One Laptop Per Child Disappoints in New Study

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.

  • aftcomet
    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.
  • amdfangirl
    Well how can you learn if you're struggling to survive on a bowl of rice a day, suffering from malnuitrition?
  • capt_taco
    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.
  • dealcorn
    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?
  • shoelessinsight
    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.
  • kyee7k
    Money would be better spent on improving the economy of Peru and standards of living than on extraneous and luxury items like computer.
  • hardcore_gamer
    Now try one desktop per child. Also teach them to build their own.
  • esrever
    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.
  • darkavenger123
    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.
  • koogco
    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.