Tuesday, February 03, 2009

$10 laptop - India leads the way

At Learning Technologies I talked about the stupidity of the table-top computer in schools and their fondness for DIY IT, whereby every school gets a budget and they all reinvent the wheel by doing the same thing, slowly, expensively and often badly. The well intentioned IT person in every school is struggling to get the website, VLE, security and resources for their schools in order. BETT is the showcase for this amateurism. It’s madness.

That’s why I mentioned the possibility, first mooted by Bill Joy the co-founder of Sun, of the $10 laptop. He saw this as a simple extension of Moore’s Law (exponential processor power) and others have added Metcalfe’s Law (exponential network power) and Reed’s Law (exponential utility of networks). This was reported last week as happening in India, but turns out to have been lazy reporting by the press. It is in fact a $100 laptop, something we’ve heard of before, through the one laptop per child initiative. It is clear that the cheap netbook or laptop is now about the same price as a games console and therefore within the reach of most parents. If we want personalised learning we must use personalise technology. In short, netbook/laptop/mobile technology will get more powerful, smarter, easier to use, wireless and cheaper. There will also be great leaps forward in screen technology that reduces battery power. The $10 laptop will, I believe, come in time. 

But there’s more to this story than meets the eye, as it has another important component, the supply of content through the Sakshat portal. The vision is to link schools via broadband to resources that will be available to every child with a laptop. This is precisely what we should be doing in the UK. We must also remember that good content must be created centrally and distributed at low cost to all schools. You can’t rely on rapid development tools and teachers doing it for themselves, as they have neither the time nor skills to get the job done. God knows we’ve been punting this idea around for nearly 25 years with no progress reported so far.


Anonymous said...


I request you to discard this comment. I checked the Sakshat site and figured out that most of the links are not working. The video clips are of a low audio-video quality and mostly the instructor is explaining what is written on the board, which is not visible in the video clip.

A while ago I was in Delhi University where a professor had called me to see if I could help with the e-learning courses they were making. Now, most of the academicians here are too full of themselves to hear to any logic. I observed the glaring mistakes they were making while making so called courses. There were no clear objectives and no enabling objectives. They were feeding in what they repeated in classes day after day. They needed someone to do the technical support, it was painful to see them making irrational courses on beautiful, grant-aided Apple Mac computers. What they do is create a fort across their place and don't let anyone from outside breach their space, no matter how much more that outsider can add to their knowledge. I have been trying to enroll for a PhD in Environmental Science, but they have such a close knit system of give and take that they quickly fill the vacancies with those they need to favor, sickening. I was disillusioned big time. So, this akshat thing might be a hog wash, they get these grants and create all this superficial stuff to justify the aids.
Now, this is just not in India, I was working with an e-learning company where they were making courses for MOD UK. I myself made many courses, some officers would visit and give a shaky outline for the courses and clear the superficial doubts. The whole exercise was ridiculous. Anyway, the long-drawn project ended and when I reviewed some courses they seemed like a complete waste of time, and mostly the people who were making them did not know the basics of what they were trying to teach to the learner. These courses would assess the learner and validate their eligibility for a transfer to the other departments. The whole thing was scattered and even when they would have saved money on the instructors, I do not thing there was much to learn through these kind of mechanically put together content. I really don't know if I should be telling you this but since it was your own country's government funding these outsourced material, I thought you should know that such sham jobs are being done with tax payers money.
Coming back to Indian educational system, it is something that is going from bad to worst. It is just the Indian mind set of struggling against all odds and the parents' hard earned money that gives us such a huge base of educated people.

It is interesting to know that you are learning about the mysterious Egyptian script. Thanks for the tip about going through the day's learning. I will try and implement it. Another thing, I feel learning is painless when it is in a friendly environment. It is the playful aspects of learning that get attached to the serious facts which get embedded in the memory. Like, what do you remember about my answer in the last post. I can't be certain but my guess is that is the image of me getting slapped on my head for snoozing. Right? I am enjoying this so much-to learn about how we learn! Awesome. Thanks for such beautiful posts.

Anonymous said...

Re the points you make in your post regarding the networking of schools via broadband. Have a look at "Glow" (http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/glowscotland/)

Still not "best in class", but a step in the right direction?

Clark said...

I suggest that instead of a Man on Mars (and I believe such moves are useful), a more important "man on the moon" project would be to put an entire K12 curriculum (21st century version) up online . Lessons, resources, etc.

Sure, there'd be arguments about what the curriculum should entail (I reckon it's ok if it's more than really could be fit into the average school year). But problem-solving, learning, communicating, tech-enabled, layering on maths, science, reading/writing, and learning to learn skills, would be critical.

Such an effort would create jobs, educate the populace, and help not just the country but the world.

Anonymous said...

Couple of downsides to this... It's not $10 (more like $30), it's not a laptop (more like some kind of ugly external hard drive).

But don't let that get in the way of hopes and dreams, etc. :)