The best and worst Ed Tech of the decade

Guess what? One single device wins this award in my book. It wins for both best and worst simultaneously. What is it? It's the OLPC XO.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Guess what? One single device wins this award in my book. It wins for both best and worst simultaneously. What is it? It's the OLPC XO.

But how can that be, you ask? Because the One Laptop Per Child efforts singlehandedly created the netbook market segment, drove Intel to create its outstanding Classmate PCs, innovated on the user interface and power consumption fronts, demonstrated how not to run a business, and proved that without support and infrastructure, all the constructivist learning theory in the world was only marginally useful.

I've written about OLPC quite a bit since I started blogging for ZDNet four years ago; I've had plenty of praise for the Sugar UI and hardware innovation and plenty of criticism for the approach (and later, hardware stagnation).

"Intense (and really thoughtful) ranting from the OLPC front"

And more from the OLPC front

OLPC Sugar OS hands-on gallery

Sugar-free Windows, as predicted

OLPC backlash continues

Did Microsoft really kill OLPC?

South Carolina's OLPC initiative: money well-spent?

The latter, by the way, actually seems to be going fairly well, with rollouts expanding this year.

Now the organization has shed quite a bit of staff and things have been pretty quiet on the OLPC front. What does this mean for their proposed XO 2.0? I'm not sure, but I do know that ASUS is already showing off devices that look a lot like the proposed design.

What went wrong? Lots of things, most of which related to some brilliant minds trying to work as an OEM, a general loss of vision, and an approach that assumed a lack of infrastructure could be compensated for by a desire to learn.

Any way it goes, OLPC was utterly transformative, both of 1:1 initiatives and the entire PC industry during the last decade. It's anyone's guess what's in store for 1:1 in the next decade.

Go to next page for Honorable Mentions in the Best Ed Tech category! »

Honorable mention: Best Ed Tech The Intel Classmate Although Intel hasn't hit the same price points as OLPC or quite matched power consumption goals, the company has assembled a powerful ecosystem of hardware and software vendors around their Classmate PC products. Unlike the OLPC project, Classmate was always intended to supplement and enhance existing classroom settings, deployed in both developing and mature markets. Although designed to withstand harsh conditions, it assumed a basic classroom infrastructure that was really necessary to make any netbook deployment successful.

The video below contains a clip of the latest Classmate with Intel's new Pinetrail chipset (along with other information about the new Atom processors). According to Intel, development of this segment is ongoing and the company is committed to both the platform and the ecosystem partners.

iPhone/iPod Touch No, really, I'm actually not kidding here. I'm not saying that either of these devices has been widely adopted in schools (or even should be, although there are some cool applications). What I am saying is that Apple showed us what a really robust handheld could be and paved the way for a variety of upcoming devices, most notably Android-based phones and Android/Chrome OS/Moblin-based MIDs.

Go to next page for Honorable Mentions in the Worst Ed Tech category! »

Honorable mention: Worst Ed Tech The Amazon Kindle DX Two words: Princeton University.

E-readers are in their infancy. Taking all of the shortcomings of the platform and simply making them larger is not going to help things. Don't worry, help is on the way (I hope). This will be an interesting couple of years.

Wikipedia on paper Can you say missing the point? Yes, that's right, someone actually thought it would be a good idea to print Wikipedia.

It's still OK to use Wikipedia, by the way. Here's hoping we see even more improvements in credibility and usability in the decade to come.

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