Chris J Powell

Open Education – Removing barriers through Technology

I have many clients in the Education Sector and while budgets tighten (mainly because of the tightening of State and Provincial Budgets) I see, hear and feel that there is one common theme from the IT Departments:

Technology is the Great Equalizer…if we can do it with a strategic vision and tactical understanding!

Back in 2005 a visionary in the Technology world Nicholas Negroponte helped to bring us a promise of a global connection where every child would use and leverage technology to move the collective understanding of our world through the One Laptop per Child Foundation.  The promise of a $100 laptop never really came to life but the work and vision of the program has fostered the Netbook Craze and in my opinion fueled the market for the Tablets that we see more and more today.

Check out this Video put out as a Thank You by the OLPC group: OLPC Thank You Video


From the very beginning of this project I could see the right things happening and the speed with which developing nations are catching up to the rest of us because of the influx of this type of technology is very promising in deed!  There is one fundamental right for every child and as their mission statement reads:


We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.


Taking the concept of the Connected Child one step further there are now plans to move towards a Tablet version of the XO called the XO3…in my opinion I am n0t convinced that this is the way to go as I struggle with the overall ruggedness of the Tablet as a Platform but with just over 2,000,000 XO’s deployed world wide…it might be a way to build a further bridge and continue beyond the Primary Grades.

Now the title of today’s Post is about Open Education but so far everything has been about the OLPC.  The empowerment of children and even adults to get connected, leverage technology and remove the barriers for quality education is key for both the developed nations and developing nations alike.


Moving forward I can only hope that technologies like Smart Boards become even more connected with our children and gone are the days of carrying around 50 lbs of books that are both outdated and in many cases not relevant to the changing and evolving state of education.


The first step will be for the Text Book Publishers of the world to stop the strangle hold they have on education and refocus on Digitial Copies of their portfolios.  This call goes out to:

Developing a partnership with the makers of eBook Readers or Tablets and providing a Subscription Based Service that would reduce the necessity of Inventory, Distribution and Printing will assist all children regardless of their physical location to have a modern and effective method of learning.  As a parent, I would be more than willing to make the investment of a standard tablet (7″ eReader or full Tablet) to aid in my daughter’s education.  The great thing is that School Districts, States and Provinces and even National Governments wield sufficient power to be able to drive the price of technology down to the point that even the poorest family would be able to get connected (look at Rwanda with more than 100,000 XO-1s deployed and an average per capita income of just $510).


I still love the feel of a book in my hands and will for some time still purchase printed copies of my favorite authors but my Digital Library officially grew larger than my printed Library over the weekend when I secured and read my 2,000th digital book.  I look forward to the future and it is in each of us to demand this from both our elected School Board officials and from the Educators and Decision Makers that are tasked with the development of our greatest single resource…our children.


Cheers and Happy Tuesday,


Chris J Powell



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