Andy Carvin is attending Technology Review’s Emerging Technology Conference and reports on a presentation about the MIT Media Lab plan to develop a $100 laptop for use by schools in the developing world.

But the great thing about this project is that the director, Nicholas Negroponte, says this is not about cheap hardware.

"The idea is simple – it’s to look at education. This is an education project, not just a laptop project. If you take any world problem – peace, the environment, poverty – the solution to that problem certainly includes education. And if you have a solution that doesn’t include education, than it’s not a real solution at all."

While it may be hard to believe that it’s possible to produce a $100 laptop that will also hold up to student use, the Media Lab expects to have a prototype ready by November. Even more amazing is that they plan to have at least five million beta units deployed within one year.

Even if it takes a little longer to create and costs twice as much, an inexpensive, portable computing device designed for education has huge potential to force major changes in the way we view teaching and learning.

It’s hard to imagine how our traditional educational structure – with the teacher in control of all knowledge – can possibly remain in place when every student has instant, continuous access to information and communications tools.