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CEO Says One Laptop Per Child Project Has Achieved Its Goals 54

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the extended-mission-doing-ok dept.
waderoush (1271548) writes "A blog post at OLPC News last week went viral with the claim that the nine-year-old One Laptop Per Child project is dead. Media outlets quickly controverted the assertion, but the response from the OLPC Association itself was brief, saying that its mission is 'far from over' and citing ongoing projects to distribute laptops in Central America. In a more lengthy Q&A this week, OLPC chairman and CEO Rodrigo Arboleda says the organization has achieved many of its goals, including demonstrating the value of the 'Constructionist' 1:1 learning philosophy originally espoused by Negroponte. With 2.5 million laptops distributed so far, the OLPC vision is 'on track to being fully realized,' Arboleda says. He sees 'commercial greed' and a 'status-quo mentality' within ministries of education and teachers' unions as the main hurdles holding back faster progress."
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CEO Says One Laptop Per Child Project Has Achieved Its Goals

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    • by ackthpt (218170)

      :-)

      I seem to be left behind. Where is my laptop?

      :(

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        I seem to be left behind. Where is my laptop?

        That's what I kept asking the OLPC project back when they had their buy one, get one offer. They took the money but could never seem to have any in stock when it came time to ship one to me. They kept telling me mine was about to be shipped, and they were shipping units to other people, but mine never seemed to make it into a box and to my door.

        Eventually, it got close to the time limit for disputing charges (90 days, I think it was) so I cancelled the order. The fact they charged my card long before ship

        • by tipo159 (1151047)

          Did you do Give 1 Get 1 when OLPC was doing fulfillment or when Amazon was? When they were doing it, it was a disaster. I think I got mine five months after placing the order. On the other hand, I heard that things went more smoothly when Amazon was doing fulfillment (which is what you would expect).

      • Have you considered looking down, in your lap area?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "No Child Left Behind" was a success in that no child was allowed to move forward.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Laptop project is done... as in toast.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @02:55PM (#46537063)

    1. "Has Achieved Its Goals" == "on track to being fully realized"
    2. "Mission Accomplished" Redefine goals to state what has already been done, declare victory, forget about the rest. (banner and photo-op on aircraft carrier optional)

  • Are they distributing their own model of laptop, or do they just distribute generic laptops. I remember their original idea was to design a super cheap and rugged laptop for $100 that could easily be used in developing countries. The free market has made cheap tablets available to all. Is there still a need for them to have custom hardware?
    • by tipo159 (1151047)

      The OLPC laptop was rugged and repairable. It is great for an environment where you can't just ship it off for service when something breaks. Also, the keyboard is great for kid-sized hands.

      The OLPC tablet is fragile (particularly in comparison to the OLPC laptop) and is not repairable by most users. It seems like it is really intended for a "first world"-type environment, not the same environment as the laptop.

      My biggest complaint about my OLPC laptop is that it is slow. However, the target users w

  • How many... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @02:58PM (#46537105) Homepage

    How many of those 2.5 million laptops still work? Most of the OLPC laptops I saw at trade shows were broken.

    • by fsagx (1936954)

      Not mine. The trackpad stopped working about 2 years ago. I don't know about the other 2,499,999. It was an interesting rugged design, though I was disappointed that they didn't follow through with the early hand crank powered concept.

      • The hand crank is an accessory you can get for it if you want one. I don't think they included it because most remote villages in African already have some way to generate power via hand crank, windmill or whatever so people can charge their now ubiquitous cellphones. So it would be an extra cost without much value.

        • The hand crank is an accessory you can get for it if you want one. I don't think they included it because most remote villages in African already have some way to generate power via hand crank, windmill or whatever so people can charge their now ubiquitous cellphones. So it would be an extra cost without much value.

          It turned out that building a crank into the case put tremendous mechanical stresses on it, which would require more heavy-duty construction to prevent it ripping apart. An external accessory, plugged in via a wire, doesn't have this issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Giving children a laptop that ran a non-standard operating system, which would teach them no computer skills they could use in the real world at school or to gain employment - why? I loaded OLPC up in a VM when it first came out, and the user interface made no sense at all. Why not give them Linux and OpenOffice or something?

    • by tipo159 (1151047)

      Because they were intended to help kids learn, not turn them into office drones. There were all sorts of interesting educational apps. Also, the OLPC laptops run Linux and you can open a terminal shell if so inclined.

    • The Sugar UI was supposed to be "discoverable" by illiterate children. As in they tap an icon and "discover" that waiting an eternity for a response from the over taxed processor is boring and not very fun.

  • by kipsate (314423)
    Boy did they reach their goal. There's now 2.5 million OLPCs for each child that actually wants one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @03:50PM (#46537549)

    Love his obvious disdain for capitalism vis-a-vis "commercial greed."

    Why, pray tell, is OLPC's original mission essentially dead in the water? Because of innovation, competition, and the marketplace mechanism, not because it lead the world to cheap hardware. Platitudinal NGOs started by tenured academics are created in a vacuum, away from market forces or awareness, living in ivory towers of unlimited funding.

    OLPC was/is an NGO charity case, relying on the largesse of the white guilt complex for the third world to support it.

    Yea, computer hardware is cheap, faster, and more accessible than it's ever been, to the point where it's at disposable pricing even for the third world. Whether it's Android or RPi or Arduino, we're well into an era of a complete computer that costs $20 for all the parts. Tablets are $50-$75 a pop.

    And you know what OLPC is selling their "commercial" Android tabs for? $150! Far more than what it really costs to make. One can presume the profits will be used to fund additional tabs for the third world but the more likely scenario is those profits will go into the pockets of guys like Arboleda and "honorariums" for Negroponte and his ilk.

    • Love his obvious disdain for capitalism vis-a-vis "commercial greed."

      Why, pray tell, is OLPC's original mission essentially dead in the water? Because of innovation, competition, and the marketplace mechanism, not because it lead the world to cheap hardware. Platitudinal NGOs started by tenured academics are created in a vacuum, away from market forces or awareness, living in ivory towers of unlimited funding.

      OLPC was/is an NGO charity case, relying on the largesse of the white guilt complex for the third world to support it.

      Yea, computer hardware is cheap, faster, and more accessible than it's ever been, to the point where it's at disposable pricing even for the third world. Whether it's Android or RPi or Arduino, we're well into an era of a complete computer that costs $20 for all the parts. Tablets are $50-$75 a pop.

      And you know what OLPC is selling their "commercial" Android tabs for? $150! Far more than what it really costs to make. One can presume the profits will be used to fund additional tabs for the third world but the more likely scenario is those profits will go into the pockets of guys like Arboleda and "honorariums" for Negroponte and his ilk.

      Of course, it's never been just about the price. They are the "One Laptop Per Child" project, not the "$100 laptop" project. As an example of "commercial greed" hindering the project, Intel invested a lot of effort in killing the project, possibly because the XO-1 uses VIA (subsequently AMD) Geode processors. Intel's investments against OLPC include sending their marketing department to meet many of the governments that OLPC met with, immediately after OLPC met them, to try and convince them to use Classmat

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @03:58PM (#46537621)

    Confirmed distribution of the OLPC laptop outside of Mexico, Central and South America are all but non-existent. Deployment of XO laptops [wikipedia.org]

    That doesn't make a good case for a culturally-independent constructivist philosophy of education --- at the core of which is the notion that kids in the primary grades can teach each other and that adults are redundant. Which lead inevitably to fire-and-forget "parachute drop" deployments.

    OLPC hardware was never as robust as claimed.

    Several defects in OLPC XO-1 hardware have emerged in the field, and laptop repair is often neglected by students or their families (who are responsible for maintenance) due to the relatively high cost of some components (such as displays).

    The Sugar interface has been difficult for teachers to learn, and the mesh networking feature in the OLPC XO-1 was buggy and went mostly unused in the field.

    The OLPC XO-1 hardware lacks connectivity to external monitors or projectors, and teachers are not provided with software for remote assessment. As a result, students are unable to present their work to the whole class, and teachers must also assess students' work from the individual laptops. Teachers often find it difficult to use the keyboard and screen, which were designed with student use in mind.

    Hardware and software bugs [wikipedia.org]

    Rwanda provides an interesting example of the conflict between the theory and reality of OLPC.

    Rwanda had a total primary school population of just over 2.3 million as of 2011. As of September 2012, exactly four years after the launch, according to the Rwanda Education Board, there were about 115,000 computers in primary schools across the country.

    The aim is to have half a million of the laptops distributed, and at least one million by 2017

    At least one school in each of the 416 sectors in Rwanda is expected to get the laptops. A sector is the equivalent of a sub-district or division in Kenya.

    Rwanda's situation is no different from much of East Africa. Uptake for the laptops could be better, except for two main reasons.

    The first major reason is inadequate infrastructure, especially electricity supply to schools. The OLPC laptops are mainly operated using electricity, while many schools are yet to be connected to the national grid. Efforts are, however, under way to install solar electricity in as many schools are possible.

    The second is inadequate capacity, in terms of numbers and computer literacy, of the primary school teachers. As of May 2012, the OLPC Project had trained just over 1,500 teachers and heads of school --- not only in computer literacy, but in troubleshooting hardware, software and applications.

    There is good reason for such technical training of the teachers. Computers often tend to break down for one reason or another, especially in the hands of children. Giving the teachers the ability to diagnose what the problem is likely to be, and how to fix it, is crucial.

    Caution has already been urged before the laptop project is implemented in Kenya. It has already been pointed out that the imminent laptop project may not be viable without first addressing teachers' computer literacy, including the woefully inadequate school infrastructure in much of the country, and ensuring the computers are loaded with relevant curriculum.

    This includes addressing issues of poverty that tend to hinder access to education. A significant number of school-going children in Kenya lack basic needs, including food and clothes, which has raised questions of feasibility for such an ambitious project.

    What Kenya could learn from Rwanda on One Laptop per Child [newtimes.co.rw]

  • Yeah, No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccoma (64578) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @04:00PM (#46537643)
    The 8-bit generation of under $200 computers did more to teach programming than OLPC has ever done. OLPC is a nifty government contractor and nothing more. Sinclair did more for programming than OLPC.
    • But the goal of OLPC wasn't to teach programming but rather to provide a programmable platform that was good for teaching. As a contributor to the OLPC activities library, I'm a little sad to see the project die "not with a bang but a whimper". (My contribution was a set of four programs that taught the night sky.)
      • by mccoma (64578)
        " provide a programmable platform that was good for teaching" - well, they failed at that too. If that was their goal then they should have just bought all the kids LeapFrog LeapPads. More lessons, cost effective, and can be bought by people not part of some government partnership.
      • by cusco (717999)

        The initial success of the OLPC was a clear demonstration of the failure of the existing computing infrastructure. All the manufacturers at the time said that building a laptop computer for under ~$400 was impossible, and that if you could do it no one would want one. When the OLPC came in at $200 for an actually ruggedized laptop with a modest but stable set of hardware the industry was still in denial for a couple of years. Finally the Taiwanese companies started building netbooks and selling them for

    • by Nivag064 (904744)

      No, Sinclair BASIC was horrendous!

      Acorn with the BBC Micro and descendants (such as the Acorn Archimedes) were far superior in terms of programming both at the BASIC & Assembly level.

      Acorn BASIC had named subroutines with parameters, looping constructs, and IF ELSE statements. There was never any need to resort to GOTO's and GOSUB's! Also you had well defined ways to invoking Operating System functionality without resorting to the equivalent of PEEK's and POKE's - to the extent that most programs cou

      • by Kittenman (971447)
        Ah, Sinclair Basic. A friend had a box of his. I remember having to press three buttons to get the word "Let" or whatever the BASIC command was. You couldn't just type in the word LET using the Alpha keyboard. And this was the 'Spectrum', speaking from memory. Someone likened pressing the keys on that thing to touching dead flesh. I had to take his word for it.
      • by mccoma (64578)
        Well, Sinclair was under $100 - I'm sure the programmers who learned on it and liked it probably bought better computers later
  • CEO Says One Laptop Per Child Project Has Achieved Its Goals

    and

    OLPC chairman and CEO Rodrigo Arboleda says the organization has achieved many of its goals

    are not equivalent. The first implies that ALL goals have been achieved, while the second makes it clear that some have not. Terrible headline.

  • "CEO of OLPC acknowledges that the smartphone has pretty much made their goal entirely obsolete."

    Oh wait, that's not what he said?

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @04:58PM (#46538183) Homepage

    OLPC's goal was to induce the creation of computers affordable in the third-world and usable in an environment where basic utilities are not available. At the time, a bottom-end new computer cost around $500.

    Today we have a tablet and netbook industry which churns out the cheap components that such computers need at a high economy of scale. Micro Center has a bottom-end android tablet on sale for $50.

    Things may not have worked out as OLPC expected or in a way that left OLPC with any importance as an organization, but their goal was surely achieved.

    • OLPC's goal was to induce the creation of computers affordable in the third-world and usable in an environment where basic utilities are not available.

      OLPC was a product of the MIT Media Lab and presented to the third world education minister as a take-it-or-leave it package deal in which the laptop hardware was only one component.

      The minister was expected to buy big as an act of faith.

      Tens or hundreds of thousands of units. No trial deployments, no building out slowly.

      The constructivist philosophy of education of OLPC's promoters was gospel truth and not to be questioned. Here at last was a promise fulfilled ---- mass education without the need for tea

    • I'm setting a goal of a $5 PC with modern tablet quality. My approach to achieving my goal is to do absolutely nothing but I will be happy to take credit when it I achieve all of my goals in 5 years.

  • ... until every child has at least one spare to put on eBay.

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