CS Table 4/24/18: The Rise and Fall of the OLPC

We'll be talking about the rise and fall of the One-Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative started by Nicholas Negroponte in 2005. The purpose of the OLPC was to transform education by introducing digital literacy to children around the world, in particular, in developing nations. To do this, the initiative focused on developing low-cost, rugged laptops and software packages that students in low-income countries could use to realize the constructivist dream of learning-by-building, e.g., through tinkering, programming, and creating digital artifacts.While the OLPC started with lofty goals, it fizzled out over the course of half a decade. During this CS Table, we'll analyze what went wrong and what went right with the OLPC movement and what we might learn from it.

The main reading for this week is an excellent historical analysis of the OLPC initiative by Adi Robertson of The Verge.

If you get interested in this topic, here is an additional paper by one of the authors, Morgan Ames, mentioned in the Robertson reading. Ames takes an ethnographical approach to analyzing the successes and shortcomings of the OLPC movement that I think is a great example of anthropology applied to the history of technology. Please note that to access the Ames article, make sure you are accessing it through a Grinnell IP address, e.g., on campus or through an appropriate proxy.

Computer science table (CS Table) is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Tuesdays from 12:00–12:45pm in JRC 224A (inside the Marketplace). Contact the CS faculty for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department (sign in at the Marketplace front desk).