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?
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?