[LINK] OLPC in Australia

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Tue Oct 28 08:42:43 EST 2008

Pia Waugh talked at the One Laptop per Child Open Day in Canberra  27 
October 2008 <http://www.olpc.org.au/>. Non-profit group CASE 
<http://www.case.org.au/> hosted the event at Volunteering ACT, with 
about a dozen OLPC XO-1 <http://www.olpc.org.au/> interactive 
children's computers for people to try. Pia emphasized that the 
project is about interactive group education for primary school 
children (six to twelve years old). This is a group younger than the 
Federal Government's Digital Education revolution is targeted at, 
which is for secondary school children.

In Australia a trial is being undertaken in a typical Australia 
school and for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are 
also projects collaborating between Australia, New Zealand and 
Pacific countries. Australia's first trial of the OLPC finished 
Friday and will be published next month.

The OLPC project is based on open access licences. Apart from the 
OLPC hardware and software, there is also OLPC School Server software 
designed to run on low cost PC hardware. The project is encouraging 
content developers to also use an open licence, so the content is 
available to schools.

The OLPC can be customized at the national level for different 
languages. However, there are numerous indigenous languages used in 
Australia. This should be feasible to do as open source, so that it 
could be done and owned by the community.

The OLPC assumes a particular model of education, where each student 
interacts with their own computer. Even in developed nations this 
model has not been adopted, with many schools preferring to have 
students work in groups, even where a computer for each student can 
be afforded. Also a computer for the teacher and an interactive 
white-board which can be seen by and used for the whole class is seen 
as a priority over computers for each student. The OLPC project may 
be aimed at education but many of those involved are computer people, 
not educators. I was the only one who put up their had when the 
audience was asked who as a teacher (and I am just an adjunct 
university lecturer, not a primary school teacher).

While the OLPC project appears meaning, it is still not clear to me 
that the aid model it is based on is a good one. It might be better 
if the computers were sold commercially and developing countries were 
free to spend their aid money on the OLPC, on a rival product, or on 
other educational materials. The current model does not give the 
beneficiaries the choice of what they get.

It would also be useful to be able to de-couple the issues of the 
OLPC hardware from the educational applications. The Australian 
initiative of trials of the OLPC for remote education may well save 
the worldwide project by being able to emphasize these aspects and 
being able to communicate them to the educational and general 
community. Australia has a strong tradition and expertise in distance 
education with services such as the School of the Air.

More at: <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2008/10/olpc-in-australia.html>.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University 

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