Should your school participate in the XO G1G1 program?

One Laptop per Child: Give 1 Get 1Thinking about creating a school program around the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop computer? At the recent NEIT 2008 conference (see my post, The people in the room are the right people), several schools were thinking along these lines. Would the Give One, Get One (G1G1) project be a perfect holiday project, raising funds for something that would help the poorest children in the world, and potentially benefit the school as well?

For example, if a school raised $2,000, that would be enough money to purchase ten XO laptops. The school would get five, and five children somewhere in the world would get the others.

As we talked about the options, there were some good ideas for using the XOs that I’d like to share.

  • “field trip” computers for recording audio, video and notes
  • start a computer club where students participate in the XO community
  • have them in the library for check out
  • use them in lower grade levels

At the end of the day, it’s really up to the school and how involved they want to get. Even something as small  as promoting the program as an option for gift giving with a global purpose is worth doing.

Here are some questions that came up, with the answers if we could figure them out from the XO site.

Q: How does the XO compare to other small, inexpensive laptops on the market?
Its different!A: There are technical details on the Amazon XO site and even more on the OLPC wiki. However, my contention is that for most Americans, unless you are willing to buy-in to the XO learning principles and participate in the grand global experiment, the XO is not for you. If you are choosing a laptop simply on technical specifications or price, I’d suggest passing on the XO. (My checklist of “what not to expect” when you get an XO.)

Q: If my school participates in the G1G1 program, do we find out who gets the “other” laptops?
A: As far as we could find out, that is not possible. This isn’t like and “adopt a child” program, you don’t get a letter telling you who gets the computer. However, you can find a lot of stories about what kids are doing with their XO laptops around the world on the XO wiki. I imagine that it would be fairly easy to find a school somewhere to establish a “pen pal” relationship with. Also, with the Give Many program, if you donate enough money to purchase more than 100 XOs you can have your donation go to a particular country.

Q: Should we tell parents to do this and get a laptop for their child for home use?
A: If you do, you need to manage expectations for parents. These computers are not just cheap laptops or expensive Leapfrogs. Most parents will not be expecting to have to do their own tech support, system updates, or learn a new operating system. Again, see my checklist of “what not to expect” when you get an XO for some suggestions of what you do and don’t get with the XO.)

Q: We have lots of computers, we don’t need more. Can we just donate money?
A: According to the XO site, you can simply donate money in any amount. You can also just purchase one laptop that goes directly for donation for $199.

Q: Does it come with Windows?
A: There have been recent news reports about the XO being able to dual boot Sugar (the operating system designed for it) and Windows. The laptops purchased through the G1G1 program will NOT have Windows installed.

Q: Does it come with a hand crank?
A: No, that was just an early prototype that seems to have caught a lot of people’s imagination. It comes with a regular AC power adapter.

Q: Should we do the G1G1 program and then donate the computers to a nearby, needier school?
Only if the school wants them. These XOs are different than other computers and will need special maintenance and care. Some schools have created “exchange” programs, where students provide support and training for other schools. If you are willing to create such a long-term relationship, this might be an extraordinary learning experience for your students.

Q: How long is the G1G1 program running? Holidays are too busy, but we could do something in the spring.
A: This is one question we couldn’t find a really solid answer to. The OLPC wiki says it will be an ongoing program, and that “While the promotion has no scheduled end date, the advertising will run from Nov 17 to Dec 26, to take advantage of the holiday giving season.” However, much of the news about G1G1 has stated that the program ends Dec. 31, 2008. There is an open question on the “talk” page of the OLPC wiki about this, but no one has responded yet. It’s possible that people are also confusing last year’s program which ran for a limited time.

My inclination would be to trust the OLPC wiki and assume that Amazon is committed to this for the long term… but keep checking back!

Sylvia

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