58,148 is the number of young children living in remote areas of Western Australia, children who have significantly reduced access to technology and education.
Rangan Srikhanta, a twenty six year old Executive Director of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Australia, recognised that children living in the remote areas of Australia have limited access to technology.
Rangan, a founder of the program, is a part of the international organisation OLPC that provides XO Laptops to disadvantaged children around the world.
Today, there are over 1.5 million children who have received XO laptops worldwide.
The XO is set to become the forefront of education for children in remote areas. OLPC focuses on distribution to children living in areas that fall into a low socio-economic category.
“In 2006 it was clear to me that remote Australian children had the same lack of opportunity as remote children the world over – in such a developed nation we have the means, but not the will. This is arguably worse. My goal was to create the will to reach 400,000 by 2014,” said Rangan.
Since January 2008, the charity has been working with a variety of stakeholders including; Government departments, corporations, philanthropic foundations, sponsors and local community groups to deploy laptops in Australia.
To date, 485 children in WA, aged between 4 and 15 years have received laptops. The XO Laptop, a low cost and low power computer, is designed for harsh environments.
“The XO is a rugged, purpose-built learning device that comes pre-loaded with over 50 educational applications that engage children in the process of learning. With built-in wireless capability to facilitate collaboration and a screen that can be viewed under direct sunlight, the XO has been specifically designed for use by primary school aged children learning in remote locations,” explained Rangan.
A multitude of programs are offered on the XO, providing children with the opportunity for education and play through; maths, literacy activities and access to the internet.
Children can collaborate on projects, draw pictures, write stories and connect with one another with the use of a built in webcam.
Children learn, share, create and collaborate via the XO, which becomes a motivational tool to facilitate education.
“The XO laptop has been specifically designed to engage students in the process of learning. Through the specific software programs that are preloaded on to the laptops, the user friendly interface, and the design of laptops themselves, the child becomes engaged in the learning process.”
Hoping to put an end to both the technology and education crisis in remote areas of Australia, OLPC has already distributed to the following schools in WA:
The preservation and continuance of the XO as a learning tool relies heavily on educators equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge of its use and capabilities.
“We have also developed a number of comprehensive training programs to help educators – be they in the school or community – acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to be confident and capable of using the XOs in creative ways that will inspire their children and help them become self empowered learners.”
“More specifically, our training programs encourage educators to work together, forming a network of XO teachers across the country. The emphasis is on techniques they can use and re-use, which will be supported by a significant array of suitable Web-style content for teachers and students to draw in their teaching and learning. Furthermore, our training programs ensure school staff and interested community members are able to take a greater leadership role in all aspects of the deployment, thus ensuring the school and community are in a more sustainable position to manage the use of XOs as an effective learning platform,” added Rangan.
Funding still plays a vital role in the distribution, sustaining the longevity of the charity and to ensure the laptops are integrated into the curriculum.
“Schools need to co-fund the distribution with their relevant education offices. This pays for teacher training, spare parts and maintenance. The public and corporate WA, pay for the XO and their shipping to schools,” said Rangan.
58,000 students in WA still need an XO laptop and there is a window of opportunity to change the lives of many less fortunate children.
Empowering children through education is the key to a brighter and more sustainable future for Australia.
For further details on how you can make a difference visit www.laptop.org.au