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Tom Hoffman

The real problem right now is on the cost side. We could dramatically reduce the cost of technology if we had the will, which we don't.

Jon Becker

Tom, I'm intrigued...would you mind expanding a bit?

Tom Hoffman

Certainly OLPC is demonstrating that a durable, useful mini-laptop/ebook for students can be produced for about $150. I've gotten to spend a little time with the current XO prototype, and it is very real. An impressive feat in hardware design. I've got my fingers crossed for the software side.

I would argue that we can't really make progress on ed-tech until the basic building blocks are sufficiently cheap to use and maintain that they are sustainable even when the ideal supports are not in place, and that the investment is justifiable even if it is not wildly successful in pedagogical terms.

For example, if school boards could offset the cost of a $250 laptop with a combination of federal matching funds, plus savings for textbook purchase, test administration, other administrative costs, etc. This is essentially the "Trojan Horse" strategy of OLPC.

After every student has a programmable general purpose computer running free software, you've then got a foundation for innovation.

When I say we don't have the will, I mean that we have to collectively force the manufacturers of hardware to create devices that offer a much lower margin and alienate Microsoft. Essentially, states would have to say "In 2009 (for example) we will buy a laptop for every child meeting this specification but only at this cost. If nobody provides such a laptop, the funds will be put in escrow until someone does." I don't see that happening.

Peter Rock

Mmm...FOSS-based laptops.

As for the will, Tom's probably right. Of course, if something as improbable as ODF can actually be pulled off in Massachusetts...

Or is that apples n' oranges?

Anyway, like usual, the right thing to do will be the hardest due to ignorance and flat out opposition by the status quo. But if the right people step up to the plate and actually get this done, we could see one of the most significant watersheds in technological history.

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