Monday, June 21, 2010

1 Chron 12:32 report, 62: A potential education technology breakthrough, the OLPC XO-3

In December last year, in a Forbes magazine article, Yves Behar -- designer with MIT Media Labs professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child Foundation -- discussed a new Tablet format PC for education, targetted at an ideal -- and astonishing -- price of US$ 75.


. . . "I wanted to bring the One Laptop Per Child identity to life in this new form," says Yves Behar, founder of FuseProject, which designed the both the original and the XO-3. "That meant taking the visual complexity away, bringing tactility and friendliness, touch and color."

Behar says he hopes to shrink the frame around the XO-3's display down to practically nothing, opting for a virtual keyboard instead of a physical one, and no buttons. The result, in his mock-ups, is a screen surrounded by only a thin green rubber gasket. "Nicholas [Negroponte] asked for something extremely simple and practically frameless," he says. "The media or content on the computer will be the prime visual element."

Then, just last month, May 2010, Professor Negroponte announced to Nick Barber of IDG news service, that the development was being accelerated, so that a working device would be released this year (apparently through collaboration with Marvell, a major manufacturer of digital chips and related machines and gadgets that has just showcased the Moby reference design, a US$ 99 target price tablet PC):

The above video showcases the original concept OLPC XO-3, which is proposed to be largely made of plastic. The Marvel Moby is a bit less radical:

Negroponte suggests in the interview that the Marvell Moby based prototype would lead on to the intended plastic tablet, by 2011- 12.

There is considerable cynicism and doubt, of course, in part triggered by how the OLPC XO-1 has yet to break US$ 100, and how it has had a cumulative distribution to date of 1. 5 million, not dozens to hundreds of millions.

But that is of little moment, relative to the significance of the Marvell machine, of the possible follow-on generation of machines, and of the potential for collaboration on the needed cyber-based education transformation for our region, or for the associated opportunity that now begins to open up for the Christian church to take the lead in education for godly transformation and truly sustainable development:

1 --> We now have a credible Tablet PC in the US$ 100 - 200 ballpark, through the Marvell Moby initiative.
(That is in itself an iPad killer, and a Kindle killer: we have a multiple use machine the size of a reasonable paperback book, and of acceptable weight, at a price that is very reasonable by comparison with even prices for cell phones or netbook PC's. [NB: The netbook PC emerged as a commercial version of the OLPC XO-1, and has exploded into a very strong market segment. Indeed, this blog post is being typed up on an Eee PC by Asus. I now more or less carry it with me everywhere -- it is a bit bigger than a book and is quite lightweight. In church, it brings a theological library in the form of both eSword and The Word.])

2 --> This machine is multiple operating system, not only Google's Android, but also Linux [Ubuntu], OLPC's Sugar, and a version of Windows.

3 --> As an ebook reader, this opens up an opportunity to transform textbook and workbook production and use. College level textbooks now routinely approach or exceed US$ 100. Here is an opportunity to do a "final book" that can be loaded with millions of titles, as well as becoming an electronic platform for book or course reader or course manual publication. That is, we have a library and a bag of textbooks all in one small device.

4 --> Suddenly, we have digitised course materials and reference materials, a market potential of many millions of dollars in itself. A major opportunity has emerged for digital education publication, for those with knowledge, those with document production expertise and those with publication expertise. (Doubtless a lot of trash will also be produced, but quality will soon enough tell.)

5 --> We now have a platform for carrying a virtual campus to the student where she or he is.

6 --> Multiply this by the provision of a regional network of micro-campus centres that provide the community of learning and expert practice dimension of education, and we have a base to transform tertiary and secondary studies, including second chance secondary or bridging to college or the world of work.

7 --> Of course, the OLPC is mainly focussed on primary education. That, too, is important and welcome, but it is not where the maximum leverage can be had for church and community based education initiatives in the region.

8 --> So, a key technology is now credibly falling into place for the envisioned regional cyber college and associated micro-campus centres.


Our task is to develop a system that can take advantage of this emerging opportunity. And so, we must now redouble our efforts. END

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