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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.
  • 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.
  • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:56PM (#21809732)
    Did you think of all that in the designated free speech zone?
  • 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.
  • 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?

  • es:Pesca (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:02PM (#21809784) Homepage Journal

    i'd like to see how fishing is done with a laptop
    1. Read articles about fishing in Spanish Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].
    2. Explore the articles' references.
    3. Teach yourself to fish.
    4. Catch fish.
    5. Sell fish.
    6. PROFIT!
    Am I missing a step???
  • Re:Education (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:12PM (#21809856)
    So you want to teach the kids how to set up power plants and water infrastructure?
  • 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.
  • Re:Education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:25PM (#21809932) Homepage

    I'll ignore all the normal arguments (like the fact there are other groups working on that kind of stuff). Let me ask you this:

    Which is better? A disruptive technology now, or an infrastructure in 40 years?

    If you give the kids laptops now, they learn to learn. They learn some physics. They learn some science. They learn some this, they learn some that. They are like renaissance people, learning a little about everything. They get the benefit of being able to look up the solutions other cultures have come up for to fix problem. They can improve their world in the next few years, even if in small ways. As they get older and more kid go through things, things improve. Some kids break out of the cycle, and they may decide to help donate to get others out.

    Option two is to put up schools. We'll ignore the problem of keeping the funding going. You make the schools. If you can get the kids into the schools and get them to keep going (read the article to see how the OLPC is doing this), it's still 9 years to get the kid into the high-school range. They are limited by whatever materials they get. By the time they make a difference in the world, it may be 20+ years. It's a very long term investment. In the mean time, things won't change too much. Without the ability to go look up how someone solved problem X, they are forced to reinvent the wheel sometimes, slowing progress.

    People have been trying the school option in the US and basically every other country on Earth for a long time. Charities have been setting up schools in poor countries (in Africa, South America, and other places, for example) for easily 30 years. Yet those countries still have these problems. Now we have a way that may improve things faster.

    Worst case scenario: the kids stay in school and things happen the old-fashioned way.

    All this ignores more immediate stuff. People in little villages would have to make pots, and toys, and many other things. There are people who, if given access (through eBay, for example) 10-100x what those people sell the things for right now. All they need is access to the market. It wouldn't take much of that to improve the lives of many people, spreading the wealth as they improved their lives.

  • 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 WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 24, 2007 @06:29PM (#21809956) Journal
    The reason is that our press really is worthless now. They are VERY afraid of taking on the corruption within our gov. In particular, Sibel Edmunds has offered up all the info about the American Govs. interaction with Turkey, Afghanastan, pakastan, etc. So far, it has been shown that a number of congressman, and white house folks have taken money from Turkey. It supposedly includes, Delay, Rove, Cheney, Bush, Reid, etc. The problem is that W. and the DOJ have tied up Edmunds and prevents her from talking about it, or she will go to jail. She has OFFERED a 1 time deal to any major press of talking live about the issues. Why? Because she knows that she will do time after that, until the next president comes in. Edmunds would disappear (most likely to one of our off shore spots, and not the nice one at gitmo that was built for the press).

    So, yes, the press in Peru were willing to report even when it meant their death, while NONE of the current American media is willing to simply broadcast Edmunds. They would not even be killed for it. IOW, our current American press is like you; a total coward. Oh, and Faux news does not even count as news. It is more akin to Pravda, than it is to any of the major news channel.
  • I completely agree with the sentiment of your post. If I had to make up a short list of things Peru might need to better their educational system, it might include such novelties as:

    * More teachers.

    * Better educated teachers.

    * Better teaching facilities (nice laptop, too bad you don't have a desk).

    * Improved teaching materials (textbooks from 1843 don't really cut it, although good books don't have to be this year's edition, either).

    I could always be wrong, but I don't think I am. Sadly, the short list above describes what's also needed in many inner-city school systems in the United States. Ever visited a public high school in south Atlanta? They probably need as much help as some third-world nations.

  • 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 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2007 @08:11PM (#21810604)
    ...the names change, but the actions..never. So why don't you tell him what a "good haji" is? How about explaining why they don't keep a public "body count"? Why is it they are skewing the US casualty figures by not counting guys who croak once they hit the medevac plane on the way out? What happened to the one trillion in "lost" dollars that good ole rummy was reporting on on September TENTH, 2001? Why are they building the world's largest embassy and a slew of permanent military bases when they keep claiming that we are only over there temporarily? Who are the badguys again, the sunni, or the shia? What is the predominant sect in Iran again, and in Saudi Arabia? And is there any sort of democracy in Saudi Arabia, can they vote in new rulers yet, can women vote or even drive, when do they get put on the terrorist axis of sometimes evil and sometimes they aren't list? On exactly which date did Saddam Hussein switch from being an ally against Iran to the "badguy"? Why is it the dove hunters company was allowed to keep doing buiness with Iran with nuclear projects right up until recently, even if we had sanctions against Iran? On exactly which date did Osama bin Laden stop being a full time paid CIA asset, and who gave that order? Why are new grunts still being told by recruiters that Saddam was allied with him and part of the 9-11 attack, and that the US is in Iraq as revenge for that?

    You want more, there are hundreds, and those are just some of the more fluffier low-rent surface level inconsistencies. In other words, you are being played for a fool, wake up man, you're a *tool*.

    BTW, you just lost your civilian gun ownership rights, welcome to the wonderful world of being a war veteran. Oh, you didn't hear about it? One single negative anything and they classify you as "mentally incompetent" and it is now illegal for you to purchase or possess, you and hundreds of thousands (probably millions, along with kids today who got prescribed meds for ADD and ADHD-whoops, mentally unstable for life flag) more going all the way back to the remaining WW2 vets.

    Have a nice day

  • 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:Education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Monday December 24, 2007 @09:03PM (#21810964) Homepage Journal
    "They don't need computer skills or the internet"

    One of the key mistakes made almost every time computers are introduced to kids is to try to introduce them to computers.

    XOs are not tools to teach "computer skills". They are tools to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, science _and_ some basic computer skills. They are much more than most people see. Think of them as an infinite number of books distributed for free to any kid in the country in real time and you start grasping the idea.

  • Re:So get this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday December 24, 2007 @09:10PM (#21811012)
    My kid wants a OLPC. But you can't just buy one. My kid isn't a good, African kid, she's a bad, American kid.

    Your 'American kid' has far more resources to draw on that the target audience of these laptops. You, the dad, has the resources and ability to basically build her a laptop for cheap. You already have a 24/7 internet connection, ready for this laptop to connect to. She has PC's in school...all her friends (and their parent) have PC's at home. She can very easily go to the local library to use the computers there. If you work in any medium size company, you can probably scam an older laptop for free (I have 3 such laying around).

    You popping for a brand new, dual core, multi gigbyte HD laptop for under $600 is far less of a financial impact than an OLPC would be for any of the target audience.
    Or...you popping for a $399 OLPC (and a tax deduction of $200) is far less of a financial hit as well.

    Should we also be bitching because the 'good African kids' also get free rice and 'bad American kids' don't? Or that 'good African kids' get a well dug in their town by the Peace Corps, and YOU, the downtrodden, poor American, has to actually pay taxes for clean, filtered, unlimited, water delivered to the multiple taps in your house at any temperature you desire.

    Oh...and if you happen to come across a cheap/free laptop, you (Mr. computer wizard) can install the OLPC image on it and your daughter can have almost exactly the same thing. (unfortunately, that image is outdated. I hope they publish a current one soon)

    Quit yer bitching.
  • 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.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday December 24, 2007 @10:54PM (#21811654)

    Am I missing a step???

    0. Roll out universal Internet connections to remote Andean villages.

    Or did you think that internet connectivity was just a given. A bit of a "let them eat cake" moment there. Though yes you should be able to get a fair amount of information on the 800Mb of internal storage. I assume they come with a load of books pre installed.
  • by rcw-home (122017) on Monday December 24, 2007 @11:16PM (#21811756)

    nice laptop, too bad you don't have a desk

    Looking back on grade school, having a desk and no laptop, no Internet...

    ...man that sucked.

  • Re:I bet its a hit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by atamido (1020905) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @01:56AM (#21812622)
    But these kids aren't starving or dying off due to some easily treatable disease. Really, giving them $188 in food and medicine wouldn't help them that much, and would be pretty limited in the length of time it did help.

    Providing the OLPC is something like providing a basic infrastructure like roads or water, except in this case it is information. Money for these things could always be spent in other ways to meet short term needs, but they are far better off investing in infrastructure that will have long term positive impacts for many years to come.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @04:16AM (#21813164)
    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 most will have no chance to better themselves above their family's station.

"The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." -- Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards