OLPC:Five principles

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The Five OLPC Principles

child ownership

OLPC has created the XO laptop at a very low cost, robust and powerful, beautiful and friendly. It has been designed explicitly for children of the elementary classes, the first one of its kind. The ownership of the XO is a basic right of the child and is coupled with new duties and responsibilities, such as protecting, caring and sharing this valuable equipment.

A laptop can be transformed into a mobile school: a portable learning and teaching environment. A connected laptop is more than a tool. It is a new human environment of a digital kind. A key OLPC asset is the free use of the laptop at home, where the child (and the family) will increase significantly the time of practice normally available at the standard computer lab in the school.

I wear my XO like my pair of shoes.

low ages

The XO is designed for the use of children of ages 6 to 12—covering the years of the elementary school—but nothing precludes its use earlier or later in life. Children don’t need to write or read in order to play with the XO and we know that playing is the basis of human learning. Moreover those digital activities will help the acquisition of the writing and reading skills.

Every year a new cohort will be incorporated into the program. Accordingly the assessment of the OLPC program should be intrinsic to each cohort and every student will keep an individual portfolio or journal with the trace of his or her learning paths in the most diverse disciplines at school. In particular small children with learning, motor or sensory disabilities may use the computer as a prosthesis to read, write, calculate, and communicate.

I have good XO shoes for a long walk.


The OLPC commitment is with elementary education in the developing countries. In order to attain this objective we need to reach a “digital saturation” in a given population. The key point is to choose the best scale in each circumstance. It can be a whole country, a region, a municipality or a village, where every child will own a laptop. As with vaccination a digital saturation implies the continuous intervention on the successive cohorts at the proper ages.

The whole community will become responsible of the OLPC program and the children will receive support of many institutions, individuals and groups of this community. Because of the connectivity inherent to OLPC these different communities will grow together and expand in many directions, in time and space. They will become solid and robust, because they are saturated, without holes or partitions.

A healthy education is a vaccination, it reaches everybody and protects from ignorance and intolerance.


The XO has been designed to provide the most engaging wireless network available. The laptops are connected to each other, even when they are off. If one laptop is connected to the Internet, the others will follow to the web. The children in the neighborhood are thus permanently connected to chat, share information on the web, gather by videoconference, make music together, edit texts, read e-books and enjoy the use of collaborative games on line.

The battery of the laptop can work for many hours and it can be charged in special gang chargers in the school or by mechanical or solar power. The unique XO display allows the use of the laptop under a bright sun, enabling the user to work outside the classroom or home, in the wild as well as in any public open place.

The connectivity will be as ubiquitous as the formal or informal learning environment permits. We are proposing a new kind of school, an “expanded school” which grows well beyond the walls of the classroom. And last but not least this connectivity ensures a dialogue among generations, nations and cultures. Every language will be spoken in the OLPC network.

When we talk together we stay together.

free and open source

The child with an XO is not just a passive consumer of knowledge, but an active participant in a learning community. As the children grow and pursue new ideas, the software, content, resources, and tools should be able to grow with them. The very global nature of OLPC demands that growth be driven locally, in large part by the children themselves. Each child with an XO can leverage the learning of every other child. They teach each other, share ideas, and through the social nature of the interface, support each other's intellectual growth. Children are learners and teachers.

There is no inherent external dependency in being able to localize software into their language, fix the software to remove bugs, and repurpose the software to fit their needs. Nor is there any restriction in regard to redistribution; OLPC cannot know and should not control how the tools we create will be re-purposed in the future.

A world of great software and content is necessary to make this project succeed, both open and proprietary. Children need to be able to choose from all of it. In our context of learning where knowledge must be appropriated in order to be used, it is most appropriate for knowledge to be free. Further, every child has something to contribute; we need a free and open framework that supports and encourages the very basic human need to express.

Give me a free and open environment and I will learn and teach with joy.