There’s recently been a lot of hoopla surrounding the $100 laptop initiative from the gang over at MIT’s MediaLab. While I think it’s really great that peole have been thinking about how to reach out to developing countries and foster education, I think laptops are completely the wrong route.
Sid Steward, in his blog at O’Reilly Network, writes:
I hate to be a negative nancy, but all this press over the $100 laptop gets me thinking… and doubting. It is supposed to help schoolchildren, but where is the content? Where is the curriculum? What is it actually supposed to teach?
– Negroponte as The Music Man
I’ve surprised a number of people by standing against computer use in education. I don’t really think computers have any place in schools as part of the regular curriculum. At the extreme, I worry that schools will become like McDonalds where the Teacher is only there to act as a robot handing out materials leaving all the thinking to the “magic machine”. (If you haven’t been to a modern fastfood joint where you can enter your order and pay all from a little terminal while a drowntrodden human being whips up your culinary delight, you’re really missing out.)
I completely agree with Sid’s closing question:
Finally, what is the advantage of ‘one laptop per child’ over ‘$100 in books per child,’ or rather ‘$100 of school supplies per child.’
Indeed, what additional value do we think a $100 laptop will provide that quality books wouldn’t?