At this past weekend's Techonomy Conference 2010 in Lake Tahoe, One Laptop per Child Founder Nicholas Negroponte answered a fundamental question that OLPC critics have fired his way over the years: You can't just hand a kid in a developing world country a laptop and continue on your way, can you?
According to the program's experience in Peru, Negroponte says, "you actually can" do just that. The kids apparently cotton to the new technology pretty easily, and can even use it to teach themselves how to read and write. But, that's not all, he explains: "50 percent of the kids in Peru who use this laptop are teaching their parents how to read and write."
The common misconception that these critics share, he asserts, is being stuck in the mode of needing teachers in order for learning to take place. In countries where the adult population is barely more educated than children, these technologies can fill the breach that an uneducated teaching profession can cause. (See video below where Negroponte elaborates on that point.)
And it wasn't just traditional teaching that he peered beyond during the panel discussion he participated in, which was called "What Technology Wants vs. What People Want." He also forecasted the end of books.
According to a post on TechCrunch, Negroponte, citing Amazon sales figures of books sold for its Kindle vs. bound volumes, proclaimed: “It’s happening. It not happening in 10 years. It’s happening in 5 years.”