Note: This post was originally posted at DesignShare.
Thanks to Chris Lehmann's recent post ("Change the World") for bringing to my attention the arrival of the OLPC ($100 laptop) to its first recipient school in Nigeria. Perhaps a lesson remains for the rest of us. Perhaps what Chris wrote at the end of his post:
I really believe that the OLPC Project has the chance to change the world.
Staring down the barrel of a difficult budget in Philadelphia, I can't wait until someone realizes that a low-cost, open-source student computer is needed here in America too.
There is much talk about the 'school of the future' in the world of school design. Much of it here at DesignShare, to be truthful. But can you actually 'see' it? Really SEE it?
And perhaps the students, much like these young men and women, are the care-takers of the 'school of the future', sitting on the cusp of remarkable changes ahead (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):
Perhaps, this is their community, their parents, their history (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):
And maybe, just maybe, with the simple arrival of 'the future', a community, a school, a generation of students (and all that guide them) are forever transformed (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):
If you've been paying attention to education/technology conversations in the last year or two, you've undoubtedly heard about the MIT-driven 'dream' to provide a $100 laptop to students in developing nations around the world, computers that not only allow them to jump the digital divide, but to also do so intuitively, do so regardless of power-sources, do so in a networked alliance that is so often taken for granted in many parts of the technology-leading world.
Recently, a small Nigerian school was the world's first recipient of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) prototype (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):
A little recent history to catch you up:
Khaled Hassounah, director of Nicholas Negroponte's [OLPC] program in Africa and the Middle East, has spent the last year touring schools in Nigeria. He and his team chose a school 10 miles outside Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to deploy the company's first child-friendly laptops in the region. These 10- and 11-year-old students are lucky to share three books per academic subject, a clock, bell, wall calendar, and science equipment consisting of a lever. Students in less fortunate schools might share three books total. With the XO Children's Machine, OLPC hopes young students will have the tools to shape their own education.
Perhaps we can see the future. Perhaps it lies somewhere within our grasp. Perhaps it lies just outside of the normal equation, the normal assumptions, the normal answers. And perhaps designing, planning, and construction the 'school of the future' doesn't require tens of millions of dollars to fund the vision.
We highly recommend learning more about the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program when time allows. And asking yourself -- regardless of your role within the school design community -- what impact we can have in ways we never imagined, both in developing nations around the world and communities just around the corner.