Finally at home with a (mostly) working laptop and a working cell phone. I'm somewhat overwhelmed with the OLPC conference, definitely having a series of "why did I think I could do this?" moments, but I've been scheduling "grit your teeth and just get down to it" sessions which are helping a lot and chipping away at the mountain of Stuff That Needs To Be Done. Learning a lot.
From a Worldchanging article on OLPC:
If other projects can put a laptop in every child’s hands, the project achieves its goal, even if the laptop is not the XO.
Now that is exactly what I was talking about at the Presidents' Council for Olin. There's all this talk about other countries "beating us," other engineering schools someday becoming "more innovative," as if the objective were to come out on top of a hacker's horse race. We can't let that happen! some of the trustees cried.
Actually, I said, we should. Our competitors are our friends. If we inspire other folks to try new things, that's great! They certainly do the same for Olin. If other schools offer crazy, make-your-own educations, fantastic. And if other schools inspired by Olin someday surpass it in sheer magnitude of innovation and quality of education - well, the phoenix rises from the ashes again.* The greatest joy of a good teacher is to have your own students surpass you; it means you've taught them well.
The point is to get a laptop to these kids; it doesn't need to be an XO. The point is to get a good education to young engineers; it doesn't have to be an Olin one.
*And sometimes there is no "best," there is no "optimal" - there are many ways to be excellent, and we shouldn't try to rank-order everything.