Introduction: How to Contribute Educational Content to the OLPC $100 Laptop

Picture of How to Contribute Educational Content to the OLPC $100 Laptop

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) association is looking for educational content to place on the laptops and in regional/country repositories. Instructables is a great format for content, so we're inviting all of you to contribute your great Instructables for consideration to be included.

Step 1: Create a Great Instructable

Good ideas include projects that can be made with materials available in the developing world (generic materials wherever possible), are suitable for ages 6-15, and are useful as well as good fun or demonstrate a broadly useful technique. A large number of Instructables already fit these criteria.

OLPC has a wiki with a discussion of the content they would like to see.

They plan to judge the content by the breadth of its educational value across age ranges and cultural context, by the freeness of its license, by its size (smaller is better), and by the ease of translation (related to cultural context, language difficulty, and the elegance of any images).

Step 2: Set As Free a License As You Can

Picture of Set As Free a License As You Can

All freely licensed (CC-BY-SA, Attribution, or Public Domain) educational content is eligible for inclusion on the laptops directly. Non-commercial (CC-SA-NC) content is eligible for inclusion in the larger regional/country repositories. If you're not familiar with the licenses, you can read more about them here.

Change the license of your Instructable by clicking on the "Change license" link while in the edit menu.

Step 3: Add Your Instructables to the OLPC Educational Group

Picture of Add Your Instructables to the OLPC Educational Group

Add your Instructables to the OLPC Educational content group.

To do this, you first need to be a member of the group. Under the Explore heading, click Groups, find the OLPC group, and click on it. Or, just click here. Once on the group, click the join button. Now, you can add any of your Instructables to the group by clicking the "Add this instructable to a group" link on the left sidebar when viewing the Instructable.

OLPC plans to do a top tier content review in September, so make sure to get your Instructables in the group by September 10th.


Warlrosity (author)2009-08-02

Um, Sorry to bother you, but what are these? Are they in Australia?

superMacaroni (author)Warlrosity2010-04-06

It's all around the world.

mr. destrun (author)2007-02-09

this is fake its worth a $1000 you forgot to put a zero

Alyakpink (author)mr. destrun2009-07-31

no its really not, its acually $400 cuz u buy one 4 u and 4 some1 poor i did it awhile ago

whatsisface (author)mr. destrun2007-08-29

Get your facts straight before leaving a comment like that.

farna (author)2009-07-19

It won't solve all problems, but the OLPC project sure does help on the education end. I don't see the problem with software not being interactive. Some of you guys must be newcomers to computers. I still remember my Tandy Color Computer, which was limited to a max of 64K. The graphics were blocky but presentable, and there were lots of interactive games, many educational. Same can be said for the Commodore 64, Apple II, etc. People were running businesses -- SUCCESSFUL businesses, I will add -- on 16-32K computers. Mostly with text based programs, but we gotta have "eye candy" now! And why not? Even the OLPC laptop will easily support it. Worst case is you use some of the old "home computer" tricks. Some of the big educational programs for the Tandy CoCo were disk based. What they did was boot a stripped down version of the OS when they ran. That gave them more memory to run in -- loaded only the necessities for that game. Had to reboot when you got out of it though. Something similar could be done, especially when running from an SD card or from a USB thumb drive (prices have also come way down... use the USB drive like a game cartridge). Those things have 256MB. The "old guys" worked in 64-512 KILOBYTES. Programmers today can't do something better in 100MB (OS does take up some room, and housekeeping room...)???

TheCheese9921 (author)2006-08-23

hey wait a minute ... lets think this out here if over 35,000 children die a day of starvation WHY I REPEATE WHY!!! are you going to give them laptops can you eat a laptop??? no. So lets focus on a bigger problem GIVING THEM FOOD BEFORE WE BUY THEM A LAPTOP!!!

You can actually eat a laptop. It's not healthy though. (believe me)

Fenwick (author)TheCheese99212007-10-16

Here's some stats I pulled from the web, and they show that the problem with starvation isn't the lack of money donated.

16,000 children dead/day * 19 cents (enough to feed a child for a day) = 3,040 USD per day are needed to save every child on earth from starvation.

Now, if we multiply 3,040 USD by 364 days, then that is only 1,106,560 USD per year that would be enough to save all of the world's starving children.

In 2006, over $11,600,000 million dollars were raised in the United States during the "30 hour famine" event. There's plenty of charity going towards world hunger, the problem is that the food isn't getting to where it needs to go, which is a political issue.

TheCheese9921 (author)Fenwick2007-10-18

hmm I see your point , I guess I jumped the gun

mycroftxxx (author)TheCheese99212006-08-25

At this point, the world's food generators (farmers, fishers, livestock, etc.) produce a massive surplus of food. All starvation is a political problem. And, while I could be wrong, I'm also willing to bet money that charitable food banks acquire and are capable (not able to, but capapble) of distributing sufficient nutritious food to feed every starving person on earth. Politics of race, religion, and greed are what stand in their way, with the occasional fuel costs and bursts of pure human stupidity to spice things up. The MOST effective method of seeing the end of political problems I know of is to increase the education of people closer to the problem. If they can't find a peaceful solution to the problems, educated people make better agitators and fanatical assasins, as we've seen. Starvation is a problem of stupidity, and the solution to stupidity is always access to information.

mathcraig (author)mycroftxxx2006-10-03

Using modern technology to predict available supply availability, contact those individuals in possession of said surpluses, predict natural disasters, it all points to better preparation for the future. After all, to "look at the problem with childs' eyes" may produce some insightful redistribution solutions! Agreed, access to information produces options, which most people prefer.

foamyguy (author)TheCheese99212006-08-24

Not that I am saying this is much better but your number is a bit high.
"Every day, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds"
Taken from:
Also should be noted that large portions of this aren't due to strict malnurishment but to diseases that would perhaps be survivable to someone with the proper diet. Again not trying to say that we are in a good situation, just pointing out you aimed a bit high.

whelzorn (author)TheCheese99212006-08-23

I don't think you understand who these laptops are going to. These are NOT going to Ethiopia, or some tribe in Africa. They are going to places like India where the people have the basic necessities of life, but they do not have access to modern tech., either because they are poor, or the society isn't developed enough to have any sort of computers available, even for sale. Not only that, but what the hell do AMD, the Linux community, and other companies contributing to this project have to offer for food?! They are simply contributing in the best way that they can, which is quite respectable IMO.

TheCheese9921 (author)whelzorn2006-08-23

ok ok i see your point but there are still country (not in the middle of nowhere where the language is DFDFGfgidflgkyhlgGartpearTadgERtyDFGj) that need food n whatnot

Ushanka (author)TheCheese99212006-08-23

Are you saying every single charity that isn't feeding starving children is bad because it isn't providing the absolute necessities of life to people? I'd better call the Red Cross and tell them to stop their blood bank until everyone has food.

foamyguy (author)Ushanka2006-08-24

I dunno, Id put blood under the absolute necessities of life categorytoo.

give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to operate a computer and he'll earn his living.. er.. taking support calls etc But seriously, there is a lot more to this than giving computers away

Neodudeman (author)radiorental2006-08-23

lol. but ya. i dunno.

A good name (author)2008-06-29

Lol, I say keep the kids fit... better not introduce them to the obesifier of the western world.

Ora (author)2007-10-16

I miss all the colors. Now it's just green and white.

binnie (author)2007-01-26

olpc is a great idea i need a laptop

westfw (author)2006-08-24

Isn't the state of educational software for linux pretty poor in general, without worrying about the limitations imposed by the $100 version? For that matter, I haven't been very impressed with SW aimed at younger kids since Humongous died, nor with that aimed at older kids ... ever. (although I heard good things about "plato." :-) Educational SW is HARD.

allen (author)westfw2006-08-29

I can't say I've made a comprehensive study of the field but I know there are entire Linux distributions aimed at education. Edubuntu and GComprix right off the top of my head. I've used GComprix and while it's designed for younger kids it's got some pretty interesting stuff in it. Also, who says it has to be interactive sofware to be useful/important? Just the ability to easily duplicate any digital media will be a revelation. The cost of a textbook, a significant consideration in the areas the OLPC is aimed at, simply goes away. Just put two, or more, OLPCs near each other and this year's textbooks are on all the OLPCs. The OLPC, or 2B1 as it's officially known now I guess, has an SD slot. I'm seeing one gigabyte SD cards going for less then $15(US) and that's at retail. You could probably do some better if you were buying a million of them. Us rich westerners might sneer at 1 gig but not so long ago it was the state of the art in hard drives and is still capable of holding a fairly astonishing amount of text and, less so, graphics. A handful of SD cards could hold an entire library, easily duplicable, and small enough to lose in a watch pocket. And, the price is coming down on them. I'm kind of two ways about the OLPC/2B1. Cheap PCs have been around since there were PCs and they were mostly junkers put together out of obsolete parts. But the state of the art has come so far that even the OLPC, low-powered as it is by current standards, is a very capable computer. That means that you don't have to try to squeeze performance out of a computer that's simply not there or accept compromises that render the computer largely ineffective. One example of that sort of thing is/was the Simputer. Another problem with the Simputer that Negroponte seems to have avoided is the urge overengineer the product. The Simputer seemed to be in design phase forever so by the time it crawled into the light of day the technology had, largely, passed it by. Negroponte appears to understand that there's a time frame into which the OLPC has to fit. Too early and an immature product is released and if it's a sufficiently great disaster then no one will want to hear about it even after all the bugs are fixed. Release to late and the technology will have passed you by ala the Simputer and no one will want to be saddled by something so out-of-date, not even third-world peoples. The OLPC seems to be coming along quickly but it's also hitting its milestones from what I can infer. On the negative side, there's the distribution scheme, selling only large orders and only to governments who have to hand them out to a public that's liable to be a bit uncertain what the gadgets are for. I has the smell of noblesse oblige: throwing handfuls of gold coins to the ragged street children who run alongside your gilded carriage. Filthy capitalism will never besmirch this noble enterprise with its grimy, money-grubbing ways. Trouble is, at, say, $200 a pop Walmart would sell a ton of them which would build supplier capacity, help shakeout the design and encourage a cottage hardware/software industry. It's so damned cute and just has "hack me" written all over it. My guess that between its price, ubiquity, nice if not overwhelming feature set and potential as a platform for world-wide exposure, it'll become the darling of the FOSS programmers. If that means holding off flinging handfuls of cute, orange computers to uncomprehending kids, so be it. There's hardly much in the way of demand from them and the rewards of building momentum for the OLPC at the expense of, and with the enthusiastic support of, us rich westerners is just a mouth-watering possibility. And did I mention the comment system really needs a preview capability?

r_harris2 (author)allen2006-12-11

Re: "On the negative side...selling only large orders and only to governments..."

I thought the same thing when I read that part. Fortunately, someone with more understanding of Adam Smith seems to have gotten some influence in the project, and the wikipedia page about olpc ( now includes this information:
"While the OLPC originally planned to make the laptop available only through governments, Negroponte has indicated that they may partner with well known brand-name manufacturers to create a commercial version. Selling for about $225, this would subsidize units in the developing world."

Given the capability, the price point looks too high, but it's a step in the right direction. As you commented, even without any direct subsidy, just selling gobs of them a nominal profit would increase production, lower per-unit cost, and pay for the overhead of operations.

Re: Westfw's comment about electronic education textbooks. There's an excellent idea. One possibility for a jumpstart might be to take out-of-print and no longer protected textbooks and scan/OCR them. Then post them to a wiki (perhaps wikipedia-simple) where domain experts could edit and revise. The really big task of getting started would be done quickly, and cooperative editing could quickly bring out-of-date text up to date.

radiorental (author)westfw2006-08-24

I would think of it as a gateway drug towards getting addtional skills. I certainly didnt have much educational software on my 8-bit or first 86/286, but I'm earning a living in the computer world right now. Whether I'm happy in cubeland is another matter but it sure beat unemployment, boredom, shortened life span. They cant ship these things to India with pacman on them but I think a simple cad package, (even that google thing, whassit called) along with the ability to communicate, collaborate (hello 3rd world instructables, peanut shellers) Say they eventually get tooled up with wireless networks like the Tibetans... Its empowerment above anything else, I beleive the Indian government has sponsored a similar low cost PDA style program but havent heard much about that recently. I think these laptops will be more successful, I hope they are. So, back on point, yes educational software sucks, but is the real aim here to provide education? Puting a child in front of a computer, alone, has never been that successful. I think the real aim is enabling people in the 3rd world to get a step closer towards some of the stuff we take for granted in the 1st. Instead of thinking about putting 'my first math class' on there, thing of cools tools and funky apps that grab kids interests. That google cad app would be up there for me....

westfw (author)2006-11-23

Off in another forum, someone pointed out that $100 is relatively (quite!) small compared to the cost of textbooks for even a primary education. What's the state of the ... politics for public domain textbook content? It seems to me that at some point Instructables could mature into providing "courseware"; connected sets of multimedia "lessons" with quizes in between, and grading, and remembering where you are, and so on. Plato or LICUS modernized? I've been pretty unimpressed with the online classes I've taken at work (the most recent on required THREE different video players, for instance!) Is there better stuff out there?

ewilhelm (author)westfw2006-11-23

The Discovery channel has been putting together something that looks pretty compelling:

cry_wolf (author)2006-09-23

Allright, why the crap would you give a kid a laptop, when they are dying of starvation. Life is more important than tech my friend.

The Full Belly Project (author)2006-09-06


I see that someone has already added the Universal Nut Sheller to the OLPC group. Is there anything else that we need to do?

Also I have a suggestion, what if Instructables started a whole seperate part of their website that was solely geared towards Open Source Appropriate Technology (OSAT) (my term for our tech) for developing countries. They could enlist the efforts of many NGOs, some suggestions are:

Full Belly Project-
Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group-
Design That Matters-
MIT D-Lab-
et al.

This would result in an online network to create technology that could literally save the planet, and it could be broadcast via the OLPC program and its country repositories.

Myself (author)2006-08-29

We should be revisiting the old educational software from the 80s, before flashy graphics were everything. A lot of thought went into that stuff, and as a kid I thought Rocky's Boots was just the coolest thing ever. It's a shame they don't share any common UI concepts like modern software (or do they? just a joystick...), because you could wrap a hundred of those titles in a simple menu, launch them in a C64 or Apple-II emulator, and call it a day.

Oh right, there's the small matter of translation.

Well, they're still good sources of ideas. Logic trainers like Rocky's Boots, or a physics-updated version of The Incredible Machine, would be a good start. The Maxis Sim games weren't all good, but some of them taught good concepts about supply and demand, limited resources, and stuff like that.

Feistyfeline, I've done a lot of the same thinking, about distributed offline content where machines swap bits when they're in range. It offers few advantages over just bundling a bigger hard drive, unless one of two things are true:

1: You need *lots* of devices in range at the same time. In order to make room for new content but not delete the last copy of anything (or the last n copies), you need lots of friends. This either means high population density, or long wireless range. Surplus Ricochet equipment is good for about a mile, and I'm sure something with even lower bitrate could go even farther.

2: There's an uplink available, even a very slow one. I'd imagine that surplus capacity on a satellite network might be useful for this, and not every laptop would need a satellite terminal, just one in an area that could feed the local wireless sharing network. Being able to trickle in the most-requested content, and then share it quickly among local devices, would be huge. Or just being able to carry a DVD of recent updates, and share it among the local cloud.

Such content distribution is a big deal, and absolutely fascinates me, but it'd be a project of its own. (contact me by email? I'd like to share ideas.)

canida (author)2006-08-25

Good god, that demo picture is ugly. Please tell me they're not going to inflict a horned orange laptop on these kids. I don't care if it's supposed to look friendly and inviting; it's a travesty.

radiorental (author)canida2006-08-28

seriously!! since when did beige go out of fashion? But you're right about the horns, they will break off. Then again this could be a counter ploy to induce a new generation of fixers and modders

feistyfeline (author)2006-08-25

I thought this was an interesting project, especially because I come from one of those african countries mentioned in the earlier posts. It is commendable that there's somebody looking out for the lesser fortunate ones as a matter of principle. Like radiorental I was weaned on a 286, and I concur with the access to technology argument and the teach a man to fish principle. In the US, and I believe in many developed countries, the government pays for those lacking access to education by virtue of their economic status. The reason I appreciate connectivity is access to a mutiverse of knowledge at my fingertips, beyond the library books that are often few and dated in third world schools. This is a if we build it will they come sort of situation, where the education system already exists it just needs a little jolt to bridge the gap between the best and worst schools. We dont have to worry about people not eating computers - consider that when I was growing up all exams were on paper that has to be stenciled painstakingly by the instructor to be reprographed through a rather tedious process. Now there are copiers and computers but the process is still the same simple upgrade. There are no question pools, everybody is out there reinventing the wheel. I know what am talking about because I had it relatively good in school. Later when I taught kindergerten in a childrens home I found the kids did not have the essentials that you take for granted. On a one day fundraise my friend and I got the equivalent of $100 which was good for a couple of school terms worth of supplies and play toys for the kids. I'd think of better uses for $2600 bucks like pay teachers better, but thats another story. For third world governments, my country being an example, its almost always an all or nothing situation. By this I mean that resources are so constrained in the country that its difficult to pick and choose who gets educated. The governemtent could pay for the computers and have someone, usually the ministry of education (as was the case with radio lessons when I was in school) provide content. As content providers will emerge, publishers will have no choice but to join the loop. I can see the possibilities with multimedia content that is upto date, content broadcasting/multicasting. I read a while back about ditributed offline networks, a really cool concenpt where the system updated content when a network became available think of it as satellite/wired networks (narrow and broadband tech) with very long latency. I'd like to go on and on but I gotta stop sometime.

Scurl! (author)2006-08-24

read the OLPC quote " You're forcing this on poverty stricken areas that need food, water and housing rather than a laptop. Falsehood: Not at all. Like it was said earlier, this is only a tool and should not be seen as more than that. We agree that other more urgent matters must be attended to before you insert high tech into the situation of poverty. (Not everybody agrees with that idea. Some think that access to the Net is the fastest way for poor people to get the political clout to require their governments to provide services to them. Or to get the education for real jobs that take them out of poverty completely. Or access to innovative technologies for providing food, water, clothing, shelter, energy, etc.) But we believe education and communication with the modern world to be important as well. Food, water, clothing and other necessities come first. Nevertheless, a world view and good education can do wonders for a child's mind and continued health. "

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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