A Different Back to School Laptop: OLPC’s XOs Head to Mali
Around this time of year students (along with their parents or at least their wallets) head to Best Buy to pick up the latest Apple MacBook or sleek looking laptop. Of course, we hope they all consult LAPTOP Magazine’s best back to school notebook list. Parents invest in a laptop for their children because it is an educational tool: It is a piece of mobile technology that students can take to class, churn out papers on, and use to search the largest encyclopedia in the world – the Internet. Then there are parts of the world where students don’t have the latest technology at their fingertips, nor even a guaranteed seat at school or other pleasures of life we take for granted. A small village in Mali called Quessoborgo is one of those places. We sent a laptop to some students in that village last November. We chose One Laptop Per Child’s (OLPC) XO laptop because, at the time, the non-profit was running a Give 1, Get 1 program, where Americans could buy two laptops at the price of $399. One had to be donated to a child in the developing world, and the other they could keep for themselves. We also chose the OLPC XO laptop because, out of all the other educational laptops on the market, it was the most conducive to the conditions of a developing country. We didn’t worry that the laptop would melt in the 105 degree heat (it was built to withstand 150 degree temperatures) or about the lack of electricity in the school (we sent a solar panel as well). When we saw how enamored these children were with the one green XO laptop, we did some back-to-school shopping on their behalf. LAPTOP Magazine bought 30 XOs at $200 a piece for the 3rd and 4th graders in the Mali Rising Foundation’s village school. We worked with former LAPTOP employee, Salimata Fandjalan Bangoura, a native of Mali, to arrange the program. Sali had moved back to Bamako, Mali after studying in the States and receiving her BS from Hunter College in New York City. Of course, 30 laptops isn’t enough to outfit a school or even a classroom in a village school where there are typically 60 students to one classroom and teacher. Therefore our donation has begun as a pre-pilot program where we have selected 30 students to attend a 5 week summer program. We donated these laptops, not only because we wanted to do an act of kindness, but also because we wanted to follow the effects of the XO laptop on children, especially with thousands being sent around the world. We hope you will follow along with our journey and as we post excerpts from Sali’s journal, along with pictures and videos of the children using the laptops. We will also detail the problems we have faced with setting up a very techincal program in a remote village of Africa as well as the issues we have had with the laptops, servers, and the software itself. Most importantly we plan on finding out if the XO is a student notebook we can recommend.