using our B2 systems which were much slower and much inferior software. Sometime, maybe I'll have a few minutes to blog about it.

    Impact on students and teachers in Arahuay

    I took as complete notes as I could talking with each of the teachers in turn (unfortunately, I forgot to get their names); translation slowed things enough that I believe the notes are pretty complete, though it may have also introduced errors. They echo Carla's excellent report, but are now months later:

    Two children have come to the Arahuay school specifically because of the laptops who would not have previously attended.

    The children are sharing much more: they take pictures and videos and share them.

    The children are teachers too.

    The teachers see much improved conduct. One child (who often arrives hungry) who has been sad and aggressive now loves to work on the OLPC. He is working more with other children and his behavior has improved.

    One of the children has vision problems; is cross eyed and has one damaged eye (Carla will remember the child, I'm sure). Using the laptop has improved the child's ability to focus her eyes and work.

    Another teacher noted that small children, ages 6-7, are learning much faster. The web browser is the most popular/important activity, followed by the camera.

    The activities they use most are the browser, paint, calculator, write.

    The children use the internet to find information of interest.

    One child, who is from Lima, has learned much in Arahuay and is very happy about the OLPC.

    Another teacher said the children have changed: they have more concentration, mental ability.

    The children's concept reception is much better than before. Despite the use of US keyboards (all we had at the time), the children have had little problem adapting, and have figured out all they keys.

    A third teacher said the internet is the most interesting.

    The children are showing more abilities, are more creative, their behavior is better.

    The children were selfish about the computers at first, but now share and discover with them, showing the teachers and other students what they have discovered.

    Children who had previously been interested in power (bully?) have forgotten power and are sharing.

    The children are showing better attention and organization.

    Students are learning about the world, and now feel part of it. They are now interested in learning other languages, which they had not wanted to do before. Creating a web site on Arahuay has made them feel part of the world. Impact on the teachers:

    They have started to research topics on the internet and have practiced to use the computer.

    The teachers have more ways to plan and improve the class.

    Another teacher said the computer was wonderful for her. Information on the internet had improved both her and the children.

    Their jobs are easier now.

    One of the teachers asked for mind-mapper software, which they have used. We should install freemind on the servers and explore how feasible it is for packaging as an activity (it is Java based).

    But the high point was the eight year old girl who came up to me shyly and gave me a kiss....

    BTW, if anyone speaks Quechua or Aymara (or other languages), please help at: https://dev.laptop.org/translate/.

    Please come help!

    - Jim Gettys, OLPC

    • by Catbeller (118204)
      You know, with so much to be negative about... it's so good to see this happening. And shining proof that people anywhere are ready to step up, given the shot. If you give children the tools, they will build you a new world. They don't need charity as much as they need access. They're going to surprise us all.

      As for the we-should-worry-about-their-food-first crowd, well, appears Abraham Maslow still has something to teach us.
    • by fv (95460) * <fyodor@insecure.org> on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:29PM (#21809966) Homepage

      Thanks for the notes, and I'm delighted to hear about the successes that OLPC is having (even if you haven't yet met your initial distribution goals). It is great to read articles like this one about improving the lives of thousands of kids in Peru.

      Given the network capabilities of this machine, we are working to ensure that the Nmap Security Scanner [insecure.org] continues to work well on the OLPC. Maybe someday it can be included, though that raises the issue of kids using it responsibly. Still, it can be quite useful for debugging network connectivity issues as well as testing that their own machines are secure. A side effect of this work is that keeps Nmap lean and working well on low-resource PCs, phones, and PDAs besides the OLPC.

      On Friday we received the three units we ordered through give-one-get-one and I've been playing with mine ever since! Yesterday I took and posted a bunch of pictures of the device [insecure.org].

      Keep up the good work!
      Fyodor [insecure.org]

    • That just made my Christmas.

      And sorry, I don't speak Quechua or Aymara but I do know a few Elvish phrases. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:17PM (#21809894)
    You know, it's almost enough to make an old geek cry, imagining these kids learning about computers and becoming proto-geeks, who otherwise might have lived their entire lives without ever seeing a laptop or using the internet.
  • by supersat (639745) on Monday December 24, 2007 @07:10PM (#21810262)
    While I'm a fan of the OLPC project (I'm writing this on my own XO laptop), and think it has the potential to improve education dramatically, the article didn't say much about how the laptop has affected learning. Sure, the kids love them, but aside from mentioning that many of them aspire to be something other than farmers, there wasn't much evidence presented that the laptop improved education.
    • Well, does anyone claim this will improve the learning? I don't know, i thought this was more about making education cheaper in the long run and all the other features as ways of making the children more aware of the world that surrounds them, and in that way being an important part of their education.
    • This is something that's worried me about the OLPC project from the get go. I get the distinct feeling that it was an idea that didn't get all the way thought through. For instance, laptop initiatives in the US and the rest of the developed world have had a very spotty record of success, and although you can't compare apples to oranges, I'm a bit concerned.

      For instance, what exactly is the educational value of a network-aware paint application? Considering that the most commonly used applications are pai
  • by kbahey (102895) on Monday December 24, 2007 @08:40PM (#21810822) Homepage
    Elsewhere in this thread, you will find a comment [slashdot.org] by jg (Jim Gettys). It has many things that at first I believed to be exaggerations, or just a glowing review from an OLPC staffer.

    But, I found that all of what he said is present in detail, and pictures, on Carla Gomez's OLPC in Arahuay [laptop.org].

    Really eye opening. Keep up the good work all.

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