Late last year, Roger (Arnan) published a brief summary of his two-year analysis of seven schools in Thailand, reported in The Nation, which was spun negatively in the Bangkok Post. While I haven’t seen the data on which he bases his analysis, his research and recent paper (from ICLS 2010) do not look negative; though they note that urban schools whose students already have access to computers (and, presumably, to libraries) do not see short-term improvements in traditional test scores, despite seeing improvements in basic literacy.
This is not surprising — OLPC does not target wealthier urban schools except as part of national saturation deployments, such as in Uruguay, Peru, and Rwanda where the entire system is undergoing a change in how it approaches learning in and out of school. Related observations:
- A small pilot at a few schools may not be very successful in small urban schools, where teachers and students have many other projects, other demands pressing on their time, and already have access to libraries and computers. Small pilots can be successful in regions with no other access to similar tools or technology, where families and teachers are interested in the opportunities provided. (For example, Gaza’s process for starting is a great model here: teachers and parents had to spend time with XOs and decide they wanted to try the program before UNRWA was willing to fund it.)
- A large pilot that involves thousands of students and teachers at every school in a region will generally involve new measures for teacher and class success, improved tech support for teachers incorporating laptops into the classroom, and deeper engagement with the community. This is still most effective with younger students and creative teachers, but can work in urban and wealthier schools as well — students may have other access to knowledge and computing outside of the program, but will be doing new collaborative things and seeing their education and opportunities in a new way.
- A full-scale deployment across a school system will involve rethinking the teaching system at least as much as it involves thinking creatively about how to use laptops, and will often offer new national contests and exhibits, and teacher recognition and advancement for those embracing new classroom models. All of which makes a connected classroom an integral part, not an appendage, of the system.