The OLPC XO laptop seems to be a hit in Peru. The country placed the largest order for the machines (272,000) and it’s already enjoying success in many of the smaller rural villages.
One village in particular, Arahuay, is featured in an Associated Press article published on Monday. It’s an interesting read about how the computers are being used in daily life and how positively the people in the village — children and adults — have responded to the project.
The program still has its critics, though. A communications professor in Lima worries about "a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers." He basically thinks kids should stay dumber than their teachers so they don’t question or challenge what they’re taught, something he sees as disruptive. If anything, I think this program can make teachers better too as it’ll force them to learn enough to stay one step ahead of the students. They’re given 2.5 days of training on the machines and $150 towards the purchase of a regular laptop, which includes a special low-percentage educational financing program.
There’s also the question of tech support and what should be done if and when one of the laptops breaks. OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte favors tinkering, saying, "What you want is for the kids to do the repairs. I think the kids can repair 95 percent of the laptops." I agree. The laptops are rugged and durable but in the event that something goes wrong, why not let the kids figure out how to fix it instead of having to rely on someone else? There’s no better way to learn than by doing, which is the whole point of the OLPC project.
Laptop project enlivens Peruvian hamlet [AP/Yahoo! News]