Thursday, December 16, 2010

OLPC Freedom++

I watched a video this morning about Science Leadership Academy, a high school which "gets" digital media and cooperative learning. They even have a 1:1 laptop program. I did more research, and their Acceptable Use Policy for their laptops includes the note:

Agree to not attempt to change hardware settings or non-cosmetic system software settings.


It's disappointing to see a Science Leadership Academy so closed-minded about technology. On one hand, they want to protect the school's MacBooks. On the other, students should learn and discover their technology on a pre-college level. One student made Flash programs in junior and senior year as independent learning projects. A search fails to find other programmers on their website or students' blogs.

Making and watching media on Apple's software will only take someone so far. Treating video as a creative medium, and software as an immutable machine, does these students a disservice. I certainly don't expect everyone to be an expert. What I hope is, students will look at their next video game or a homemade gadget like MakerFaire and think "I could make this" or "I know someone in my class who would make this". Smart filmmakers can work with new, interactive canvases such as Popcorn.js, Palpable Video, or Arcade Fire after a course in HTML and JavaScript, the underlying code that makes the web work.

We use the web every day. Not everyone will be a mechanic, but we shouldn't keep future science and media leaders from looking under the hood. OLPC is open through and through. When I see Walter Bender's e-mail on a Sugar-hacking student in Uruguay, and Bernie Innocenti's photos of kids doing XO repairs, these (elementary school!) students have been given the right tools. So great.

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