Give One, Get One XO Laptop Per Child
They’re simple, rugged, and low-cost. And their more ardent fans think they can transform the world–one educated child at a time. Since the first XO laptops rolled off the assembly line in November 2006, hundreds of thousands of children in low-income countries have been using them in the classroom and at home. If you haven’t heard the hype yet, you can explore the website for the new, but increasingly famous One Laptop Per Child project at http://www.laptop.org/.
The latest news is:, people in the US, Canada, and Europe are now able to purchase an XO laptop for a child at home–if they will agree to also buy a laptop for a child they have never met somewhere abroad. From now until December 26, 2008, people in the US, Canada, and Europe may go to amazon.com/XO. A total of $399 in US dollars (or £275 in UK pounds) buys one XO laptop that can be shipped to your child and a second laptop to be shipped to a child in a developing country.
Because they are cheaper than most computers, XO laptops fit a little more easily into the education budgets of developing countries, especially if donors step in to help. Do they really enhance children’s learning experience as dramatically as the XO’s most earnest supporters believe? Some critics are not so sure. But others remain enthusiastic. I’ll let We Can Do readers google for more competing opinions at news.google.com and blogsearch.google.com on their own. But as a small sampling: various articles report that Microsoft and Intel don’t like the competition, and even some former employees of the One Laptop Per Child project are critics of the way the head of the company, Nicolas Negroponte, runs the business. But they seem to like the XO in Peru. And one US blogger with an XO shares his own thoughts on the subject.
What of children with disabilities? The XO is a bit of a mixed bag. Some features are good for some children with some disabilities (eg, built-in camera, good for signing deaf kids). But others are not so great for other children (eg, the interface is very visual–not so great for blind kids). I wrote some more thoughts on the topic last year at https://wecando.wordpress.com/2007/11/16/opinion-one-laptop-per-child—but-is-it-inclusive/.
I remain disappointed now, as I was then, that the people who developed the XO don’t seem to be as proactively inclusive of the needs of people with disabilities as I think they could be and should be. But some independent XO fans and programmers are working on solutions. If you want to join their on-line discussions on the topic, you can sign up for their free email-based discussion group at http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/accessibility. Or, if you want to learn more about the accessibility issues for XO laptops, you can explore the online “Wiki” community on the topic at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Accessibility.
What of adults who simply want a cheap, portable laptop for their own use? If you’re in the US, Canada, or Europe, then nothing would stop you from buying one for yourself. But be aware that the keyboard is designed for the small hands of primary school-aged children. If your hands are the same size as most adults, you will find it hard to touch type on the cramped keyboard. You might have to resort to two-fingered (or possibly four-fingered) typing. Also, the interface is geared toward young, creative children who might never have seen a computer before. An adult who has spent too many years using more boring, typical computers for “grown-ups” in developed countries might initially be confused about how to access its most basic programs.
Learn more about its software and hardware at http://www.laptop.org/en/laptop/index.shtml. There is an on-line forum where people who are bewildered by their XOs can ask for help from other users: http://en.forum.laptop.org/. People with more disability-specific questions will probably want to join the accessibility mailing list I mentioned above, at http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/accessibility so they can exchange ideas, information, and solutions with other list members.
Or if all else fails, give your new XO to a young child you know and ask them to teach you how to use it. That is, if you decide to buy one.
I learned about this year’s “Give One, Get One” project through a mailing from the One Laptop Per Child project.
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