Danish school kid's verdict on the OLPC laptop: It's cool!

Computerworld Denmark invited a group of 'true' experts to evaluate the One Laptop per Child XO-laptop: Children. Read their judgments on one of the world's biggest IT-teaching projects.

Negropontes' people's PC is solely aimed at schoolchildren and if they give it thumbs down the large-scale project won't succeed -- no matter what kind of conclusions experts and theoretical thinkers can come up with.

The true and honest judgment has to come from the kid's

While Computerworld conducted testing on the XO-PC, it was obvious to let the real experts get their hands on the small electronic device.

We drove to the town of Roskilde, south of Copenhagen, more precisely to the Trekroner elementary School, with the computer in a bag. We invited Karl Emil and Freya (both nine years old) to test the computer and give their verdict on one of history's largest IT-teaching projects.

The design lasts

The XO-computer's design was a hit among the two pupils.

The green and white plastic, the handle, the rabbit-ear-antennas and the keyboard caused excitement. On the surface it seemed like the design team from One Laptop per Child (OLPC) have hit a bulls eye.

"It's cool," they both said when the XO-computer was placed in front of them. "It looks like an ogre where the antennas are its ears."

"The color is neat too," Freya said. "The keyboard is a little strange but it fits to the fingers."

The well made design is also recognized by adults. The XO-computer has just won the design prize, 'The Index award', that is given to designs that focuses on design and concepts that improves living standards.

A bit slow

When it came to the start-up procedure the kids were ahead of the situation. The antennas were up, the screen flung open and the machine was running before we had a chance to tell them how to. The graphic interface had to be explained though. But the understanding of the basic principles was understood immediately and it only took minutes before they were surfing on the Internet and hooked up on an online-game.

"It's just like it use to be," Karl Emil said slightly distracted, while his fingers were searching for the right letters on the keyboard. After 15 minutes the two kids were making full use of the computer.

"It is a bit slow," Karl Emil said in a dry voice, his patience tested by the computers moderate pace.

Music awakes enthusiasm

The text editor, the camera function and the drawing program is well received. The level of guidance is minimal. They tried the functions and rapidly learned the skills needed for creating results.

It turns out that the music program draws the most attention. The program allows users to blend instruments and sounds to compose melodies of their own.

Freya and Karl Emil almost fought to be in control of the keyboard -- and ideas were exchanged at a rapid pace. And once again Freya and Karl Emil were deep into playing and learning -- with motivation as their only fuel.

We could make good use of that

The XO-PC can also be used to read e-books and the display can be folded over the keyboard in a way that makes it look like a normal book. That function was a hit between the two of them. They agreed that it could be a worthy replacement for their school books -- and it would fit into their bags easier as well as being considerably lighter than carrying multiple books.

"I think we could make good use of it in my class," said Karl Emil as he tries to grab the XO from us in order to take it to school the following day.

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Nicolai Devantier

Computerworld Danmark
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