OLPC – We Did It, We Got It

Pulling into the driveway this afternoon, I saw the box perched on our porch. Like the many other holiday packages that arrive, I didn’t give this one much of a thought until I got it inside and began to look at the address label. Pretty quickly, I realized that the computers we ordered from the OLPC program had arrived, and in time for Christmas.

Last month, I mentioned that we might order these for our kids and, in doing so, make the donation to the OLPC foundation to send two other computers to children somewhere else in the world. We debated for a day or two, and with the deadline looming, we ordered them. Since then, the deadline has been extended, which is great, and I’ve heard from others who are thinking about purchasing one or more computers, too, including Kevin Hodgson and a post on Helen Barrett’s blog.

For a number of reasons, I am so glad that we ordered them. I feel very fortunate that 1) we are in a position to be able to purchase two of these machines for our children as tools to enable their digital literacy and 2) that we have them right now, in time for a Christmas gift. Moreover, I also look forward to explaining how the OLPC program works, so our kids will know that we are helping other kids, too. In so many ways, this program epitomizes what I value about education, and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Lastly, the are green and white after all, so how could we resist?

Heather and I took them out of the box tonight, set them up, and got them running in just a few minutes. We only played for a few minutes (so I could write this post), and not nearly as extensively as David Pogue did. I admit, I did check the OLPC Getting Started Guide (which is all online, so as to save paper), to make sure I could connect to our password-protected home network. That was a snap, and in minutes we had figured out how to get online (above, on the left, see one machine with the web browser pointed at the NYT home page) and (on the right) create a brief video for our children saying, “Merry Christmas!” I took a quick tour of some of the programs just to get a sense of the interface, and I think that my 5-year-old daughter is going to pick up on this machine immediately. My 2-year-old son may just enjoy tapping at it for awhile, but my daughter will be able to utilize much of the functionality including a journal, web browser, painting program, and music making program.

So, now that we have the machines, the question is what to do with them: personally, professionally, collaboratively? I am extremely interested in hearing from other educators who have purchased these — for your children or your school — and to begin thinking about how we can use them in productive ways for teaching digital writing. I will be curious to see what the OS on this machine, as well as the apps, can do as I learn how to use it along with my kids.

When you get your hands on one of these incredible machines, please let me know what you are thinking about. Perhaps we can continue to add to the Learning Activities page on their wiki. Or have a meet-up of OLPC users/bloggers at an educational conference somewhere in the near future, perhaps at SITE in March?

At any rate, please let me know what you find out as you begin to explore this fascinating machine and how students learn to compose with it in the broadest sense of text, voice, image, video, and more.

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