By Joan Francioni
One laptop per child for the world’s poorest children. That is the goal of the One Laptop per Child non-profit organization. Not one computer per school in each remote village or city. Not one computer per classroom. Not even one computer for every child in a classroom. But one laptop for each child that belongs to the child and that the child can take home as well as to school. One laptop that is designed for a child and that can be understood by a child in many different cultures. One laptop that can change the future for the child – and for the world. This is the heart of One Laptop per Child’s mission: “to provide educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by giving each child a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop; and software tools and content designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.”
As of mid-2010, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) has produced XO laptops for roughly 2 million children around the world. Most of the laptops are with children in Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Haiti and the United States. XO application programs are called “activities” and there are a variety of existing XO Activities that are either preinstalled, well-tested, or in-progress being used by these children.
The Computer Science Departments at Saint Mary’s University and at Winona State University are now part of OLPC. We have two test machines on loan and will be getting three more when our first program implementations are ready for testing.
For our initial OLPC project, we are partnering with Whole Kids Outreach in Missouri to address the needs of children in this relatively poor region of the state. The first goal of our project is to develop a set of XO computer activities to teach children in rural, isolated regions about health and wellness, and to help them to become caring adults. Initially, we will target 1st graders in the Winona Elementary School of Winona, MO. The project will address strategies to prevent abuse by increasing child resiliency, and to improve health by teaching obesity prevention. We will also incorporate culturally sensitive, animal-human relationship lessons to improve the likelihood of decreasing trans-generational child maltreatment. The now well-noted Humane Society study [First Strike: The Violence Connection], identifies the connection between poverty, domestic violence and animal cruelty. Additionally, studies show that supporting families to care well for their children also correlates with increased positive animal treatment.
As we will have college students in Minnesota developing the software for 1st graders in rural Missouri, our secondary goal is to develop a strong partnership with the education providers of the region. This partnership will help ensure that our college students develop effective and meaningful XO activities for the children and also that they develop a meaningful understanding of the power of technology to help people less fortunate than themselves.