In Happier News…

1 comment December 27th, 2007at 06:46pm Posted by Eli

This story is actually from Christmas Day, which seems appropriate:

ARAHUAY, Peru (AP) — 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.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops — people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books — can’t get enough of their “XO” laptops.

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.

(…)

[The XO] is hard drive-free, runs on the Linux operating system and stretches wireless networks with “mesh” technology that lets each computer in a village relay data to the others.

(…)

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. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyers of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

[One Laptop program founder Nicholas] Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will get shipped to countries including Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan in early 2008 through “Give One, Get One,” a U.S.-based promotion ending December 31 in which you buy a pair of laptops for $399 and donate one or both.

The children of Arahuay prove One Laptop’s transformative conceit: that you can revolutionize education and democratize the Internet by giving a simple, durable, power-stingy but feature-packed laptop to the worlds’ poorest kids.

(…)

Antony, 12, wants to become an accountant.

Alex, 7, aspires to be a lawyer.

Kevin, 9, wants to play trumpet.

Saida, 10, is already a promising videographer, judging from her artful recording of the town’s recent Fiesta de la Virgen.

“What they work with most is the (built-in) camera. They love to record,” says Maria Antonieta Mendoza, an Education Ministry psychologist studying the Arahuay pilot to devise strategies for the big rollout when the new school year begins in March.

(…)

Teachers will get 2 days of training on the laptops, Becerra said. Each machine will initially be loaded with about 100 copyright-free books. Where applicable, texts in native languages will be included, he added. The machines will also have a chat function that will let kids make faraway friends over the Internet.

(…)

The XO machines are water resistant, rugged and designed to last five years. They have no fan so they won’t suck up dust, are built to withstand drops from a meter and a half and can absorb power spikes typical of places with irregular electricity.

Mendoza, the psychologist, is overjoyed that the program stipulates that kids get ownership of the laptops.

Take Kevin, the aspiring trumpet player.

Sitting in his dirt-floor kitchen as his mother cooks lunch, he draws a soccer field on his XO, then erases it. Kevin plays a song by “Caliente,” his favorite combo, that he recorded off Arahuay’s single TV channel. He shows a reporter photos he took of him with his 3-year-old brother.

A bare light bulb hangs by a wire from the ceiling. A hen bobs around the floor. There are no books in this two-room house. Kevin’s parents didn’t get past the sixth grade.

Indeed, the laptop project also has adults in its sights.

Parents in Arahuay are asking Mendoza… what the Internet can do for them.

Among them is Charito Arrendondo, 39, who sheds brief tears of joy when a reporter asks what the laptop belonging to ruddy-cheeked Miluska — the youngest of her six children — has meant to her. Miluska’s father, it turns out, abandoned the family when she was 1.

“We never imagined having a computer,” said Arrendondo, a cook.

Is she afraid to use the laptop, as is typical of many Arahuay parents, about half of whom are illiterate?

“No, I like it. Sometimes when I’m alone and the kids are not around I turn it on and poke around.”

Arrendondo likes to play checkers on the laptop.

“It’s also got chess, which I sort of know,” she said, pausing briefly.

“I’m going to learn.”

I absolutely love this, including the mom taking an interest (no parent left behind). I’ve been dimly aware of this laptop even before the NYT reviewed it (video here), but I wasn’t so sure how it would pan out in the real world, where things have a tendency to, well, not pan out. I’m thrilled to see that the early returns are positive, that third-world governments are buying the XOs, and that the kids (and some parents) are stimulated, engaged, and enriched by them.

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

1 Comment

  • 1. younightmino  |  May 5th, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    for a while, I got crown. off


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