I went to an interesting session at the COSL 2007 Open Ed conference today by Christopher Hoadley from Penn State.
One of his ways of looking at technology use was how its’ instructional use fits into the local learning and community contexts. (He talked about a case in a rural village in the Himalayas, but the argument holds equally for any learning environment. In fact, the point is highly illustrative of why ICT has not worked well in US classrooms.) He contrasted a learning environment with 4 Pentium desktops and another with video cameras. The former had challenges of inadequate electrical power, lack of pedagogical fit, and a clash with community values. (Around the world, rural communities often see technology as influencing youth to leave their community for a less favorable urban lives.) The video project, on the other hand, fit in much better both from an infrastructure standpoint (low power requirements, mobility) and a cultural values context (content being student- and community-driven).
The conclusion: desktop technology functioned as an “invasive species” and video (and I would add, mobile) technology as a “native species” in the space of technology tools.
This led to a brief, but interesting, discussion of OLPC both in terms of hardware/technology as well as content. There was a question raised about the degree to which local communities have been involved (or not) in the design approach. Only time will tell (maybe) how local communities use this technology, but I would bet that it won’t be in the context that the OLPC folks envision.