Teaching Matters will run a collaborative pilot with the Department of Education to test One Laptop Per Child mobile computing devices in connection with our Writing Matters content in a middle school ELA classroom. The purpose of the pilot is two-fold. First, we want to determine if the OLPC device can significantly lower the cost of technology access for schools by lowering the total cost of ownership (hardware and ongoing maintenance.) Second, we will test this environment in conjunction with a curriculum designed to improve teacher practice in the teaching of writing. The curriculum has been designed to take best advantage of one to one computing environements.
They're doing a great job of updating their performance on a daily basis, so one gets a very clear sense of what they're doing and how it feels. So, yay! I'm glad their doing this. I would note, however, that it is highly unlikely that they'll end up with any kind of meaningful data about TCO or the efficacy of the XO's by April. I mean, I expect them to find that the hardware works well, and the software is more dubious and the source of most of the support issues. But the software can be reasonably expected to change a lot over the next year or so. It is too much of a moving target to really evaluate yet.
Time... that's the key element now... how long can they keep the production lines running until the software catches up with the hardware? I have no clue. When I think about real OLPC deployments in the US, here's what I hope can work out. Let's hope they don't try to do a major (i.e., citywide) rollout in the middle of the year (just because, that's always insane). Then let's also hope that nobody tries to do a major rollout by this September. I hope nobody thinks there is time for that. So, more pilots '08-'09, real deployment fall '09 makes sense to me. If the software isn't in much better shape by then, it isn't going to be ever. I just hope they can keep the ball rolling that long.