There are some nice videos on YouTube of the interface of the XO, a sub-$100 laptop from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. They have given priority to collaborative features and it has a built-in camera and microphone.
I wonder why they don’t have image avatars — perhaps that’s a privacy feature to protect children, but I think would be neat if there could be image representations of people.
I enjoyed reading Jeff Atwood observations on the “Sugar Interface” which is one of the few UIs I’ve seen (outside of gaming) that strives to go beyond the traditional windowing metaphor that grew to prominence in the 90s. He writes:
“I have to admit that I didn’t find the Sugar UI particularly intuitive or discoverable, even after using it for 10 minutes and learning the basics. But I’m not a child. Maybe something unusual is necessary to get kids’ creative juices flowing. Mr. Negroponte has strong feelings on this topic:
“‘In fact, one of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools.’
“He’s got a point. I don’t know many kids that want to grow up to be ‘Information Workers’.