Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NECC - One Laptop Per Child - Negroponte Keynote

Nicholas Negroponte gave the second keynote on the One Laptop Per Child project. It is available both as a podcast through the iTunes music store and as a webcast (either streamed or downloadable). I think it would be well worth your time to watch it, but again I'll try to hit the highlights.

I think he's a good man whose devoting himself to something he thinks will make a huge difference in the world. At one point he said he travels internationally 28 days out of 30 - I think that's amazing for someone who could choose to work on just about anything he wanted to, but he's chosen this. His passion and commitment are inspiring.

He described the philosophy behind the one laptop per child project and some of the issues they are currently dealing with. He also talked about scale and how their project can affect real change. He said that there are about 47 million laptops shipping worldwide this year. His project is aiming to ship 50-100 million units a year - so they can have a huge impact on what manufacturers do. He's aiming not just to get low component costs, but to change corporate behavior and strategy - and this has generated some criticism from Microsoft, Intel, etc.

The current specs on the laptop would be considered very low end (like a 500 Mhz processor), but he pointed out a couple of things. First, about 4 years ago we thought 500 Mhz was fantastic. Second, when you remove the "overhead" of a bloated operating system and bloated software (by using Linux and other open source software), you don't need as much speed or RAM. He says this laptop will be faster than any in the audience that are running a mainstream operating system. He also talked about technology progress and how instead of making chips faster and adding more RAM and keeping the cost the same (which has been the strategy so far), that another approach is to keep the specs about the same but bring the cost way down. That's what he's trying to do. As technology progresses, of course, the specs of the laptop will inevitably change, but that they don't have to be cutting edge to be incredibly useful for the target population (and he would argue for all of us, once you remove the bloated OS and software).
Quote 1: A fundamental concept of the project is that the use of technology is not about teaching, it's about learning . . . This is an education and learning project, not a laptop project.

Quote 2: Being passionate about learning is key - not so much what they learn.

Quote 3: Treat laptops like innoculation.
Providing students around the world - particularly students in poor areas - with laptops will be innoculating them against ignorance, isolation and manipulation. By giving them access to the information and resources available on the Internet, and giving them the tools to participate in the global community, it will be much harder to keep them poor, isolated, and ignorant of the wider world of ideas.

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