Ethan Zuckerman ’93 provides an update on the One Laptop per Child project to be provide $100 laptop computers for all the poor children in the world.

In my earlier talk with Negroponte about the device, he suggested that one way to teach educators to use the laptop in the classroom was to send Kay around the world to teach small groups of teachers, who could go on to teach their peers. After this talk, I’m not buying it. It’s clear that there are amazing ways to use a laptop on every desktop as a teaching tool, and that a teacher like Alan could find countless ways to use such a device. But I also got the sense that it’s a subtle art to teach in this way and that it’s going to be far from obvious for most teachers how to approach this new device as anything other than a book.

I agree with Kay that the easiest challenges of the laptop are the hardware ones – indeed, I think these are the challenges Nicholas and team have done the best job of figuring out. I suspect the software – a version of Redhat Linux optimized for a diskless environment – is also well thought out. But the questions of UI, content and mentoring – as well as the challenges of distributing, servicing and financing these machines – strike me as tough challenges where there’s lots of work still to be done.

I wonder if there are any Ephs involved in this project? Zuckerman has provided some excellent coverage. I hope that he continues to do so.

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