Last night on our WOW2 webcast, we had the incredible privilege of enjoying a conversation with Elana Langer who is currently working on the educational features of the OLPC initiative. The initiative and the many issues and criticisms surrounding it has been well-covered by the media recently – BBC (great videos of OLPC in Nigeria), webcast with Leo Laporte and Cory Doctorow, TED Talks interview with Nicholas Negroponte, Sixty Minutes.
For a child’s view of the XO, watch the youtube video:
We spoke with Elana about a different focus - the educational features of the laptop. Unlike its competitor the Classmate, or just about any other generic computing tool, the XO has been specifically designed with education and learning thoughtfully in mind. This may well be its selling point over the "big guns" who have indicated through their brutal marketing attempts with the developing nations that they are feeling quite threatened by OLPC. The OLPC movement has become a little David going up against the Goliath combination of Intel and Microsoft.
We had a dedicated group of technology-minded educators in our chatroom last night, some of whom are raising funds for their school to purchase the XO machines for their own students as well as giving away a matching number. These teachers were also very interested in how they themselves to help out the OLPC program - besides buying and giving. Elana pointed us to the OLPC wiki, encouraged us to add to the teachers' section (a sort of place for best practices), and also encouraged us to directly send her our best practice stories of using computers in the classroom. Our collective experience will be used to help train teachers who will be receiving the XOs in their classrooms - be it the developing nations or our own communities. Please consider sharing your own stories!
We also spoke of the possibility of creating mentoring partnerships between those of us who have taught with laptops and now own an XO and those teachers who are new to the XO and using technology as a tool in the classroom. Elana said this was something she very much wished to explore. Stay tuned for more on that!
Elana brings her experience as a maker of video documentaries to the OLPC project. You can find her work on youtube (OLPC Learning Project). She is also the video documentary maker of the Living Archives Project in PEI.
Please enjoy this video which features Carla Gomez, who works for OLPC in the communities where the XO has been introduced.