Gave One Got One

Thanks to a presentation by Brian Smith, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez at NYSCATE a couple of weeks ago, I get what the OLPC (one laptop per child) laptop is about. Its not about technology. Its not about schools. Its about kids, learning, and opportunity.

I watched and considered last year while the Give 1 Get 1 program was introduced. This year, I’m not watching, I’m in. I ordered an XO at Amazon, and it just arrived. Another one is on the way to a kid somewhere in the world. I’ll never know which kid, but that’s OK. It’s like blood donations – you give because you should, and you know some good will come of it.

What am I going to do with the one I received? I’m going to put it in the hands of my five and four year old kids, sit next to them, and learn with them. I’m going to do my best to NOT see how fast it performs, if I can check my work email, or any of the other typical adult uses. The interface and OS are totally different, and that’s OK (perhaps great). The XO is about kids learning.

I don’t know how many XO users are in the Buffalo-Niagara region, but we’ll be heading to the OLPC wiki to hook up with them. Maybe we’ll have to create a local group so kids can connect around here in addition to around the world.


On Making Software Accessible

I’ve been listening to the NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) podcasts available free via iTunes. David Thornburg, leading thinker and educator, spoke in a presentation titled, “Open Minds, Open Education, and a View of Open Culture.” The focus was on 1:1 programs for students and open source software.

The quote that jumped out at me was near the beginning:

“Singe platform software is anti-child.”

Pow. Ouch. Absolutely right. I’ll be the first to admit I have a personal preference for some software apps that are on one platform but not another (e.g. Visual Communicator and iLife). However, anytime a piece of software, be it Windows-only, Mac-only or even Linux-only, is used with students, it will prevent the home use of that software by the student if they have another platform at home.

To that end, open source, cross-platform software solutions that students can download and use at home for free will do more to break down the walls of technology than pretty much any other technique we can try. In the best case scenario, time using technology in a class setting is far less than in a home setting (unless in a 1 to 1 program). If the software is accessible anywhere, the benefits go up dramatically.

This year we are installing many more software programs that are open source cross platform (OSCP?). Two examples are OpenOffice, much like the Microsoft Office suite, and GIMP, which is very similar to Photoshop. I plan to make a concentrated effort to help our students realize the power of these accessible programs.