Why schools should provide one laptop per child

, Professor of Education and Informatics from the University of California, Irvine and ,  Assistant Professor from the Michigan State University, recently posted an article asking if there is a need to abandon attempts to integrate technology in schools due to a recent international study published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which found no positive evidence of impact of educational technology on student performance.

According to the article, Professor Warschauer and Assistant Professor Zheng, have conducted their…

…own extensive observations. We conducted a synthesis of the results of 96 published global studies on these programs in K-12 schools during 2001-2015. Among them, 10 rigorously designed studies, mostly from the U.S., were included, to examine the relationship between these programs and academic achievement. We found significant benefits.We found students’ test scores in science, writing, math and English language arts improved significantly.

And the benefits were not limited to test scores.

To find out about their conclusions and read the full article, please click here.


Disclosure statement

Mark Warschauer has received funding for his research from the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Carnegie Corporation, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, the Spencer Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, and Google Research.

Binbin Zheng does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above

The Reading Project in Ethiopia explained by the OLPC team involved in the experiment

OLPC San Francisco Community Summit is a community event that brings together educators, technologists, anthropologists, enthusiasts, champions and volunteers. The purpose is to share stories, exchange ideas, solve problems, foster community and build collaboration around the One Laptop per Child project and its mission worldwide.

During the 2012 SF Summit, the team involved directly in this experiment, presented some of their experiences and details on the research:

Video 1: Matt Keller, Richard Smith

Video streaming by Ustream

Video 2: Richard Smith, Ed McNierney, Scott Ananian and Chris Ball:

Video streaming by Ustream

“Why I hope kids in Ethiopia can teach us something profound about education.” by Nicholas Negroponte

I believe that we get into trouble when knowing becomes a surrogate for learning. We know that a vast recall of facts about something is in no way a measure of understanding them. At best, it is necessary but not sufficient. And yet we subject our kids to memorizing. We seem to believe that rote learning is akin to physical exercise, good for their minds. And, quite conveniently, we can test whether the facts stuck, like spaghetti to a wall. In some cases knowledge is so drilled in that you know and hate a subject at the same time.

The closest I have ever come to thinking about thinking is writing computer programs. This involves teasing apart a process into constituent parts, step-by-step functions, and conditional statements. What is so important about computer programs is that they (almost) never work the first time. Since they do something (versus nothing), just not what you wanted, you can look at the (mis)behavior to debug and change your code. This iterative process, so common in computer programming, is similar to learning.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a non-profit association that I founded, launched the so-called XO Laptop in 2005 with built-in programming languages. There are 2.5 million XOs in the hand of kids today in 40 countries, with 25 languages in use. In Uruguay, where all 400,000 kids have an XO laptop, knowing how to program is required in schools. Estonia just did the same. In Ethiopia, 5,000 kids are writing computer programs in the language Squeak.

OLPC represents about $1 billion in sales and deployment worldwide since 2005—it’s bigger than most people think. What have we learned? We learned that kids learn a great deal by themselves. The question is, how much?

 To answer that question, we have now turned our attention to the 100 million kids worldwide who do not go to first grade. Most of them do not go because there is no school, there are no literate adults in their village, and there is little promise of that changing soon. My colleagues and I have started an experiment in two such villages, asking a simple question: Can children learn how to read on their own?
If you want to learn more about this research, read the original post here.


“The digital gap is shrinking in Peru” [German review]

a translation of Julio Segador’s report for ARD Buenos Aires

Four years ago, we launched OLPC in Peru – now the largest primary-school initiative of its kind in the world – to distribute laptops to 810 000 children. The first results of the project are emerging: The laptop does not automatically lead to better test scores for the children, but may still be useful.

Barely four years ago in Peru, one could hear on every street corner a happy children’s song that came from a promotional film on the Internet. In the video, girls and boys had small green and white laptops in their hands, tapping on them and laughing. 810,000 of them, specially adapted to the needs of children, have since been distributed, primarily to students from economically-disadvantaged families. “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) is the international project behind it, from creative director Nicholas Negroponte of MIT in Cambridge.

Now interim results of the project in Peru have been published. An expert team from the Inter-American Development Bank put rural primary schools under the microscope for 15 months.
The results are mostly positive, says Eugenio Severin, one of the researchers: “The students who have gotten the laptops had cognitive abilities develop a good five months faster during the 15-month study period.”

Hear the German-language audio of author Julio Segador, or read on for the rest.
Continue reading

Learning to read with One Tablet per Child

Can tablets make a difference to a child learning to read for the first time, without a teacher or traditional classroom structure? That’s the question we are exploring with our reading project, currently underway in Ethiopia.

A few dozen children in two rural villages have been given tablets which they are using for a few months. They are interested in learning to read English, and understand this is something they can learn with the tablets; which also come with hundreds of children’s apps.

They are equipped with software that logs all interactions, building up a clear picture of how each tablet is being used. Data from the tablets is gathered each week and sent back to the research team, which also rolls out new updates to the tablets week by week.

Richard is in Ethiopia this week, to get better first-hand knowledge of how the tablets and other infrastructure are holding up, and a visual sense of how they are being used.

“if a child can learn to read, they can read to learn”

School computer labs passing out of favor

Mike Trucano, in a typically balanced and measured World Bank blog post, notes that computer labs are coming under increasing scrutiny — and that despite decades of use in the developed world, there is little evidence for them being an effective use of resources given today’s options for discovering computing, learning to use software tools, or connecting to the internet.

Expert opinion, at least in many OECD countries, is increasingly calling into question the reliance on school computer labs as the primary model for impactful use of educational technologies.

He notes the common arguments for teaching with or building computer labs, a countervailing shift towards personal and mobile computing, and the history of the concept.  A good read, and a strong argument for the need for long-term studies to compare and contrast various options without prejudice — so that we cannot again say, decades from now, “The evidence base in support of  <this educational and technological model> is, to my knowledge, not very robust… there is still not a lot of rigorously obtained hard data that we can point to.” We shouldn’t be able to say that about any significant aspect of educational life.

That sort of ignorance in science, business, politics or economics would be utterly unacceptable.  We should demand more, not less, for our own education — which underlies our capacity to pursue the rest.