Nicholas Negroponte is a man who has never seemed afraid of those who were inclined to ridicule him. I well remember the early days of his MIT-based One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the massive waves of media and ‘pundit’ cynicism to what he was setting out to do. Even today there are plenty ready to remind him of the sheer size of the targets set for the project early on compared with what was actually achieved. However, to me, this looks like one of those classic cases of “shoot for the stars”. Whilst you don’t necessarily hit the massive goal, you certainly get a lot further out there than with incremental thinking.
Recently, Negroponte was akey note speaker at the ASCD Annual Conference in the US. Here’s a report of his presentation which makes interesting reading:
I enjoyed the story he tells about what happened when a set of laptops and a solar panel were dropped on the outskirts of an illiterate village in Ethiopia. Mind boggling and a reminder of the similar kinds of experience Sugata Mishra had in India with his ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiments.
Surely, nobody today can argue with Negroponte about the power of connectivity/ education and the potential for leveling the playing field for mankind through harnessing the access to knowledge that comes with IT and connectivity. When so much is possible it still leaves me marveling why at the other end of the scale carbon copy ‘straight from the box’ schools keep being erected and created on old paradigms and old thinking. Well, of course, the reality is – I know why that’s happening – it’s very profitable and so much less trouble than trying to do real, radical creative work in new education for new times.
The other part of the article on Negroponte’s talk that really got me thinking was the best explanation I’ve seen yet for why coding has a place in schools and should be part of the curriculum, even from quite a young age. That’s one i need to think about some more.