One laptop and three clicks to Peru

More three-clicks-out serendipity:

Stephen Downes tells about Marvin Minsky essays posted on a wiki.

The Minsky essays are here at the One Laptop Per Child site.

Scrolling down the OLPC home page, you find “What’s New,” which today shows over a dozen deployments in places like Mongolia, Uruguay, and Nepal.

I haven’t paid much attention to OLPC, but one line in the news items caught my eye: a followup visit to the site of Peru’s 8-month OLPC pilot.

Astounded in Arahuay, by Ivan Krstić, is worth reading in full. Here are highlights that opened my eyes wider than the two cups of coffee at breakfast:

The school’s former principal notes three significant changes:

  • In this poor, rural area, children didn’t see each other much outside of school. Since OLPC came, they connect “over the mesh” outside of school, and work together more in school.
  • The kids didn’t use to share much. (“They don’t have much; what they do have, they’re reluctant to share.”) They began sharing what they’d written, pictures they’d made — and this too has extended into the physical world.
  • The former principal believed that the fathers would pose a problem — when the laptops appeared, the kids didn’t want to work in the fields all day.

…Then [the kids] started showing [their fathers] the work they were doing for school. The reports they wrote, the pictures they took, the notes they compiled. And the fathers had actual proof that their kids were learning…
the school was no longer a black box whose efficacy had to be taken on faith: the kids could prove they were learning.

If you’re working in an academic or corporate setting in a developed country, take a few minutes to read about what can be done. Here’s the Arahuay page at the OLPC wiki for more about how the project began there.

That’s where you can read about second-grader Emilio (picture at left). His class was learning how to find words in an online Spanish dictionary (“costly and practically out of the children’s reach in book form”).

Emilio caught on fast — so fast that when the connection failed and the teacher told the class they’d have to try later, Emilio piped up, “No need, teacher. I got all the words, and everybody can copy them from me.”