The XO laptop developed by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization is an “education project, not a laptop project.” I think this would also make a great lesson for students in the developed world about how children live and learn in poor, developing countries.
The OLPC wiki has lots of field diaries, videos, and stories that would be very appropriate to share with students and start a conversation about education around the world. This isn’t a “isn’t it sad how poor they are” lesson, it’s a lesson about how much education means to people even when they seem to have so little. Start here.
Go the next step
OLPC does give you the opportunity to simply donate money, and if your students feel strongly about helping, they could plan a fundraiser. Schools could also get some of the XO computers for themselves in the current Give One Get One program, but there are some caveats I pointed out in this blog post, Should your school participate in the XO G1G1 program. If your students are gung-ho, though, do it!
Kick it up a notch
Many young people around the world have contributed directly to the OLPC effort whether they actually have an XO laptop or not. There are suggestions for participating on the OLPC wiki including offering to answer tech support emails, translating, hosting or participating in local events, developing applications, and more.
- A student club can help develop new activities and participate in the XO community. People around the world are working on these open source activities, collaborating, and sharing. Teach students what it means to be a global citizen. Programming is NOT hard; it is well within the capability of many high school students and some middle school students. Even if you don’t have an XO, there are emulators that allow you to program for them.
- Join or start a local XO support group. They already exist in New York, San Francisco and Washington DC.
- Have a code jam. Perhaps a local Linux users group would help out.
- Do a presentation or pass out flyers at a local community event. OLPC offers ready made templates for you.
- Ask students what they would like to do to “change the world” for youth seeking an education in developing countries. Students need to understand that education is not a “zero sum” game, meaning that if other countries get better at educating poor children, we all benefit.
I’d love to hear about what youth have done to help support the OLPC effort!