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One Laptop Per Child Disappoints in New Study

By - Source: IDB | B 34 comments

There is still a big vision behind the One Laptop per Child initiative - a vision that promises educational improvements in countries where children do not usually have access to computers.

However, recently released results of a study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) indicates that students with access to OLPC computers show no sign of learning improvements.

In their study, the researchers focused on 319 schools in Peru with about 20,000 students. 209 of those schools received OLPCs, while 110 schools were used as a control group to measure potential differences to the OLPC schools. Most results are somewhat obvious. For example, the exposure to computers at the OLPC schools was much greater: There were 1.2 computers per child on average (87 percent of the children had their own computer) while in the non-OLPC schools there was one computer for nine kids (9 percent in those schools had access to their own computer).

In OLPC schools, 80 percent of the kids used the computer at least once per week, but only 40 percent used them at home as not all schools permitted the children to take the device home. In non-OLPC schools only 32 percent of the children were able to access a computer at least once per week, and only 4 percent did so at home. The most popular applications were word processing and calculators (45 percent of the time), games (18 percent), and music (14 percent).

However, the researchers said that there was no notable learning improvement between the schools with OLPC computers and those without. There was no difference in participation in the general education process or academic performance in any subject. A problem may have been that there was no available access to the Internet and no applications that would have supported specific learning topics. The only pre-installed educational app was Wikipedia.

The conclusion of the study? The OLPC does not make necessarily sense in all developing countries. The money that is invested in computers may be better invested in educating teachers and reducing the number of students in the average a class room.

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  • 26 Hide
    aftcomet , April 12, 2012 7:12 AM
    Of all the things the third world needs, wind up laptops are at the end of the list. Our ancestors developed all this technology and found all our knowledge with old fashioned learning techniques.

    Am I saying that technology doesn't add to the classroom? Of course it does. But right now it's more supplementary than anything in its early stages, and what these countries need are the basics. Classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

    Invest the money into health, sanitation, drinking water, food, better books. Honestly, the more I think of this, the more retarded this idea sounds.
  • 22 Hide
    capt_taco , April 12, 2012 7:24 AM
    I grew up in the 1980s and went to high school in the 1990s, and we had maybe one computer per classroom throughout, and we got maybe one hour a week in the computer lab to do something different.

    Guess what? Everything turned out fine. The kind of learning you do in elementary and middle school, and for the most part high school, you don't really need a computer for. Seems like they want these people to have computers just to have them.
  • 12 Hide
    amdfangirl , April 12, 2012 7:23 AM
    Well how can you learn if you're struggling to survive on a bowl of rice a day, suffering from malnuitrition?
Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    aftcomet , April 12, 2012 7:12 AM
    Of all the things the third world needs, wind up laptops are at the end of the list. Our ancestors developed all this technology and found all our knowledge with old fashioned learning techniques.

    Am I saying that technology doesn't add to the classroom? Of course it does. But right now it's more supplementary than anything in its early stages, and what these countries need are the basics. Classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

    Invest the money into health, sanitation, drinking water, food, better books. Honestly, the more I think of this, the more retarded this idea sounds.
  • 12 Hide
    amdfangirl , April 12, 2012 7:23 AM
    Well how can you learn if you're struggling to survive on a bowl of rice a day, suffering from malnuitrition?
  • 22 Hide
    capt_taco , April 12, 2012 7:24 AM
    I grew up in the 1980s and went to high school in the 1990s, and we had maybe one computer per classroom throughout, and we got maybe one hour a week in the computer lab to do something different.

    Guess what? Everything turned out fine. The kind of learning you do in elementary and middle school, and for the most part high school, you don't really need a computer for. Seems like they want these people to have computers just to have them.
  • 8 Hide
    dealcorn , April 12, 2012 7:25 AM
    But it feels so good to get behind this. Do not get bummed out that it is an ineffective waste of money the way it was implemented. A new boss can be found to say we will implement better this time if only we can meet our funding objectives. The good feelings can roll on as long as funding is ample. What have the kids got to do with it?
  • 11 Hide
    shoelessinsight , April 12, 2012 7:36 AM
    Being exposed to computers at home and at school doesn't necessarily help you learn anything more than how to use a computer. In computer-driven societies, this is an extremely beneficial, but it may not be so much in a developing country.

    Of course, these countries will inevitably move into heavy computer use at some point, and they'll need to have a generation familiar with them by then. If OLPC isn't hurting other aspects of their education, then it might still make sense.
  • 4 Hide
    kyee7k , April 12, 2012 8:16 AM
    Money would be better spent on improving the economy of Peru and standards of living than on extraneous and luxury items like computer.
  • 4 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , April 12, 2012 8:36 AM
    Now try one desktop per child. Also teach them to build their own.
  • 5 Hide
    esrever , April 12, 2012 8:43 AM
    I don't know who thought it was a good idea in the first place... Maybe they should have invested in something like a school for every kid to attend and good teachers instead.
  • 5 Hide
    darkavenger123 , April 12, 2012 9:14 AM
    It was a dumb idea in the first place. Just throwing kids some stripped down computer and expect them to turn into genius suddenly?? LOL. And to add to it..."the only thing installed on the laptop is Wikipedia"..??? They might as well be playing AngryBirds on it.

    Again, hardware is useless without software. Quality educatinal app focused on each level of the students syllabus will bring some benefits. But in the end, it's the quality of the teachers and a well thought out education system which will brings the ultimate results. Not a cheap computer or even a super computer with Terraflops of processing power. It don't work that way.
  • 1 Hide
    koogco , April 12, 2012 10:11 AM
    The article says they learned nothing. So I assume they did not test for skills at using a computer? That is quite essential these days, and if those kids are to develop anything that they can sell outside their own country in the future, knowing how to operate a computer is a must.
    That said, a computer with a build in wikipedia app, and basic notepad and calculator is not going to spark a learning interest in the thing.
  • 1 Hide
    Zingam_Duo , April 12, 2012 10:22 AM
    Conclusion: "Enabling the kids to watch porn does not make them smarter." :D 
  • -1 Hide
    Zingam_Duo , April 12, 2012 10:28 AM
    capt_tacoI grew up in the 1980s and went to high school in the 1990s, and we had maybe one computer per classroom throughout, and we got maybe one hour a week in the computer lab to do something different.Guess what? Everything turned out fine. The kind of learning you do in elementary and middle school, and for the most part high school, you don't really need a computer for. Seems like they want these people to have computers just to have them.


    People did just as fine if not much better 20000 years ago when there were no schools at all! ;) 

    Dude, you are not in the 80s now. It is the future! Would you give up your car or your computer or anything else?

    It is a different problem.... When our school got shiny new Macs (long before the age of Internet), guess what? They were sitting there and the teacher had no idea what to do with them. Did we learn anything? No! Luckily I was used to computers since the early 80s because of my father. Most of my coevals got a computer only 20 years later.
  • -3 Hide
    alidan , April 12, 2012 10:47 AM
    define learning... is it knowing all your nations history? is it being able to do trig? is it knowing what the smallest bone in your body is?

    or is it being a well informed person?

    id like to think that most people benefit from a laptop in more than just school learning.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 12, 2012 11:01 AM
    OLPC is rather wrong concept to begin with, the disappointment is no surprise, why would Dr. Negroponte (that the right name?) think otherwise?

    My interest in computers were self-motivated, perhaps due to some educational games if you want to stretch it towards a school setting, but surely the teachers weren't using it actively.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 12, 2012 11:14 AM
    "Invest the money into health, sanitation, drinking water, food, better books. Honestly, the more I think of this, the more retarded this idea sounds."

    They already did this in a lot of countries and continue to do so(often done in self interest, mind you), the truth is you get neglected infrastructure before long without proper education. It is a band aid fix. Education has to be one of the top priorities if not the utmost otherwise you are just grooming a perpetual handout society that will never support itself. I am disappointed that this did not work out well for them, but you certainly cannot criticise them for trying to make a difference in the only thing that will really help a 3rd world country help its self.
  • 1 Hide
    nhat11 , April 12, 2012 12:11 PM
    amdfangirlWell how can you learn if you're struggling to survive on a bowl of rice a day, suffering from malnuitrition?


    Pretty much this, in the end of the day that's what they need to do to just survive.
  • 2 Hide
    willard , April 12, 2012 12:32 PM
    You can't just hand kids laptops and expect them to learn faster. A computer is just a tool, and you need to teach people how to use these tools properly before they're going to realize their potential. I'm guessing that the curriculum in the schools with the laptops wasn't changed in any way, they just let the kids type papers on them and use the calculator instead of a basic four function or graphing calculator.

    Color me not surprised that there wasn't an effect. The schools are going to need to make major changes to the way they teach to take advantage of laptops like this.
  • 0 Hide
    sac_cb , April 12, 2012 12:56 PM
    What kind of study was needed to reach this conclusion? OLPC only increases the number of users of facebook, youtube and ctrl + c / ctrl + v ...
    Want to improve education? Work with teachers, improving training, continuous training, compensation, material resources and respect for the profession. We should also work with families, integrating them into the school and the education of their children.
    "Essentially, there is no education other than self- education, whatever the level may be. This is recognized in its full depth within Anthroposophy, which has conscious knowledge through spiritual investigation of repeated Earth lives. Every education is self-education, and as teachers we can only provide the environment for children’s self-education. We have to provide the most favorable conditions where, through our agency, children can educate themselves according to their own destinies. This is the attitude that teachers should have toward children, and such an attitude can be developed only through an ever- growing awareness of this fact." (Rudolf Steiner, The Child’s Changing Consciousness)
  • 0 Hide
    kingius , April 12, 2012 1:03 PM
    A victory for common sense and a defeat for absolute morons.
  • 1 Hide
    LORD_ORION , April 12, 2012 1:04 PM
    Sooo... they came installed with wikipedia as the only app and didn't have internet access?
    Did they give courses to the kids / teachers on usage? Kids weren't allowed to bring them home to at least try and do something on their own?

    Moronic.

    Of course it didn't show any difference... because they weren't being used properly (or at all most likely)
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