OLPC was going to give every child a laptop — then it all went wrong

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It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.
At the end of 2005, the technological visionary and founder of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, took out the fabric cover of a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first functional prototype of the new non-profit organization One Laptop Per Child by Negroponte, called "the green machine" or simply "the $ 100 laptop." And it was nothing that Negroponte's audience, on his panel at a UN-sponsored technology summit in Tunisia, or around the world, had ever seen him.
After the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, offered a brilliant presentation, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $ 100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but would require so little electricity that a child could feed it with a crank. It would be tough enough for children to use anywhere, rather than just schools. The mesh network would allow a laptop to extend a single Internet connection to many others. A Linux-based operating system would give children full access to the computer: OLPC reportedly rejected a free license offer for Mac OS X from Steve Jobs. And as the name implies, the laptop would cost only $ 100, at a time when its competitors cost $ 1,000 or more.
"We really believe that we can literally make hundreds of millions of these machines available to children around the world."
"We really believe that we can literally make hundreds of millions of these machines available to children around the world," Negroponte promised. "And it's not just $ 100. It's going to go lower." He hinted that the big manufacturing and buying partners were on the horizon, and demonstrated the versatile hardware of the laptop, which could be bent into a thick electronic reader, a simple gaming console or a small television.
Then, Negroponte and Annan got up for a photo shoot with two OLPC laptops, and the journalists asked them to show off the distinctive handles of the machines. Annan's crank fell almost immediately. As he silently rejoined him, Negroponte managed a half turn before hitting the flat surface of the table. He awkwardly lifted the laptop a few inches, trying to make room for a full rotation. "Maybe later …" she broke off, before returning to sit down with the crowd's questions.
The moment was brief, but he perfectly predicted how critics would see One Laptop Per Child a few years later: as a striking, intelligent and idealistic project that was shattered in its first brush with reality.
If you remember the OLPC at all, you probably remember the crank. It was the most striking technological innovation of OLPC: it was a pure vaporware. The designers left the show almost immediately after the announcement of Negroponte, because the sinuous process put tension on the body of the laptop and demanded energy that children from very poor areas could not do without. Each OLPC computer ships with a standard power adapter.
At the time that OLPC was officially launched in 2007, the "green machine" – once a rising star of the 21st century educational technology scene – was a symbol of the arrogance of the technology industry, a unique American solution to global problems complex. But more than a decade later, the legacy of the project is more complicated than a simple warning story. Their laptops are still coming out of production lines, and a new model is expected later this year.
And people still talk about the crank.

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

Nicholas Negroponte was a self-styled optimist, and his business was inventing the future. A professor with decades of experience at MIT, Negroponte had co-founded the university's influential Media Lab in 1985. He had been one of the first sponsors of Wired magazine, where he wrote a column that evangelized the transforming power of technology. And he had a great passion for education, where computers, he thought, could be revolutionary.
Negroponte believed in constructionism: an educational theory that said children should learn by doing things and solving problems, instead of completing worksheets or attending classes. In 1982, Negroponte and a colleague at MIT and key figure in the construction, Seymour Papert, were paired for an initiative at a research center funded by France in Senegal, teaching children to program on Apple II computers. (Negroponte did not return requests for an interview for this article).
"The real problem was not the lack of good ideas, the real problem was the lack of access to computers."
In the late 1990s, children's IT initiatives were an important political priority in the United States. President Bill Clinton popularized the idea of ​​a "digital divide" between rich and poor, and some American schools began issuing individual computers to close the gap. Microsoft and Toshiba sponsored a laptop distribution program called Anytime Anywhere Learning, and Maine funded a state initiative with Papert's own participation.
Negroponte, however, was more interested in reaching students who might never have seen a laptop. In 1999, he and his wife opened a school in the remote Cambodian village of Reaksmei, equipping it with a satellite dish, generators and rugged Panasonic Toughbook laptops.
It was a key moment for Negroponte. He considered the program a success and spoke with reporters about how children would use laptops as the only source of electric light in their homes: "He talks about a metaphor and a reality simultaneously," he joked at one point. But most schools across the developing world could not afford Toughbooks. They needed a new type of device.
"How do you take these ideas that we have been, we believe, working successfully for 40 years and take them to scale?" Says Walter Bender, who was a colleague of Negroponte and later co-founder of OLPC. "[Nicholas Negroponte] had the idea that the real problem was not the lack of good ideas, the real problem was the lack of access to computers."

OLPC was not just a laptop, it was a philosophy. Negroponte insisted that children should personally own computers, so they would invest in maintaining them. And they should be able to use them anywhere, not only under the supervision of teachers. To inspire himself, he pointed to the famous Hole-In-The-Wall experiment by educational researcher Sugata Mitra, where children learned to use a computer in a poor neighborhood of Delhi. Mitra's vision was more minimalist than OLPC, but both projects focused almost entirely on the distribution of computers. It was assumed that the children's natural curiosity did the rest.
This was a provocative idea, and Negroponte's OLPC leaned toward the line between ambition and arrogance. The organization would not only sell hundreds of millions of units, he said; I would not even receive orders of less than a million. The laptop was not only tough, it was so hard that I could throw it across a room, a feature that I would happily demonstrate in interviews.
These pronouncements were news. "We would not be having this conversation, and OLPC would not be recognized yet, ten years later, by many people, if they had not been great from the beginning," says Christoph Derndorfer, former editor of businessman Wayan Vota. Blog now gone OLPC News.
"Wow, get a decent computer where you can read the text," Bill Gates told reporters
But OLPC's overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One participant said he would prefer to have "clean water and real schools" than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. "Under the guise of lack of profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be hit by our governments," he complained. In the world of technology, people were also skeptical about the design of the laptop. Intel president Craig Barrett poignantly nicknamed the OLPC toy prototype "the $ 100 contraption" and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. "Go get a decent computer where you can read the text," he told reporters.
Even OLPC fans were somewhat dubious. "We were excited about the prospects, but somewhat frightened by the overly simplistic plan or the lack of a plan," recalls Derndorfer. OLPC News could have been an enthusiastic supporter of OLPC, but it was also an implacable gadfly: its first archived publication, which cites a ZDNet report, is titled "OLPC is not a good start".
And the laptop that Negroponte launched in 2005 simply did not exist. The OLPC prototype was little more than a model. He had not signed a manufacturer, much less a sub-$ 100 product. Pioneer technologies such as the crank and mesh network were still mostly theoretical.
Rabi Karmacharya, whose non-profit education Open Learning Exchange Nepal runs one of the oldest existing OLPC deployments, says that for people launching OLPC to their local governments, the utopian exaggeration on a $ 100 self-sufficient computer was not useful. It distracted people from the promise of what OLPC was really building: a small, low-power laptop at an incredible price.

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

Despite the clumsy presentation in Tunisia, within a month OLPC had reached an agreement with the Taiwanese computer manufacturer Quanta, whose founder, Barry Lam, appreciated the humanitarian mission of the project. OLPC announced plans for its launch in late 2006, sending one million laptops each to seven countries, as well as smaller numbers for developer communities elsewhere. Quanta was even supposed to explore the construction of a commercial version of the laptop.
OLPC had achieved genuine technical advances. In its first conceptual designs, the laptop used a rear-projection screen that gave it the appearance of a tent; The final product featured a custom LCD screen designed by CTO and co-founder Mary Lou Jepsen. The screen alternated between full-color and black-and-white modes, consuming a fraction of the power a standard screen would need. It could be manufactured for only $ 35, which was more than what Negroponte initially wanted, but still remarkably cheap.
The first OLPC prototype looked like a conventional computer, although it was bright green and book-sized. The designer Lauved Yves Béhar soon joined to return to work almost all other aspects of the aesthetics of the laptop. Behar says the team spent almost a year sending prototypes to schools around the world for comments, as they slowly negotiated a compromise between appearance and practicality.
Yves Béhar soon joined to return to work almost every other aspect of the aesthetics of the laptop
The result was a distinctive-looking machine known as XO-1: a green and white laptop like a top with rounded edges, a rotating "neck" instead of a standard hinge and a thick bezel around its 7-inch screen, 5 inches. Each flowering in the XO-1 was designed to serve a purpose. Its screen folded on the keyboard to create a tablet, controlled by a few buttons on its bezel.
Ear-shaped antennas raised to extend your Wi-Fi range, while protecting the laptop's ports when folded. A decorative XO logo was printed on hundreds of permutations of colors, so that children could differentiate their laptops. And a one-piece dustproof rubber keyboard facilitated the printing of any key design. "Some countries got their first keyboard created in their own local language," says Béhar.
Walter Bender, meanwhile, was working on a lightweight operating system designed specifically for children. Sugar OS was built on Red Hat Linux, and its open-source design would allow children to rummage through the laptop's central firmware. Instead of using the metaphor of standard desktop computing, Sugar's application icons were organized as a bracelet of digital charm: a simple ring of animals, musical notes and shooting stars. "It was very oriented to tools: tools to do things, to do things," recalls Bender. "It was not curriculum-oriented, it was not a lot of exercises."
With The New York Times publishing headlines like "The laptop that will save the world" and millions of sales on the horizon, OLPC seemed ready for success. Then, everything began to fall apart.

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

After announcing "the $ 100 laptop," OLPC had a job to do: make a laptop that cost $ 100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this was not going to happen.
According to Bender, OLPC brought the cost of the laptop to a minimum of $ 130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price was raised to around $ 180, and even then, the design had significant tradeoffs. The XO-1 was easy to disassemble, there were even some spare screws inside its handle. But things like the screen can only be replaced with specific pieces of OLPC. Solid-state storage was more robust than a traditional hard drive, but so expensive that the XO-1 could only hold a single gigabyte of data. Some users complained that the one-piece rubber keyboard fell apart after writing too much. The internet exchange system barely worked, and was quickly removed from Sugar.
While Sugar was an elegant operating system, some potential buyers doubted anything other than Microsoft Windows. They wanted the students to learn an interface they would use for the rest of their lives, not just the XO-1.
"Utopianism set unrealistic expectations about what laptops should be able to achieve."
OLPC may have undermined even the strengths of the XO-1 by selling them in excess. "Utopianism sets unrealistic expectations about what laptops should be able to achieve," says Morgan Ames, a Berkeley researcher who is currently writing a book on OLPC. That included Negroponte's laptop launch demonstrations. "When you talk about a laptop used by children surrounded by concrete floors and cobbled streets, there were a lot of breaks that really dazzled the projects, because they expected these laptops to be much more indestructible."
And since OLPC had focused so much on cost, Bender began to worry that people would consider the project as a hardware startup, not an educational initiative. Remember to discuss the name of the laptop with Negroponte: instead of "the $ 100 laptop", Bender wanted to call it "the children's machine", he says. "I think we got more mileage from The $ 100 Laptop" at that time, because typical laptops cost more than $ 1,000, so it was a very bold statement, but it burned that, because we established a expectation about the price, instead of an expectation about what this machine was really for ".

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

While OLPC was still designing the XO-1, Intel announced that it was also building a cheap educational laptop. The Classmate PC would be small and robust as the OLPC design, but it runs the most familiar Windows XP operating system and sells for between $ 200 and $ 400. As the large-scale OLPC rollout fell until 2007, and its label $ 100 price tag faded, Intel sent the first Classmate PCs to Brazil and Mexico.
Negroponte was furious. It lashed out at Intel, accusing it of approaching OLPC's target markets and throwing laptops below cost to destroy the non-profit organization. "Intel should be ashamed of itself," he said. "It's just – it's just shameless."
OLPC, which prided itself on not being a technology company, had little experience in landing hardware contracts. He announced incredible sales numbers, only for buyers to reduce or abandon. According to reports, officials in India, one of OLPC's seven original clients, killed the agreement due to a long-standing dispute with the Media Lab. In a particularly painful loss, Libya canceled an order of 1.2 million XO-1 laptops and bought Classroom PCs instead.

Bender believes that OLPC could have reached more agreements if it had focused less on technical efficiency. "All the conversations we had with any head of state, every time, they said:" Can we build the laptop in our country? ", He says. "We knew that by making the laptop in Shanghai, we could build the much less expensive laptop [to be] and what we did not realize was that the price was not what they were asking us. They were asking us about the control and ownership of the project. " OLPC had created a computer that could withstand dust and falls, but it had not been responsible for political entanglement.
As the development dragged on, the XO-1 began to look less technically impressive, too. In mid-2007, the Taiwanese company AsusTek unveiled a new eye-catching computer called Eee PC, which delivers a small, inexpensive laptop computer without OLPC or with the educational traps of Intel. The Eee PC had many of the drawbacks of the XO-1: slow performance, a small screen, a tiny hard drive and a tight keyboard. But the $ 399 machine was an unexpected success. It sold 5 million units in the first year, and other laptops manufacturers quickly launched their own "netbook" computers, driving a massive boom in small cheap laptops.
Meanwhile, OLPC's prospects seemed increasingly modest. A 2007 report suggested that the first production of the XO-1 would be just 300,000 laptops. The final numbers were not so bad. OLPC ran a "Give One Get One" program where people paid $ 400 to buy a laptop for themselves and a student, raising $ 35 million and selling 162,000 computers. It achieved significant agreements with Mexico, Uruguay and Peru, for a total of around 600,000 sales of XO-1 by the end of the year.
Even so, this was far from the original estimate of 5 to 15 million. "To a certain extent, I have underestimated the difference between shaking hands with a head of state and having a written check," Negroponte finally admitted. "And yes, it has been a disappointment."

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

The launch of the XO-1 should have been just the beginning for OLPC, but for two of the three co-founders of the group, it was almost the end. In early 2008, Mary Lou Jepsen left to start a low-energy screen company called Pixel Qi. A few months later, OLPC took a step that Walter Bender thought was unforgivable: he compromised his commitment to open source software, partnering with Microsoft to put Windows on the XO-1.
The OLPC hardware and software sides were separated, and Bender continued to administer his software in a separate suite called Sugar Labs. Ultimately, the OLPC Windows XP model never exceeded a test run, and laptops use Sugar up the present day. "All I did was stop receiving a check," jokes Bender. "So it was not very smart on my part, but I saw it."
OLPC went ahead by announcing a futuristic dual-screen laptop called the XO-2 in May 2008, but as US. UU It spiral into the Great Recession, the organization had problems. When he tried to raise money with a second sale of "Give One Get One," he earned less than a tenth of his previous income. Surprised, Negroponte cut the budget for the initiative, cut its staff in half and created two separate organizations to manage it. His own "OLPC Foundation" based in Boston would develop new hardware, but not the XO-2, which was canceled without ceremony. An "OLPC Association" based in Miami, led by his friend Rodrigo Arboleda, would distribute their existing laptops.
This was a real victory for OLPC, but when it happened, many people already considered the initiative as a failure.
This placed the OLPC base of operations closer to Latin America, where most of its laptops were located. Peru ordered almost one million XO-1 computers, but its program was plagued by logistical problems, since the machines went to schools with irregular electrical power and the teachers received little support or training. A smaller program in Uruguay fared better, distributing 400,000 laptops across the country's primary school population. This was a real victory for OLPC, but when it happened, many people already considered the initiative as a failure.
OLPC's partnership with Microsoft had alienated parts of the open source community and there was nothing. He had experimented with a US program in Birmingham, Alabama, but his key contact, the mayor of Birmingham, was arrested for running a multibillion-dollar bribe network. In 2009, TechCrunch named the OLPC laptop as one of the biggest product failures of the decade, blaming "the corporate internal struggle and the brightness of reality" for its demise.
And Negroponte was losing interest in the hardware. After outlining a dramatic (and ultimately metaphorical) plan to drop helicopter tablets, the OLPC Foundation distributed mass-market Motorola Xoom tablets in two Ethiopian villages as a new experiment. In 2012, he reported that the children had learned the alphabet in two weeks and, in five months, had "pirated Android", which referred to the deactivation of the software that deactivated the camera. As Android phones and tablets became more sophisticated, Negroponte abandoned the development of an OLPC solar powered XO-3 tablet. Soon after, he joined the newly founded Global Literacy XPrize, effectively leaving OLPC behind him.
Arboleda tried to restart the OLPC Association and offer more institutional support to the schools, but the prospects of the project continued to decrease. A controlled study in 2012 in Peru found that laptops had not improved children's math or language skills, although there were some other improvements in cognitive skills. Economical laptops were only one factor in children's educational opportunities, and with so many different options in the market, OLPC seemed obsolete.
OLPC launched a low-power US tablet in 2013, by sliding a plastic housing over a generic Android device. The same year, released an updated version of the XO-1 with new components and an optional touch screen, called XO-4. But there were no more big experiments or expansive plans for the future. In early 2014, the OLPC Foundation in Boston dissolved quietly and OLPC News closed. "Let's be honest with ourselves". The great excitement, energy and enthusiasm that united us is gone, "Vota wrote in a farewell message," OLPC is dead. "

Photo of James Bareham / The Verge

As far as most of the world is concerned, OLPC is dead. But Sameer Verma, a leader of the OLPC community who sits on the supervisory board of Sugar Labs, is not discouraged. "Ten years later, I feel like I'm still doing this," reflects Verma, an information systems professor at San Francisco State University. "I think it's still worth it, because in essence, this is really about our ability to solve our own problems, right? The more you know, the better it will be."
Like many OLPC enthusiasts, Verma is not dogmatic about hardware. At this time, Sugar Labs is an independent project and its applications have been migrated to a web-based initiator called Sugarizer, which can be run on almost any platform. In addition to laptops, several OLPC programs distribute separate servers containing Wikipedia articles, educational videos from the Khan Academy, and personalized material from local educational programs. They are huge repositories of information for children and teachers without constant Internet connections, and can be accessed through any type of laptop or tablet.
"My mother's family comes from a small agricultural village, and as we grew up, we were very familiar with the lifestyle there," says Verma. "When I looked at OLPC, I thought: I know this can really do a lot of good things for communities like that."
"The batteries still work, the wifi still works and, surprisingly, OLPC still generates the software images."
He is a great admirer of the XO-1 laptops, many of which, despite the very real technical problems, still work after ten years. "It makes me think that those things still work," he says. "The batteries still work, the wifi still works and, surprisingly, OLPC still generates the software images."
In 2015, the OLPC Association was purchased by the Zamora Terán Foundation, a non-profit organization created by Nicaraguan banking magnate Roberto Zamora. His son Rodrigo Zamora, board member of the OLPC Association, says that the new OLPC is focused on bringing laptops to non-governmental organizations and updating the hardware only when absolutely necessary. He is currently designing a successor to the XO-4, with a larger screen and more powerful components, apparently because the manufacturers complained that the old parts were becoming hard to find. "If it were [up to] we would continue with this," says Zamora. "Basically, our intention is to keep it as similar as possible, because it is having such good results."
Some implementations of OLPC are still implemented through governments. Rwanda, for example, spent the last decade handing laptops to young students. Project coordinator Eric Kimenyi says he distributed 275,000 in 1,500 schools, a reach that expands as more schools gain access to electric power.
Some projects, such as OLE Nepal, work with education departments but are run as non-profit organizations. Instead of trying to reach an entire country, OLE Nepal has distributed around 5,300 laptops in areas where OLPC hardware still has an advantage: remote rural districts without data networks or cable internet, accessible only during hours of walking.
Other implementations are even smaller and run privately. OLPC volunteer, Andreas Gros, is currently trying to establish a new project in Ethiopia, by providing laptops and servers to a social center for vulnerable children. (Gros says that laptops are currently tied in customs.) For him, the name is more important than the hardware. "People know what OLPC meant," he says. "They may not know the details, but at least it gives them an idea of ​​what you're trying to do."
None of these projects follows Negroponte's original plan. The operations in Nepal and Rwanda do not provide a laptop for each child, for example: children use them in shifts, which reduces the total cost to schools. Laptops generally remain in the classroom, where they are easier to protect and maintain. But the initiatives are still working towards the larger objective of OLPC, often using the original XO-1 laptops.
"If we do not grow 10, 15, 20 percent a year, that does not matter to us."
The current relationship of the OLPC Association with these projects is tenuous. Zamora says that OLPC personally visits schools to deliver laptops, but Verma and others in the volunteer community say they hardly know what is happening in the organization. "The gap between the volunteers and the company itself has increased, to the point that there is hardly any feedback between us and them," Verma says.
Después de años de insistir en que no era una empresa de tecnología, OLPC realmente se retiró de la carrera armamentística de computadoras portátiles, adoptando su condición de máquina de nicho. La computadora portátil actual de OLPC tiene la misma resolución de cámara y pantalla que su edición original de 2008, y menos memoria y almacenamiento que un teléfono inteligente económico. OLPC estima que ha enviado un total de 3 millones de máquinas XO en el transcurso de la última década. "No estamos en el negocio de vender computadoras portátiles", dice Zamora. "Si no crecemos 10, 15, 20 por ciento al año, eso no nos importa".
Entonces, ¿por qué sigues construyendo el XO? Esa es la pregunta que apartó a Negroponte de OLPC, pero que no molesta a Zamora. "Con un poco de dinero, podemos tener un gran impacto en las comunidades pobres de todo el mundo", dice. "[Other laptops] necesita ser reemplazado después de semanas de estar en el campo, con el polvo, el agua, el calor". Y aunque algunos teléfonos y tabletas son más baratos a corto plazo, un OLPC resistente podría durar más de una generación.
Para los niños que crecieron en torno a los teléfonos inteligentes y las tabletas, dice Karmacharya, el diseño XO de OLPC parece irremediablemente obsoleto. "Si sus padres tienen incluso un teléfono inteligente de bajo costo, están más interesados ​​en eso que en la computadora portátil". Pero el dispositivo es más resistente que una tableta Android barata, y su diseño único hace que sea más difícil robar. Los usuarios pueden confiar en la comunidad de desarrollo de Sugar para mantener el software. Y a diferencia de un teléfono o tableta, está hecho a medida para hacer cosas, no para consumirlas. "Estamos constantemente buscando cualquier tipo de alternativa", dice. "Y hasta la fecha, no hemos encontrado nada que se compare".

        Foto de James Bareham / The Verge

Negroponte ha dicho que OLPC merece más crédito por ayudar a reducir los precios de las computadoras durante el auge de las netbooks. "Estimamos que hay aproximadamente 50 millones de laptops en manos de niños que de otro modo no las hubiéramos recibido, no porque las fabricamos, sino porque bajamos los precios", dijo en una entrevista. "La gente podría recordar esa pequeña computadora portátil verde y blanca, pero el éxito real se redujo en todo el mundo".
E incluso hoy, la cofundadora Mary Lou Jepsen cree que las computadoras portátiles son vitales para la educación. "Una mejor capacitación de docentes solo puede llegar tan lejos cuando muchos de los docentes a los que se les paga por aparecer no lo hacen y muchos más son analfabetos. Darles a los niños acceso a la información les permite seguir aprendiendo, seguir preguntando 'por qué' y 'por qué no' ".
Sin embargo, sorprendentemente hay pocos datos concretos sobre el impacto a largo plazo de las OLPC en la educación infantil. Zamora señala algunos estudios de casos para países individuales y dice que OLPC desea encargar investigaciones más exhaustivas en el futuro. Pero la organización se ha centrado principalmente en anécdotas y números de distribución como marcadores de éxito. "OLPC siempre fue muy reacio a medir qué tan bien estaban haciendo frente al sistema escolar tradicional", dice Gros. "Solo ha habido un número muy limitado de intentos para medir realmente qué tan bien estaban haciendo los estudiantes con OLPC versus no, porque era muy difícil de hacer".
"Lo que el proyecto no demostró es que los niños podrían usar computadoras para aprender".
Ames cree que los fracasos de alto perfil de OLPC ayudaron a atenuar el entusiasmo en torno a los programas de tecnología ed. "Hubo mucha preocupación de que OLPC se estrellara y se llevara todo, que no habría fondos en [educational technology]no habría fondos para el desarrollo tecnológico", dice Ames. "Creo que ed-tech en particular todavía puede recurrir a algunos de los mismos tropos, y no ha aprendido completamente las lecciones que OLPC debería haberle enseñado. Pero ambos espacios tuvieron que madurar hasta cierto punto, y dejaron de ser tan ingenuos en su tecnicismo ".
Los programas de computadora portátil para estudiantes que no son OLPC aún son polémicos. El gobernador de Maine, Paul LePage, destrozó la iniciativa de su estado como un "fracaso masivo" en 2016, y mientras aún se está ejecutando, sus resultados han sido ambiguos y difíciles de medir. El proyecto Hole-in-the-Wall de Mitra ganó un premio TED de $ 1 millón en 2013, pero los críticos dicen que todavía no ha publicado ningún estudio riguroso de sus efectos. Bender isn’t convinced that Mitra’s minimalist computing project proved anything. “We already knew that kids could learn to use computers. They’ve been doing that since day one,” he says. “What the project did not demonstrate is that kids could use computers for learning.”
Ames says the real question isn’t whether laptop programs help students, but whether they’re more effective than other programs competing for the same money. “I think that given unlimited funding, absolutely … Learning about technology is very important,” she says. “That said, there’s always a tradeoff. There’s always some project that will be defunded or de-emphasized as a result of this.”
Thirteen years ago, OLPC told the world that every child should get a laptop. It never stopped to prove that they needed one.

        Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Years ago, I was one of the people who bought into One Laptop Per Child’s early hype. I yearned for a cheap computer that I’d never have to plug in. I swooned over its adorable design. (Those little ears!) I vaguely believed the crank was real, even after I saw an XO-1 firsthand without one. I became, and remain, a huge fan of the Eee PC that followed it. But I’d never actually used the laptop until a couple of months ago, when I ordered one off eBay on a whim.
Besides a missing battery, my XO-1 works perfectly, or at least, as perfectly as I could expect from a decade-old computer. I’ve showed off its apps to my colleagues, although it’s so slow that some wander away while they’re launching. Whatever people say about its ruggedness, the hinge feels fragile in my hands. It is eminently a children’s machine, not an all-purpose laptop. My adult brain is already trained on other operating systems, and my fingers barely fit the rubber keys.
But I’ve still never seen anything like it.

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