Peru’s ambitious laptop program gets mixed grades

08/07/2012 7:07
Really sad.  If you’ve read my prior postings you would realise that I’m really dubious about the blind utilisation of tech for tech’s sake in Australian schools. However in this instance, with this Project, I did hope (I was still dubious about the research and reasoning behind the project ) that it would be of benefit to a generation who may be able to utilise it to elevate themselves and their country out of the poverty cycle. How strange that nearly the exact problems are also being suffered in Australian schools because of the similar,”introduce the technology and be damned attitude”. If your only reason for doing something is to appear to be doing something  -DON’T DO IT! “. Stop, plan, consult, don’t allow panicked political imperative create greater problems.   

The full article can be read from the link above
“Peru’s equipping of more than 800,000 public schoolchildren in this rugged Andean nation with low-cost laptops ranks among the world’s most ambitious efforts to leverage digital technology in the fight against poverty.

Yet five years in, there are serious doubts about whether the largest single deployment in the One Laptop Per Child ……was worth the more than $200 million that Peru’s government spent.

Ill-prepared rural teachers and administrators were too often unable to fathom much less teach with the machines, software bugs didn’t get fixed, Internet access was almost universally absent and cultural disconnects kept kids from benefitting from the machines.

“In essence, what we did was deliver the computers without preparing the teachers,” said Sandro Marcone, the Peruvian education official who now runs the program.

He believes the missteps may have actually widened the gap between children able to benefit from the computers and those ill-equipped to do so, he says, in a country whose public education system is rated among the world’s most deficient.

….OLPC laptops, which are rugged and energy efficient and run an open-source variant of the Linux operating system, are in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mongolia and Haiti, and even in the United States and Australia. Uruguay, a compact South American nation of 3.5 million people, is the only country that has fully embraced the concept and given every elementary school child and teacher an XO laptop, as the machines are called. No country, however, bought nearly as many as Peru.

“It’s a really great idea,” said Jeff Patzer, a software engineer with a degree from the University of California at Berkeley ……. “It’s just seems like there was some stuff that wasn’t thought through quite enough.”

….”There is little solid evidence regarding the effectiveness of this program,” they said in a study sharply critical of the overall OLPC initiative that was based on a 15-month study at 319 schools in small, rural Peruvian communities that got laptops……”The magical thinking that mere technology is enough to spur change, to improve learning, is what this study categorically disproves,” co-author Eugenio Severin of Chile told The Associated Press…..The study found no increased math or language skills, no improvement in classroom instruction quality, no boost in time spent on homework, no improvement in reading habits.
…..On the positive side, the “dramatic increase in access to computers” accelerated by about six months students’ abstract reasoning, verbal fluency and speed in processing information, the report said.

…A study in Ethiopian schools by Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, published last year in the journal Computers and Education, similarly found that OLPC laptops improved abstract reasoning.
The teachers in those schools had received extensive training in the laptops, which the researchers said introduced an “information-rich novelty” into an environment previously starved for learning material…..

Tess Michaels