Is the 100$ laptop “pedagogically suspect”?

I must report this, because in two earlier posts I have criticized the One Laptop Per Child / 100$ school laptop project.

It now looks that the Indian Ministry of Education has said a clear “thanks, but no thanks” for the 100$ laptop. The Indian National Newspaper The Hindu reports that the Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee called the project “pedagogically suspect” and argued that in India they need classrooms and teachers more urgently than laptops.

Actually, I am not sure how should we call the 100$ laptop nowadays. According to the latest reports the target price is now 140$ per unit, but as they are sold only in the quantity of 1 million units, we could as well call it 140 000 000 $ laptop. By the way, did you know that you must make your 1 million unit order and pay the 140 000 000 $ before the product is ready? Fair trade, isn’t it?

So, if you happen to be the Minister of Education and have extra 140 000 000 $ – that is a lot of money for any Ministry of Education in the world – do you prefer teachers and classrooms or laptops, when you are lacking both? I think it is fare to say that the 100$ Laptop project is a bit “pedagogically suspect”. The return of investment is not very clear.

Still I hope all the best for the OLPC research and development. Currently laptops are just too expensive and powerful for school use. There is a real need and possibility to bring simple and robust, but fully satisfactory computers/devices/terminals for school use. I hope the OLPC will contribute to this process, although their approach is a bit suspect – ethically, economically and pedagogically.

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