TEDTalks: Nicholas Negroponte
Aug 02, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes
Were you taught to walk? Were you taught to talk? Maybe a little, but you mostly learned this stuff - along with everything else, up to the age of six - without the aid of a teacher. But the internet is changing that, allowing us to interact with the world in new ways, and thus to learn on our own. That's the premise behind the $100 computer, described in this TED lecture by Nicholas Negroponte, just released online. "These kids, their very first word is 'Google', and they only know Skype, they've never heard of telephony."

I like the initiative but I think it could really be sold without the arrogance. Here's Negroponte again: "This is not something that you have to test, the days of pilot projects are over. When people say, 'Well we'd like to do three or four thousand in our country to see if it works,' screw you, go to the back of the line and someone else will do it and then when you figure out that this works then you can join as well." Laughter and applause from the audience at Monterey, California.

Screw you? Is this the face of online learning we want to present to less wealthy nations? That we know best (after all, we tested it in Maine) and it works perfectly? That you will take our belevolence and you will shut up about any doubts or hesitations? I would want to know what the hidden costs of the system are - what kind of broadband infrastructure do you need, what kind of learner supports do you need? And I would say, don't you tell me 'screw you', if that's your attitude it will cause more harm than good. As it has so many times in the past.
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