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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.