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Portables Education

Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down? 111

An anonymous reader sends this quote from OLPC News about whether the One Laptop Per Child project can expect to continue much longer: "Here is a question for you: 8 years on, would you recommend anyone start a new deployment with XO-1 laptops? With the hardware now long past its life expectancy, spare parts hard to find, and zero support from the One Laptop Per Child organization, its time to face reality. The XO-1 laptop is history. Sadly, so is Sugar. Once the flagship of OLPC's creativity in redrawing the human-computer interaction, few are coding for it and new XO variants are mostly Android/Gnome+Fedora dual boots. Finally, OLPC Boston is completely gone. No staff, no consultants, not even a physical office. Nicholas Negroponte long ago moved onto the global literacy X-Prize project." A response from OLPC says their mission is "far from over." They add, "OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values – education."
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Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:30PM (#46468665)

    I and a few other volunteers set up a few new deployments just this past January (2014) in Haiti. 8 years on, the XO-1's are still great learning tools. There is still a supply, as a lot of people redonated their "get one," and the laptops themselves seem to last almost forever. Spare parts aren't all that hard to find, and there are dozens if not hundreds of developers and sysadmins still supporting existing deployments, with the more adventurous of us working on new ones.
    For anyone interested in starting a new deployment with XO-1's, you can get in touch with us at http://unleashkids.org [unleashkids.org] and we can talk about the details.

  • Re:Winding down? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:40PM (#46468753)

    I think it's vision is being fulfilled by the Raspberry Pi. Cheap and low power it offers a lot of possibilities for education and seems to fire the imagination and creativity in children.

  • The OLPC Underground (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zwazo ( 3574817 ) <sora@unleashkid3.1415926s.org minus pi> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:11PM (#46468985)
    When I emailed OLPC last year, I didn't expect a response and I didn't get one. Instead, Project Rive's XO laptops came from the Contributors' Program, which is run by volunteers for volunteers. 10 computers go down in someone's suitcase, instead of 10,000 being sent to a government. This "unofficial" effort has long been doing a much better job than the official guys, because we give schools the support they need - from solar setups to curriculum. Unleash Kids launched several programs in Haiti this year. We're using the original XO-1 computers, with new tools like a customized version of Sugar, the XSCE school server, and Internet-in-a-Box. Yep, the computers themselves are still being used years later, and there's a community working to find new uses and users. There's 2.5 million XOs out there, built to last longer than the latest tablet. No matter what happens to the big guys, Unleash Kids and others inspired by the OLPC vision will continue
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:38PM (#46469187) Homepage

    I agree.

    If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

    You can buy "white box" Android tablets at amazingly cheap prices because they are mass-produced in China. While these tablets fall short of the ideal devices imagined by OLPC, there is absolutely no way for OLPC to get their costs down to match.

    You can buy at least three Android tablets for the cost of one OLPC device. You could bundle tablets with a keyboard, a carrying case, and maybe a solar panel, and still massively undercut the OLPC's custom hardware.

    Cheap Android tablet's don't have great battery life. But I bought one of the original XO-1 laptops and it only had a few hours of battery life, so clearly OLPC must consider even the limited battery life of a cheap tablet to be sufficient.

    One of the nifty things about the OLPC custom design is that it's easy to repair. But with the massive cost advantage of a generic Android tablet, whole spare tablets could be shipped.

    The promise of Sugar never was realized. For example, one of the reasons I bought an XO-1 laptop was that I was excited by the thought of the "show source" key, where you were supposed to be able to go anywhere in the system, hit the "show source" key, and find some kind of editable Python source code you could tweak. I never did find any source to tweak before I gave away my laptop. (It's in India now!)

    Another part of the OLPC custom hardware was the "mesh" networking, which aimed to make it possible for multiple students to cooperatively share limited networking resources. Did that ever actually get used? All the photos I have seen show students in classrooms, and if the classroom has WiFi then an Android tablet would work fine. If the "mesh" networking is valuable, then maybe OLPC should invest in a one-off gadget that just does that, and plugs into the USB port on an Android tablet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @08:00PM (#46469689)

    YES! The real story (if anyone wants to research it, many PhDs will be written) is that the bulk OLPC's institutional capacity wound down in the Prior Decade (innovation thrived in 2007-2009 especially) largely replaced by a far larger global community of DIY implementers. In particular olpcMAP.net is an unauthorized *treasure*, entirely crowdsourced and volunteer-run, far more comprehensive than OLPC's own "official" map. The reason is that country after country realized our children Won't Wait for bureaucrats to implement open educational technology. Hundreds of amazing OLPC offshoots arose alongside aside slow-moving institutional forces, escaping the trap of oft-dictatorial developing world politics. Not the droids you are looking for: planet.laptop.org aggregates many of these blogs from community DIY implementers worldwide (Lesotho, Nepal, Kenya, Haiti, India, Peru, Oceania, CeibalJAM, Columbus School for Girls!) who just got tired of the establishment's slow-moving institutional forces. And instead stepped on a plane/bus/motorcycle to start the Real Work of patiently rising up alongside thoughtful communities everywhere. Appropriating and animating learning technology instead of talking about it.

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!