Using the XO Laptop to Build a Digital Bridge Between Primary Schools and Universities

Using the XO Laptop to Build a Digital Bridge Between Primary Schools and Universities

Katelyn Foley (Harvard University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch004
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Abstract

One-to-one computing has emerged as a controversial framework for integrating technology in education. The Cambridge Friends School XO laptop pilot program is a collaboration between the Digital Literacy Project (DigiLit), a non-profit and Harvard College student organization, and the Cambridge Friends School (CFS), an independent K-8 school. This chapter will examine both positive and negative features of the program, as well as a model for implementation of similar programs. DigiLit introduced low-cost XO laptops to two grade levels and designed laptop-based lesson plans. The author also investigated the XO’s effects on collaborative behavior, finding that laptops influenced mobility and sharing of information during group activities. As part of the pilot, students tested new software and completed a survey about the design of an open-source spreadsheet program. The partnership between DigiLit and CFS has provided a platform for researching child-computer interaction and for developing a laptop-based curriculum.
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Background

The Low-Cost XO Laptop

One Laptop per Child’s XO (Figure 1) is a low-cost, environmentally friendly children’s laptop. In an effort to bridge the digital divide, over 1.4 million XO laptops have been distributed to children in over thirty countries around the globe (One Laptop per Child, 2009). Specifically designed for the developing world, the XO is energy efficient and durable, allowing it to withstand high temperatures and exposure to water. It also boasts a rotating screen that allows configurations for e-book reading and gaming, as well as standard laptop use. In addition, the XO is the only laptop with wireless mesh network technology that allows offline peer-to-peer communication.

Figure 1.

XO laptop specifications (Adapted from One Laptop per Child)

Even though the XO was designed with the developing world in mind, its low cost and effective, child-friendly software give it potential to positively impact the American educational landscape. According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009, there was an average of 3.9 students per computer in public and private schools during the 2005-2006 school year. Although American students have access to computing resources at school, many are still not able to take ownership of computers by having their own laptops that they can use at school and at home.

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