Programs to give school kids laptops are the in thing in recent years for school districts in the US that can afford it. But the MIT Media Lab wants to take that idea one huge step farther. They plan to give several hundred million of them to kids all over the world.
The Lab, led by it’s founder and big thinker Nicholas Negroponte, is working with some rich companies to develop a $100 "internet- and multimedia-capable laptop" to make the plan work. They believe the notebook computers would be an "educational tool that can help alleviate world poverty". Sounds like one powerful computer.
As I’ve ranted before in this space, I agree with folks on the other side who think that just building and distributing computers to kids is not going to improve anyone’s education.
"It’s not as simple as ‘if you build it, they will use it,’" said Andy Carvin, director of the Digital Divide Network, a community of educators and activists working to include more people in the digital age.
For the program to work, training and technical support has to exist — as well as basic literacy and local content to meet local needs, he said.
Not to mention reliable electricity and internet connectivity, both rare commodities in the areas of Africa and South America that the MIT project is planning to distribute their miracle machines. Perhaps good food, clean water, books, and some live teachers might be better first steps.
However, there are some concepts related to the plan that are very interesting. How about the concept of "parasitic power" which allows the computer to be powered by just typing on the keys? There are quite a few bloggers who could use that to light up the whole house.