Talk:Concerns and criticism


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Etiquette note

This DISCUSSION/TALK page is how one debates and criticizes the related article. Having contrary points of view interspersed within the ARTICLE itself, especially when they are unsigned, only confuses an attempt to write coherent essays! If you want to add an extended statement to the article itself, please feel free to begin a new section within it. Or even create an entirely NEW ARTICLE, if you prefer. Thanks! - Docdtv 21:41, 6 December 2006 (EST)

"Reasons like those above are why I would like the overall OLPC effort to concentrate on developing quality e-books for the kids..." - docdtv

This is one of the key reasons for the OLPC project. However, the developers did not just stop with an ebook reader because they realized that with a bit more work the device could be leveraged as a general purpose computer with capabilities beyond that of traditional laptops. Ebooks are enough to justify the cost of the device but a smart ministry of education will make use of some of the other capabilities. - an unsigned party

Sorry, I don't agree the OLPC machine is only a "bit more work" than an e-book reader; but my point has nothing to do with engineering. My point is that institutional reform is much harder than engineering design. No matter how capable or cheap some machinery is, it does no good unless people use it. I am not terribly optimistic based on what I've seen to date in typical places in the USA. - Docdtv 21:41, 6 December 2006 (EST)

"McKinsey Inc. did a well-known study of the growth of USA business productivity in the late 1990s..." - docdtv

You stated that productivity increases resulted because of improvements in operations. That word, "operations" really means communication because in business, to operate effectively you need to communicate effectively. As you stated, Indian students felt that their education did not offer enough opportunities for communication. Have you failed to notice that the OLPC's long-range wireless and built-in chat application will give kids the opportunity for increased communication. Not just when they are gathered in groups after school but also when they are at home in the evening. And not just with the kids in their neighborhood but with kids that are further away as well. - an unsigned party

Yes, I am well acquainted with the technical specs of the machine, even if I do not follow them every week. (In fact, I posted the first comments on the hardware design back when this Wiki was rolled out at its original location, viz. .) The cited [McKinsey report] speaks for itself, and cannot be boiled down to a single thing like interpersonal communication. While there are unusual children, my personal, admittedly limited, observation has been as I stated: that when left alone, kids are typically preoccupied with MMO twitch games, rather than serious learning through reading, conversation or writing online.

By the way, I'm not against games or high-tech telecommunication - but the latter is not required for educational gaming. As an example, I would cite a board game I played as a high school student over a third century ago, [Diplomacy]. While I had enough money to own an $8? game set, it might alternatively be played with mere sticks and stones on a dirt floor with nothing lost in the process. As the Wikipedia article writes:

The excitement of the game is less in the tactics than in negotiation, coalition-building, and intrigue. Each player's social and interpersonal skills are at least as important to the game as the player's strategic abilities.

We can argue how kids might use their OLPC machines outside of the school system, but the point I am making is that it is difficult to make new technology work within a school system, as is illustrated by someone with developing-world IT field experience [here].

- Docdtv 21:41, 6 December 2006 (EST)

I think that this is a fantastic and highly relevant article.

Have spent my own fair share of time developing "world changing technology" only to run into the brutal reality that having an IQ that can envisage better ways of doing things may be a necessary condition to improving the world but it is not sufficient.

I would go further and state that (except in rare cases such as their survival being at stake!) once an individual is earning their income from a certain way of doing things it is very hard to persuade them to buy into a different way.

When you multiply this individual resistance to change to entire systems of individuals such as corporations or school districts... well...

Now it may look like I'm being unduly negative, but I think there is room for a lot of optimism.

As Docdtv stated in his article, the machine's functionality as an eBook reader provides an _excellent_ Trojan horse to get it past the battlements manned by ferocious bureaucrats.

I think it can be taken as a given that, with rare and precious exceptions, the vast majority of school systems will not understand nor care that their eBook reader also happens to be a general purpose computer.

Does this mean that the potential of the machine will then go wasted ?

I don't think so.

Speaking as someone who cut his teeth at age 12 on a Sinclair ZX81 [1] I believe that if sufficient effort is put into making it easier for the _children_ to explore the true nature of their "eBook readers" then it hardly matters that their schools missed the boat.

As for the kids who have no interest in learning to code... it may well be a very good idea to make it really hard for administrators to cripple it's functionality as a communications device.

Education is too important a matter to leave up to teachers, administrators and other adults.


[1] Ironically, I think I would have learnt LESS if I had started out on my 1.8ghz laptop with 2gigs of RAM and 80gig hard drive. On the ZX81 you were literally programming out of the box. On a modern system there are literally hundreds of steps that have to be accomplished before you're going to be writing your first program.

Aside: All who hope for new and better ways to teach children are greatly saddened by the news concerning the terrible injury suffered by Prof. Papert. Long decades ago I attended a single talk he gave, and even now I recall how warm and gentle a man he seemed. (His personality reminded me of a beloved introductory psychology teacher, the late Prof. Teuber). Should this catastrophe sadly end the professional life of this OLPC advisor, his influence will always be remembered by many children - perhaps including some great future engineers - through his creation of LOGO, the language used to program the LEGO MINDSTORMS system, as well as by all his peers for his many other important contributions.

- Docdtv 07:46, 14 December 2006 (EST)


Most of the issues raised here strike me as confirming the sheer brilliance of the OLPC approach to dealing with both those and many other issues.

One point that might get ignored by others who have a similar reaction was the reference to the educational virtues of the simple board game Diplomacy. On that I agree it is a classic example of something incredibly powerful educationally so please don't just dismiss it along with the rest of the critique.

Naturally Diplomacy has gone on from being just a board game to a significant online play by email community (like those for chess and go).

Implementing on the XO would be a great project and worthy application of the critics talents or for those of anyone else impressed after following the references included in the above wikipedia article. Note that as well as being able to play just using the XO as a board and adjudicator and locally across the mesh and by email globally, the pervasive concept of sharing activities designed into the XO (including voice and text chat along with any other shared activity) enables enhancements such as a group of children collaborating as a single player against another team or remote adult player, with facilities for individuals in the team to role play opposing players when discussing both board tactics and negotiating strategy.


This is not disclosed upfront on olpcnews, which I think should if it truly wants to assert independence (which in any newspaper means transparency and full disclosure of business ties relating to the subject matter of its articles). Its founder is the director of Geekcorps, which has a business relationship with "Intel's "Discover the PC" initiative focused on delivering products and technologies that are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of people in emerging markets." source

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