If you've been following One Laptop Per Child , you will be interested to know that you can now "buy one, donate one". If you haven't, let me explain. It's a non-profit organisation founded by an MIT media lab chap which aims to improve education for children in the developing world. They have developed a very cute and dinky cheap laptop specifically for education called the XO. "Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential." (http://www.laptop.org/vision/mission/). The laptop is also know as the $100 laptop (kind of aspirationally), but it is more expensive at the moment.
It's interesting for a number of reasons. One, it's technically innovative in both hardware and software. It is designed for out of door use and extreme weather conditions, and uses mesh networking for internet access. It also is child powered (no, not in hamster wheels - hand cranks and pedals!). From a software point of view, it has an operating system called Sugar which is built on top of Redhat linux. No Apple, no Windows! And no bloomin' MS Office either. It has a nice new interface which was designed for children, based on constructivist principles. Two, the whole project is based on supporting children's creativity, self expression and meta-cognitive knowledge (learning about learning). It's billed as an education project rather than a technology project. Third, it's an incredibly ambitious project which attempts to make use of decades of educational technology research. It's about time we did something like this. Those people who criticise it (for example that the laptops are too expensive just now) should hold their tongues until they have accomplished something on this scale.
For a short period of time starting Nov 12th, you can buy one and donate one for $400. Or you can just donate one if you prefer. I persuaded my head of department that we should buy one/donate one for use with my Interaction Design classes. Also, as the software development is open source, I am going to get my students to create software for projects. Wouldn't it be fantastic to spend your 9 month degree project working on educational software, which (if it were good enough) would be used by classes of children on the other side of the world?
If you work in a school or a university, please consider buying/donating one.