mm232: Little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village

December 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Faithful reader will recall that One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has been a consistent theme here at Left-Handed Complement. Here’s a handy reminder:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks

Courtesy of reddit.com (still preferred in this space to its competition, here’s a feature out of the International Herald Tribune showing OLPC in use in Peru, one of the first nations to commit to the program.

olpcperu7c25

MIT spinoff’s little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village

The Associated Press | Published: December 24, 2007

ARAHUAY, Peru: Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the US$188 (€130) laptops — people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books — can’t get enough of their “XO” laptops.

At breakfast, they’re already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits. At night, they’re dozing off in front of them — if they’ve managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

“It’s really the kind of conditions that we designed for,” Walter Bender, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff program One Laptop Per Child, said of this agrarian backwater up a precarious dirt road.

Founded in 2005 by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop has retreated from early boasts that developing-world governments would snap up millions of the pint-sized laptops at US$100 (€70) each.

Idealism, as is usual, has been clobbered by reality, and Negroponte’s hoped for millions of orders have not materialized. As in any manufactured product, it’s the classic chicken and egg issue: low price = high volume (assuming an attractive and viable product); high volume = low price (economies of scale).

And as we’ve theorized (but read nowhere else) the falling value of the dollar, plummeting since the program was first announced several years ago, has made unrealistic the ambitious $100 target, further impairing success on the imagined scale.

And, competition has rushed in now that OLPC has proved the concept, further impairing the ability to meet the original stretch goal.

But, the Give One, Get One program has meant that 150,000 machines will be delivered in early 2008:

Peru made the single biggest order to date — more than 272,000 machines — in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyer of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will get shipped to countries including Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan in early 2008 through “Give One, Get One,” a U.S.-based promotion ending Dec. 31 in which you buy a pair of laptops for US$399 (€277.50) and donate one or both.

Peru is where the rubber hits the road for OLPC, and the IHT story highlights many of the challenges: teacher training, support, internet access in a nation whose remote regions seem to operate much as they must have when first encountered by Spanish exploiters five hundred years ago.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

MIT spinoff’s little green laptop computers a hit in remote Peruvian village – International Herald Tribune

But for all of the challenges, it’s a hopeful story.

There’s still time before 31-December (program, and tax year deadlines) to participate in Give One, Get One. And, if you follow advice first expressed in this space some time ago, and even noted in the IHT story, you might want to make it Give One, Give One. In fact, as we said three months ago

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If Peru’s example is typical, then OLPC’s little green machine certainly appears to be the transformative tool that Nicholas Negroponte envisioned.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm219: One Laptop per Child — Harvard speaks

December 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Previous entries on this topic:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…

olpc7926

It’s a topic that just won’t quit: One Laptop Per Child. MUDGE‘s older son (the term “MUDGElet No. 2″ isn’t sufficiently dignified for the rarefied confines of Harvard, donchaknow) is a 2005 masters graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and obviously stays in touch.

He forwarded us a link to this story from Harvard Business School (HBS), aware as he is (hmmm, must be faithful reader! Loyalty hasn’t disappeared! Or at least, polite indulgence for the old man…) of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in Nicholas Negroponte’s intriguing initiative.

So, though we came late to the story, this past summer, as the PR machinery geared up in preparation for first deliveries, it’s been brewing, as any ambitious project would be, for several years. Thus there are already lessons to be learned, especially marketing lessons, and HBS would like to teach them to us.

harvardbusinessschool

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child

Q&A with: John A. Quelch  |  Published: December 10, 2007

Author: Martha Lagace

Drop it on the ground. Sprinkle water on its surface. Let it sit in the sun and expose it to swarms of dust—the XO laptop is designed to handle most any abuse from a child. But the journey of the XO laptop from concept to the educational tool for the world’s poorest children is turning out to be a bit more complicated than originally anticipated.

A new Harvard Business School case study called “Marketing the ‘$100 PC'” spells out these opportunities, problems, and challenges from a marketing point of view. As the case asks, can the laptop move out of the realm of “great idea, great gadget” and improve the educational possibilities for children in impoverished environments?

The concept explored is “action pricing,” where a product is developed, as an immense stretch, to meet a very low price, definitely the strategy pursued by OLPC.

The technological challenge was complex: create a tool that would be useful yet attractive to school children, with the strength to stand up to careless and primitive environments, with a screen visible in bright light, a battery capable of receiving power through multiple inexpensive means (a pull cord, a detachable solar panel), and with networking capabilities to teach cooperation and collaboration, all for $100.

So, $188 is not $100, but let’s face it, $100 isn’t $100 any more (try $109.21, and that doesn’t factor in the price of gasoline), so that’s hardly a knock.

The marketing challenge remains difficult:

“While on the surface it is a laudable vision to get one laptop to each child, and the motives are pristine, there are stumbling blocks in implementation,” observes Quelch.

The conservative nature of governments, complex bureaucracy, and decision-making hurdles can all interfere with early public sector adoption of even the most worthy innovation, he says. This slower-than-expected adoption and diffusion may have surprised the leaders of OLPC.

And finally, OLPC faces what has to be gut-wrenching competition from the fiercely competitive computer industry, who, never letting “not invented here” bother them ever, have leapt into the fray. Guess what, you don’t have to be a non-profit to sell computers for $200 — imagine what they really must cost to manufacture!

So, while I’ve cherry-picked the article, it’s still worth a visit. You even get the opportunity to purchase the case itself, if you’re interested in adding the subject to your own marketing/business curriculum.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child — HBS Working Knowledge

Give One Get One is still running, and remains a worthy cause, especially if you follow Left-Handed Complement’s  suggestion to “Give One, Give One”, with the second one directed toward a third world nation closer to home, Mississippi, for example.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm212: Cheap computing in the news

December 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2

We’ve appreciatively quoted John C. Dvorak here at Left-Handed Complement. First, because he writes about computer-based topics that interest me. Second, he writes quite well. Third, because his curmudgeonly chops put a guy named MUDGE to shame.

Today he weighs in on a familiar topic to L-HC reader, One Laptop Per Child. Dvorak, the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, takes a pretty good swat at a program that we’ve enthusiastically followed for the past few months. For a history of our posts on this topic, you may peruse the links here:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word

pcmag

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World

Does anyone but me see the OLPC XO-1 as an insulting “let them eat cake” sort of message to the world’s poor?

by John C. Dvorak

Hands Across America, Live AID, the Concert for Bangladesh, and so on. The American (and world) public has witnessed one feel-good event (and the ensuing scandals) after another. Each one manages to assuage our guilt about the world’s problems, at least a little. Now these folks think that any sort of participation in these events, or even their good thoughts about world poverty and starvation, actually help. Now they can sleep at night. It doesn’t matter that nothing has really changed.

This is how I view the cute, little One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 computer, technology designed for the impoverished children of Africa and Alabama. This machine, which is the brainchild of onetime MIT media lab honcho Nick Negroponte, will save the world. His vision is to supply every child with what amounts to an advertising delivery mechanism. Hence the boys at Google are big investors.

Dvorak’s point: this program is a little like Marie Antoinette: “They’re starving, let them eat little green computers!”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World – Columns by PC Magazine

Whew, John! That emperor really is stumbling down the parade route starkers!

He does make a strong point, but I still like the initiative. Yes large swaths of the globe are starving, thirsty, and ignorant that there is anything better out there and how to get it. Yes, we need to send those folks food, pharmaceuticals, water purifiers.

But John, we can also send them practical educational devices, in the form of cute, green computers.

Maybe OLPC will help teach that world to feed, clothe and sustain themselves.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

We actually found Dvorak when researching this next item. The folks at Zonbu have also struck again. We actually linked to our original post in the list above, here it is again. Never let it be said we at L-HC don’t deliver on the promise of Sequitur Service©.

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop

by Tony Hoffman

zonbunotebook

Zonbu, maker of the Zonbu Mini desktop PC, has announced a notebook computer along the same lines, to be manufactured by Everex.

The Zonbu Notebook is designed to be environmentally friendly, with lower power usage and less hazardous material than normal laptops, and proper recycling techniques.

We wrote about the original desktop Zonbu, and compared it to OLPC. They both represent a reasonably clean sheet of paper as far as their attempts to reinvent computing in a basic, efficient, manifestly less costly way.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop – News and Analysis by PC Magazine

Have a guy on our blogroll2 who has been talking up Zonbu; check him out if you like. I am always a fan of paying less, but I hardly think any of these devices are meant for the likes of yr humble svt. But, as I wrote previously,

Maybe someday, even MUDGE will pay less than $1200 for a PC. Never happened yet, since as prices per component go down, the sheer number of additional must-have components seems to have kept the price level, or growing. Maybe this paradigm shift will finally break that pattern.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm189: OLPC cranks up!

November 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Time to play catch up with the good stuff that has been piling up in the drafts section of MUDGE‘s Windows Live Writer.

Today, the latest on one of our most intriguing ongoing stories, that of One Laptop Per Child. Some previous posts, which go all the way back to mm088, can be found here and here.

giveonegetone

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN
AP Technology Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The One Laptop Per Child Program, which hopes to spread sub-$200 computers to schoolchildren in developing countries, has reached a milestone with the start of mass production.

The nonprofit spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said assembly lines for its “XO” laptops were fired up Tuesday at a Chinese factory run by manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc. That means children should begin getting the green-and-white computers this month.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

olpc7926_thumb2

The OLPC Give One Get One program, which, as they remind us, will be the only time the XO will be available to the public, begins Monday, 12-November-2007 and runs through 26-November.

And, remember L-HC’s take:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

The world is all too full of extraordinarily worthy causes. This one works like planting a tree (two, actually): this initiative could make our world a smarter place. And smart is a quality in all too short supply.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm182: It’s Chemistry, baby!

November 1, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Newest member of the L-HC blogroll is The 12 Angry Men Blog, a very much more accomplished, established and widely read (no gimmicks — it’s on merit!) fellow WordPress resident. With their hoped for indulgence, I reference a recent article I found there.

The post in question was particularly timely, as literally just the other day I was thinking about chemistry sets as I perused a wonderful toy catalog seeking out gift ideas for the official grandchildren of MUDGE and his better 7/8. (More below about the catalog and site.)

I distinctly remember musing: a chemistry set — together with a slightly better than toy-like microscope, the source of countless hours of education and entertainment during my own childhood — is it too soon to think about it for my (totally objective evaluation here) genius seven year old grandson?

No chemistry set. In a catalog full of really interesting and educational toys and games.

Angry Political Optimist fit the pieces in place for me, and when I encountered the post today it was a true forehead-slapping moment. Of course (slap!).

What grabbed me originally was the reference to the buzzword of the month, Islamofascism, as noted in this space last week.

But it’s so logical.

12angrymenblog

Endangered Species – The Chemistry Set

What do Islamofascism, methamphetamine production, tort lawyers, and homemade fireworks have in common? The answer is that they are all part of the seemingly inevitable process of destroying the childhood Chemistry Set. A.C. Gilbert, in 1918 was titled the “Man who Saved Christmas” with his innovative ideas of packaging a few glass tubes and some common chemicals into starter kits that enabled a generation to learn the joy of experimentation, and the basis for the scientific method of thought.

Go ahead and read the post on site — there’s even a terrific shot of a couple of classic chemistry sets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Endangered Species – The Chemistry Set « The 12 Angry Men Blog

MUDGE does not often wax nostalgic for his childhood. It wasn’t idyllic, but not overall bad. It was the fifties and early sixties, one had plenty of toys and games, but few that stick in memory as well as that chemistry set and microscope. And I learned.

I’m not a scientist by any means and I don’t play one on TV (a seventies reference for you, free of charge). But I work in an organization that performs science and I like to think that the fact I can understand even 2% (now who’s the optimist?) of what goes on is a credit to that chemistry set of my childhood. I give no credit at all to my high school chemistry classes — they weren’t speaking my language at all.

So the fact that I can’t do much for my seven year old, or later on for his now four year old sister, chemistry education/entertainment wise, is disappointing.

Another saddening symbol of the decline of our way of life, as exacerbated over the past seven years by the neocon religious fanatics who control our government.

Thanks, Angry Political Optimist at The 12 Angry Men Blog. You made a connection that makes sense, and that doesn’t happen every day. Your site will be a regular read from now on.

And the toy store? It’s called toys et cetera, and undaunted by the lack of chemistry sets we did some holiday business there this week. Worth checking out, in my opinion. And I emphasize that no commercial relationship exists — this is simply a worthy small business fighting for its life in shark-infested (big box infested) retail waters.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to toys et cetera used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.


mm181: Virtual classroom — real learning?

October 31, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Apparently it’s Education Week here at L-HC! Earlier we looked at the number of engineers we’re training in the U.S.; devoted the last third of a Short Attention Span pastiche to OLPC (One Laptop Per Child); and presented a devastating counter to the engineering story with one high school teacher’s indictment of today’s students (ratified by hundreds of comments).

Featured today is a most interesting look at on-line learning at the college level.

nytimes

October 31, 2007 | On Education

By JOSEPH BERGER | HERSHEY, Pa.

The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here.

There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume.

In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers.

The virtual college classroom is an increasingly common phenomenon, especially, as the story reveals, since the U.S. Congress eliminated the requirement that colleges deliver at least half of their courses in bricks and mortar campuses in order to qualify for federal aid. As a result, nearly 3½million students attended one or more classes in this manner last fall, and the trend will undoubtedly increase in intensity.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Classroom of the Future Is Virtually Anywhere – New York Times

Constant reader remembers, MUDGE hopes, that his specialty is web conferencing. Collaboration using the web to share visual information, accompanied, in MUDGE‘s employer’s case, by a teleconference. Couldn’t help but notice that the story, while sometimes wringing hands over the impact of technology, shed very little light on exactly what technology is used to deliver all of these on-line classes.

One gets the impression that, due to the worldwide dispersion of the students illustrated, that the teaching/learning activity is asynchronous, rather than real-time collaboration.

There’s room for both, I think, since some of the quarrels that traditional professors expressed in the story, about the lack of enriching discussion and feedback, might be partially answered if real time oral discussion were at least a component of a course.

And a very constant reader might recall that, teaching web conferencing is another specialty of this writer. I am by no means qualified or credentialed to teach in college, but every single one of the 3,600 students I’ve taught (yes, in a corporate environment — no frat parties!) over the past five years has been instructed on line, via teleconference with accompanying web conference.

Definitely viable. Add telepresence (here and here) for those PhD dissertation defenses, and the deal is done. Another paradigm shift rumbling underfoot…

Can’t help but wonder, though.

The U.S. higher education system, wonder of the planet, has also increased its fees so consistently that tuition growth has long outpaced (doubled? tripled? higher?) the domestic rate of inflation, however it’s computed.

One student in five took one or more on-line classes last year. Anyone notice tuition going down as a result of the undoubted smaller operations costs?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm180: American kids, dumber than dirt

October 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

A couple of posts ago, we highlighted the apparent success of our education system, despite conventional wis-dumb that says that we’re failing to create enough scientists and engineers.

The column in Business Week showed that, far from an inadequate supply of engineers, for example, rather there is an inadequate supply of U.S. jobs for all of the engineers we’re creating.

Further, the reported astoundingly large numbers of engineers and scientists supposedly coming out of India and China may be a distorted and inflated number; the two countries are producing quantities of degrees, many of which are far less than minimum world-class.

So, MUDGE had a couple of days to feel relief, his faith somewhat restored in our often-maligned U.S. education system.

Not so fast, Pilgrim!

Another precinct has been heard from, bird-dogged, I’m remembering, by Digg actually, and this news, from the education trenches, is not good.

Mark Morford, a San Francisco columnist has the following dire report.

sfgate

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I have this ongoing discussion with a longtime reader who also just so happens to be a longtime Oakland high school teacher, a wonderful guy who’s seen generations of teens come and generations go and who has a delightful poetic sensibility and quirky outlook on his life and his family and his beloved teaching career.

And he often writes to me in response to something I might’ve written about the youth of today, anything where I comment on the various nefarious factors shaping their minds and their perspectives and whether or not, say, EMFs and junk food and cell phones are melting their brains and what can be done and just how bad it might all be.

His response: It is not bad at all. It’s absolutely horrifying.

Morford’s correspondent, and his opinion seems to be ratified by many of the over 500 comments appended to the story, is quite pessimistic about the next generation.

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

The next graf contains a pithy and disturbing simile, discussing the magnitude of mandated testing taking place in schools.

… the fact that, because of all the insidious mandatory testing teachers are now forced to incorporate into the curriculum, of the 182 school days in a year, there are 110 when such testing is going on somewhere at Oakland High. As one of his colleagues put it, “It’s like weighing a calf twice a day, but never feeding it.”

Ouch. No calf left behind?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

American kids, dumber than dirt / Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history

I have trouble reconciling the upbeat tone of the higher education story from Business Week the other day to this appalling one.

Both are true, I am forced to suppose.

Our successful college students seem to be so despite the public education they receive to supposedly prepare them for that success.

And one needs to remember that Morford’s correspondent hails from a particularly declassé corner of San Francisco Bay, so one imagines that the picture there might just be bleaker than in many other large cities. But, still…

Morford is quite a bit more eloquent than yours truly, so he gets the next-to-last word:

As for the rest, well, the dystopian evidence seems overwhelming indeed, to the point where it might be no stretch at all to say the biggest threat facing America is perhaps not global warming, not perpetual warmongering, not garbage food or low-level radiation or way too much Lindsay Lohan, but a populace far too ignorant to know how to properly manage any of it, much less change it all for the better.

What, too fatalistic? Don’t worry. Soon enough, no one will know what the word even means.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm179: Short Attention Span Blogging 29-Oct-2007 edition

October 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention

We do this every so often here at L-HC, when the press of that darned pesky real life intrudes on quality blogging time.

Here are three recent stories that grabbed MUDGE‘s interest, and we hope it will pique yours.

First: What Global Warming?

greenland

nytimes

By SARAH LYALL

NARSARSUAQ, Greenland — A strange thing is happening at the edge of Poul Bjerge’s forest, a place so minute and unexpected that it brings to mind the teeny plot of land Woody Allen’s father carries around in the film “Love and Death.”

Its four oldest trees — in fact, the four oldest pine trees in Greenland, named Rosenvinge’s trees after the Dutch botanist who planted them in a mad experiment in 1893 — are waking up. After lapsing into stately, sleepy old age, they are exhibiting new sprinklings of green at their tops, as if someone had glued on fresh needles.

“The old ones, they’re having a second youth,” said Mr. Bjerge, 78, who has watched the forest, called Qanasiassat, come to life, in fits and starts, since planting most of the trees in it 50 years ago. He beamed like a proud grandson. “They’re growing again.”

When using the words “growing” in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge’s, all of them cultivated. It has only 51 farms. (They are all sheep farms, although one man is trying to raise cattle. He has 22 cows.) Except for potatoes, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat — to the extent that they eat vegetables at all — are imported, mostly from Denmark.

Everybody knows that global warming is a nefarious invention of Al Gore and every other lefty in the world.

I’m sure that this story is totally fabricated.

Everybody knows Iceland is green, and Greenland is icy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Warming Revives Flora and Fauna in Greenland – New York Times

shortattention

Next: To the moon, China!

nytimes

BEIJING, Oct. 24 — With a regional space race heating up in Asia, China launched its first lunar probe on Wednesday as the Communist Party moved a step closer to fulfilling its ambitions of one day reaching the moon.

Andy Wong/Associated Press

An animated image of the launch of China’s lunar orbiter broadcast on a large screen today in Beijing.

The Chang’e-1 satellite, named after a Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, lifted off at 6:05 p.m. Officials and tourists watched the launching at a site in Sichuan Province, while state television provided coverage to the rest of the nation.

Next thing you know, we’ll be reading that China’s banks are buying into U.S. banks. Oh, wait…

bw_255x65

Bear’s Chinese Pal
It may not be a lifeline, but at least it’s a vote of confidence. On Oct. 23, state-owned Chinese brokerage Citic Securities agreed to invest $1 billion in beleaguered investment bank Bear Stearns (BSC ). Citic will buy 40-year convertible trust preferred securities equal to 6% of Bear’s shares, with the option to boost the stake to 9.9%. In return, Bear will pay $1 billion for six-year convertible debt representing a 2% stake in Citic, with an option to go to 5%. Citic isn’t the only cash-flush foreign institution taking advantage of U.S. bank stocks that have been whacked by the subprime crisis and stagnant earnings. Expect more deals in the months ahead.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

China Sends Its First Probe for the Moon Into Space – New York Times

shortattention

Finally: One Laptop Per Child for India after all?

As noted before, an entire brochure could be developed around our posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …

Here’s the latest wrinkle. India, who originally dissed OLPC (intending, apparently, to adopt a home grown product), has taken a new look, now that OLPC is no longer vaporware.

cnncomtechnology

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) — The so-called $100 laptops for children may make it to India after all.

art.100.dollar.laptop.jpg

Children in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.

Last year,India rebuffed One Laptop Per Child, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff that created rugged little computers for kids in the developing world.

…. a pilot test began recently in which 22 children in first through fourth grades in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

$100 laptop program still eyes India – CNN.com

This program deserves our support. I’ll repeat my polite request for your attention:

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are almost sold out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm178: More Conventional Wis-dumb

October 28, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It has long been an article of faith in the press that U.S. education is failing to deliver adequate numbers of competent engineers and scientists.

We’ve all seen the reports that show U.S. students in all grade levels far behind many other countries in test results.

So, imagine the surprise that MUDGE felt when encountering this column in Business Week, one of his regular reads (for over 30 years!).

bw_255x65

Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support

by Vivek Wadhwa

Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.

Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. The report disproves many confident pronouncements about the alleged weaknesses and failures of the U.S. education system. This data will certainly be examined by both sides in the debate over highly skilled workers and immigration (BusinessWeek.com, 10/10/07). The argument by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and others is that there are not enough tech workers in the U.S.

What we believe is not, as it happens, supported by the facts.

We believe, because we’ve been hearing it for years, nay decades, that test scores are declining, and literacy and especially numeracy and interest in science is declining.

Salzman and Lowell found the reverse was true. Their report shows U.S. student performance has steadily improved over time in math, science, and reading. It also found enrollment in math and science courses is actually up.

And we keep hearing that comparisons of our children’s performance versus those of many other countries are dire.

And the new report again went against the grain when it compared the U.S. to other countries. It found that over the past decade the U.S. has ranked a consistent second place in science. It also was far ahead of other nations in reading and literacy and other academic areas. In fact, the report found that the U.S. is one of only a few nations that has consistently shown improvement over time.

So now comes the rub. We’ve been too successful in our aim to direct our students into technical degree programs.

As far as our workforce is concerned, the new report showed that from 1985 to 2000 about 435,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents a year graduated with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Over the same period, there were about 150,000 jobs added annually to the science and engineering workforce.

Where have we gone right? And, about the shortfall we have been hearing about forever, you know, the one about China and India graduating so many more engineers and scientists than the U.S.? How can we not fall behind?

In previous columns, I have written about research my team at Duke University completed that shattered common myths (BusinessWeek.com, 7/10/06) about India and China graduating 12 times as many engineers as the U.S. We found that the U.S. graduated comparable numbers and was far ahead in quality. Our research also showed there were no engineer shortages (BusinessWeek.com, 11/7/06) in the U.S., and companies weren’t going offshore because of any deficiencies in U.S. workers. So, there isn’t a lack of interest in science and engineering in the U.S., or a deficiency in the supply of engineers.

But there is a deficiency in jobs for all of these engineering graduates! And, if you follow the links to earlier Wadhwa columns, you’ll find that there is a great deal of confusion about what exactly is an engineering curriculum in China, and a shortage of jobs there also.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Science Education Myth

MUDGE has been a part of the blogging community (and a ruefully mostly derivative member at that) for a short time, and I’ve taken with a grain of salt the disparagement of what many in the blogosphere call MSM, an acronym for mainstream media.

But, so many of my own rock solid assumptions have been skewered in this month of October, 2007 alone, (for example, here and here) that I have to step back and reconsider.

How many other of our close-held assumptions about how the world works have been created, nurtured and propagated despite their inaccuracies? Adolf Hitler boasted about the effectiveness of the “big lie.”

Our White House fed assumption regarding Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction is an example of a big lie from our immediate past.

On a lesser scale of import than our horribly pointless Iraq misadventure, there are our assumptions about diet and health.

Our assumptions regarding the sad state of our education system compared to the rest of the developed world.

Our assumptions about how many more engineers China and India are graduating every year compared to the U.S.

Let’s assume carefully out there!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm170: Technology and Education — A Debate!

October 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Left-Handed Complement didn’t start as an education weblog, although we reserve the right to comment on any subject any time.

In retrospect, no special expectation for education topics was probably unrealistic on my part.

While under-credentialed, MUDGE has done more than his share of instruction in corporate environments over the past bunch of years, and indeed, earns a living doing a lot of training.

Under-credentialed. Highly successful. Go figure.

So it’s probably not an accident that education, especially as enhanced by technology, has been featured multiple times in this space over the past more than five months of its active existence.

For example, an entire brochure could be developed around our posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission

And the topic of education in general has not been ignored.

mm067.1: Why I love…
mm106: Are we failing.. geniuses?
mm110: Grading mayoral control…
mm160: UC Berkeley first to post..

All this is prelude to the point of this post: The Economist, the best magazine on the planet, is sponsoring a debate this week on their website, www.economist.com/debate:

economist

Technology and Education — This house believes that the introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education.

Now, an Economist debate is not your League of Women Voters or CNN haphazardly posturing beauty contest.

Traditional Oxford-style debate

Oxford-style debate is most famously practised by the Oxford Union, the debating society of Oxford University. The Oxford Union’s invigorating debating chamber has yielded generations of British parliamentarians, lawyers, journalists and other accomplished advocates.

The Oxford style of debate is characterised by its formality and structure. Debates are hosted by a moderator and take place between two teams, the “proposition” and the “opposition”.

It began Monday October 15th (today for MUDGE as this is written, yesterday in the UK) with erudite opening statements from the highly credentialed proponent and his equally qualified opposition. Readers can register to vote (and change their vote as the debate progresses — how cool is that?) during the course of the eight days of the debate.

My instincts are that technology can only help education.

But, I’ve always believed this, where education (and almost any other field of human endeavor) is concerned.

After all, at heart, I am a technologist, fascinated even by the history of technology.

A personal story comes to mind, bubbling up after nearly 30 years.

It’s the late ’70s, and your future correspondent / education expert is, of course, under-credentialed but always creative (at least in his own mind).

His two (at the time) children are just beginning elementary school, and through the Parent Teachers Association, future-MUDGE is invited to a curriculum review session held for interested parents under the auspices of the school district administration.

This was (and is) a community that took (takes) immense pride in its efforts to provide high quality education to its students. How successful the effort is, is a matter of constant controversy, which seems, sorry to say for a community prideful of its integration record, to line up on racial boundaries.

Digression aside, this discussion is arithmetic and mathematics for the early grades. Remember it’s the late ’70s, portable calculators are coming down in price every moment, but still seem exotic, especially in a school environment.

I suggest, “How about issuing every child a calculator? This way, their understanding of higher order math problems won’t get hung up by concern over errors of simple arithmetic.”

The answer: Interesting idea. Of course we have no budget for calculators. It’s all we can do to make sure we have sufficient books for our students.

Here’s the gold-plated (for 1978) suggestion:

Talk to a text book publisher (and this is a town influential with publishers):

Suggest that they bind a calculator (they’re coming down in price every day!) into the arithmetic/mathematics text book.

This way, the district would be purchasing books, satisfying all statutory requirements, and our children could learn math without tripping over rote arithmetic.

Of course the over-credentialed functionaries never took the suggestion seriously. After all, what did future-MUDGE, a mere civilian, know about EDUCATION?

So one wonders what use is actually gotten out of computers in today’s thirty years on elementary school classrooms.

A curmudgeon might guess: not very much.

Read the Proposition in the Economist debate, and the statistics seem to favor that depressing observation.

Oddly, for MUDGE, I remain optimistic about the application of technology to education, and a fervent supporter of One Laptop Per Child.

Just the way the cellular telephone leapfrogged more than 100 years of ferociously expensive and painfully achieved infrastructure development to provide cheap and instant communications to even the remotest developing world village, so in the same paradigm shifting way can OLPC do the same for that village’s schoolhouse, and all this planet’s schoolhouses.

But, follow that debate this week in The Economist (and isn’t this a useful and most timely discussion for them to sponsor?). Go over to www.economist.com/debate and check it out.

You could even tell them MUDGE sent you (not that they’d ask, or care!).

And remember, as the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE