The lead author of the detailed IDB study from Peru, released earlier this year, has published a good summary of their work and its implications. He highlights the tremendous efforts of Peru’s government for supporting the research and data-gathering, which will help not only Peru’s education work but that of other countries following in their footsteps. And he groups the outcome into four key results:
major change in access to knowledge, and reduction of the digital divide,
improvement of cognitive skills, across many different tests
no change in standardized tests for math and reading
It is very important to commend the efforts of the Peruvian government for doing a serious evaluation of this program, and for sharing their results so transparently. It is a fact that there are few impact evaluations on the use of technology in education. Therefore, any contribution of knowledge helps support the efforts of many countries in the region and the world that are working to improve educational conditions for children that technologies can provide.
These are our results. First, the program has drastically reduced the digital divide, allowing many students and teachers, even in remote areas, to have access to laptops and educational content. Second, positive results were found in cognitive skills tests. The applied tests sought to measure reasoning abilities, verbal fluency, and processing speed in children. The very results are important, as they have been shown to be predictors of academic and work performance. The results indicate that children who received a laptop got ahead by 5 months of what the natural progression would have been in the development of these skills when compared to children who did not receive a laptop. Third, after 15 months of implementation, we found no statistically significant differences between children in beneficiary schools and children in control schools on learning outcomes measured by standardized tests of mathematics and language. No differences were found in relation to school enrollment and attendance.
Giving a poor child in a remote Peruvian village
a laptop to own and take home, is giving that
child hope, self-esteem, and an opportunity to
learn outside, as well as inside school. The
Economist did not read the full Inter-American
Development Bank report, that noted: “Students
also demonstrated increased cognitive abilities
from the OLPC program.”
The purpose of OLPC was not to improve classroom
learning only, but learning in the child’s whole
life. Ironically, Peru is the country where we most
encounter 6-to-10-year olds teaching their parents
how to read and write… I do not have a better story.
Furthermore, reading comprehension, parent involvement,
and a passion for playing with ideas improved. Check
out Uruguay, if you want to find more rigorous
statistics of success from a better organized
Lastly, think of the logic behind applying traditional
19th Century testing to modern learning, especially at
early ages. High test scores come from rote learning,
and do not evaluate critical and creative thinking,
initiative and discovery, let alone peer to peer
teaching. It is like using a pedometer to measure
the speed of a car. Error.
OLPC has nearly 3 million laptops in 40 countries
and 25 languages, after six years and almost $1
billion spent. Noone reading this would not give
their child a connected laptop if he or she could
afford one. Why is it so hard to understand that
poor children should get the same?
We invite the submission of papers to be presented at the eduJAM! 2012 summit. It will take place Friday-Saturday, May 11th-12th.
A summary of the main contributions from all the papers and the mention of the authors will be published on the event’s website and in the media after the summit. See more details in the document linked here and on our website.
Llamados a Ponencias – eduJAM! 2012
Invitamos a la presentación de ponencias que integrarán el Encuentro de Desarrolladores Uruguay: eduJAM! 2012 a desarrollarse el 11 y 12 de mayo. Un resumen de los principales aportes del conjunto de las ponencias y la mención a sus autores será publicado en la pagina del evento y en los medios de comunicación posteriormente al encuentro.
Mas detalles en el archivo aqui o en nuestra web.
The Economist recently published a brief and pessimistic summary of the IDB Peru study. Their writer looked only at standardized math and reading tests as measures of success, ignoring large improvements in cognitive skills. Or maybe, as Richard Jennings suggests, they didn’t read to the sixth sentence of the study:
picked up on a 40-day-old report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and interpreted it as saying the program was failing in Peru. The anonymous Economist writer summarizes IDB’s findings thus:
GIVING a child a computer [does not] accomplish anything in particular… Peruvians’ test scores remain dismal. Only 13% of seven-year-olds were at the required level in maths and only 30% in reading… the children receiving the computers did not show improvement in maths… reading… motivation, or time devoted to homework or reading.
That’s depressing… I suppose there might be some intangible benefit, but it rather looks like there’s no quantitative gain.
The results indicate that the program… translated into substantial increases in use both at school and at home… Some positive effects are found… in general cognitive skills as measured by Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a verbal fluency test and a Coding test.
So, instead of a “disappointing return,” or “not accomplish[ing] anything in particular,” IDB did actually find a measurable benefit.
Could it be that the disparity between test scores and actual measured achievement means that it’s the tests that are lacking, rather than the laptops? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that academic testing was shown to be seriously wanting.
And is it too much to ask for The Economist’s journalists and fact-checkers to actually get as far as the sixth sentence in the report’s abstract, before writing the story? I know that many of today’s workers exhibit short attention-spans, but really!
Too right. Unlike traditional standardized tests, cognitive studies tests are more likely to demonstrate the sort of growth envisioned by constructionist approaches to learning: exploration, empowered learning, and creativity.
There were three separate cognitive skills tests measured by the IDB. All four showed large improvements – equivalent to 5-6 months of cognitive development. As the report notes, “these are sizable effects under this metric considering that the treatment group had an average exposure of 15 months” — that’s like getting an extra 3 years of cognitive development by the start of highschool; something worth further study.
The Inter American Development Bank recently published the results of a study of the Peruvian schools that received OLPCs in rural primary schools in Peru, over the first 15 months of the program.
The methodology of the study was quite good, with a randomized study of over 300 schools. But the measurements and focus were not aligned with the goals of Peru’s program, and there is no clear way to compare these results with the other detailed results available from Plan Ceibal’s program in Uruguay. The after-analysis of their work has tended to focus on short-term math and reading results, whereas the goals of the program were access to knowledge, improvements in pedagogy, and access to computing – which might be expected to show up in the short term only in the abstract cognitive results.
The measured improvement in abstract thinking – roughly 5 additional months of cognitive development, over a 15-month period – is tremendous. It is interesting to note how this result is downplayed in parts of the world where schools live by less abstract standardized testing.
Some recent comments from OLPC staff and implementers, paraphrased for brevity:
‘The OLPC program in Peru, or any other place, has to be evaluated according to its initial goal. “math, language, and cognitive test results” showed outputs, but have no clear connection to Peru’s 2007 stated objectives, which targeted pedagogical training and application.’
Oscar Becerra, who oversaw OLPC in Peru’s government:
‘We succeeded in giving access to technology to 100% (220,000) of children and teachers at one-teacher schools, who otherwise would have had no opportunity to use ICT. Most had the option to take laptops home with them.’
Oscar has published other comments that are a good representation of the OLPC perspective.
Three cheers for easier and better building experiences. We are big fans of building things as a component of learning and as motivation, and have done extensive work with LEGO over the years including making the XO easy to connect with LEGOWeDo kits and other robotic tools.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region which seceded from Azerbaijan in 1991, and has been engaged in a low-grade military conflict involving Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since. Recently they have launched a New Education Project to improve primary education across the region.
Many of the children in the region have schools, and some have internet access. This week, they launched a small OLPC project, deploying laptops to 3,300 students in 16 connected primary schools in the cities of Stepanakert (the region’s capital), Shushi, and Karin Tak.
Vladik Khachatryan, Minister of Education and Science of Nagorno-Karabakh, was present at the launch. He announced,
This program will improve the quality of education of elementary school students in the NKR, and what is more important, will make more information available to them and their families… within a short period of time we will be able to establish equal educational opportunities in all NKR.
Education is a key factor to breaking the vicious cycle of ethnic hatred and violence for children who live in conflict zones.
I look forward to seeing the project develop, and hope that the recent focus on children and education brings stability and peace to the region.
Many incredible volunteers are still on their way to Boston, sacrificing their Passover/Easter holiday weekend, for our April 6-10’s Doc Sprint. Officially starting Friday at OLPC HQ in Cambridge, Massachusetts!
The 5-day task is Huge. So was the marathon preparation. Our goal here, and now: to engage thousands more active users worldwide, of all ages, to understand the POWER of the XO laptop and its Sugar learning system — 4.5 full years after this global XO kids learning movement truly hit the road.
U R What U Eat!
It’s time. And our community tools are all rapidly coming together to make this all happen — so our community’s priorities boil down to documenting:
Core OS, Sugar & Gnome
Learning Tactics, School Server, Volunteer Community
In the end? The most cool Sugar Activities on every continent will make our best Chapters visible, just 1 click away, for Years To Come.
The amazing reality? Key documents (and videos) are already being slapped into shape, and interlinked in far more meaningful ways, and far beyond core manuals. Consider Walter Bender’s newly concise summaries of his 25 favorite Activities, real world server-in-field tricks emerging into the light — with new kinds of project-sparking videos imminent from implementation experts like Kenya’s Ntugi Group.
As exciting as the introduction of the new tablet was for the small group of attendees at the seminar, Sugar was the focus of the discussion and one that Mr. Bender talked passionately about. Designed on OLPC’s principle of “Low floor, no ceiling”, it’s designed for inexperienced users, providing a platform, or low floor, on which to explore, create, and collaborate without any limits to its possibilities.
Exploration is key to Mr. Bender’s philosophy. Designing Sugar and the computers from a “constructivist” perspective, he referred to Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget and his learning theory of “learning by doing” when discussing the intuitiveness of the system. “We want to raise a generation of independent thinkers and problem solvers, “ he said after displaying a picture of students taking apart and fixing one of OLPC’s laptops. “Every deployment has students who repair computers and they are designed so that students can fix them themselves.”
This guest post is from Sameer Verma, professor at San Francisco State and founder of the OLPC-SF regional group.
I was on sabbatical leave at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Fall 2008. There, I helped start the Center of Excellence (CoE) at the Mona School of Business at UWI. Through the CoE, we started the OLPC Jamaica project on September 5, 2008. In Jamaica the team has been led by Craig Perue – who was two weeks ago appointed Advisor to the Minister of Education!
It has been three and a half years since that first effort, an uphill battle to get the project going to fulfill its goals of early childhood education, technology in remote and rural places and community outreach and impact, not to mention supporting IT infrastructure (server, wireless LAN, content filtering, traffic management) remotely over a VPN for 5 year olds 🙂
Last year, we implemented 115 OLPC XO laptops in two schools, and the results have been amazing. I was on a data collection trip over the recent break, and what we are finding through the initial analyses is impressive: An increase in numeracy by 12%. And the most sought-after program is TuxMath. Other results will be interesting as well, we hope.
Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroon’s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.
Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.”
Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.
Gabriel Sanchez Zinny writes about how businesses in Latin America are seeing education reform as essential to local growth, and starting to invest in it. They make some thoughtful comments about our work with Zamora Teran in Nicaragua and the current work in Ometepe:
In Latin America, education reform – when it has even broken onto the political agenda – has long been seen as a stereotypical battle between the free-market right wing and the powerful, entrenched teachers unions. Now, however, a consensus seems to be growing, with leaders from across the ideological spectrum throwing their weight behind reform. In country after country, Latin American businesses are teaming up with NGOs and governments to deliver better educational outcomes.
In Nicaragua, the influential Zamora clan (one of the “twelve families” that have played an outsized role in the nation’s history) has teamed up with the non-profit group One Laptop Per Child to provide thousands of Nicaraguan schoolchildren with access to the internet for the first time. The Fundacion Zamora Teran is largely funded by the Roberto Zamora-owned Lafise Bancentro – a regional investment group worth over $600 million – and has handed out a total of 35,000 laptops in Nicaragua, with a donation most recently of 5,000 units to the island of Ometepe, making it the “first fully digitized island in Latin America”.
Eric McGinnis, a senior at U. Delaware, took part in a visit to Haiti earlier this month coordinated by his school, UNC Charlotte, Waveplace, and Mothering Across Continents. After taking a course in game development, he built an English-to-Creole translator in Scratch which he distributed to students at the Waveplace school.
George Hunt has recently been experimenting with the XS schoolserver (currently XS 0.7) on various hardware setups. And he is tracking his work on a blog dedicated to the purpose. We are now including it in the OLPC Planet newsfeed. http://schoolserver.wordpress.com/blog/
It’s a good read if you have been trying similar things at home or in your own school. You can contact him with questions or comments through his blog.
Walter and Melissa Henriquez ran Turtle Art and Scratch workshops las tweek, during a “vacation camp” for 3rd and 4th graders from Holmes Elementary School. It sounds like a it was a great success, with the children using Portfolio to make presentations of their work at the end of the week. Read more about it in the weekly Sugar Digest.
There are roughly 58 million primary school students in Latin America, according to UNESCO’s latest data from their Education For All initiative. 5% of children in that age range are not in school. And 5% of them use XOs: 1.5 million children have their own, and Peru’s urban initiative is giving another 1.5 million students in urban schools access to XOs through a program where groups of 3-5 students share a laptop.
Today 4/5 of these students are in Uruguay, Peru, Argentina, and Mexico. But new programs are growing rapidly, in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, and elsewhere.
That’s a lot of budding Pythonistas, Scratcheros, and Linux users!
Now if only my own home country would start providing computers and connectivity to its students as a matter of course…