Monday, April 28, 2008

OLPC - Help wanted!

I have a student writing about Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. It's something that I've been aware of but haven't followed too closely, so I enjoyed seeing her first draft. She picked up on Negroponte's repeated assertion that, "It's an education project, not a laptop project", yet almost all my encounters with the project thus far have all been from the technology side rather than the education side.

Originally uploaded by Jeff Kubina
In part, that's what has prompted this post - she has found it difficult to get good educational critiques of the project. She has some stuff on the technical, business and economic sides, but next to nothing by way of educational critique. For example, the idea of making technology available to pupils in Less Economically Developed Countries would seem laudable. However, can technology based, constructivist approaches to learning be exported to countries with very different educational practices and expectations?

So I'm asking for your help. Does anyone know of specific educational critiques of the One Laptop Per Child program or a more general consideration of the difficulty of imposing technological "solutions" to educational "problems" in less economically developed countries?

As a supplementary question (in case you want to go for the PhD answer), what are your thoughts on the One Laptop Per Child project's impact on educational technology developments more generally? For example, has it raised the profile of green/eco-friendly issues in computing? Has it had an influence on the development of technology such as the ASUS Eee PC or the Elonex ONE?

All help/suggestions appreciated!

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Wayan @ OLPC News said...

May I humbly suggest the OLPC News Education Category as a reference for your student? In addition, there may be education-related posts in other categories, accessible through site search or date archives.

Still, overall, your problem is not unique - there isn't much on the educational side of OLPC. A glaring omission.

John Connell said...


Has your student seen this:

Much of this is to do with the technology, but there are snippets, more than snippets in places, on the educational benefits of the OLPC in this Peruvian community.

With a projct such as this one, I think we need to try extra hard to empathise with the kids and the teachers getting hold of these machines for the first time (probably their first time with any computers). Many countries, and many communities, I believe, might go through the same process that so many more 'developed' countries went through too, namely a focus on the wonder of the technology itself, and only later, once that fades a little, more focus on the education.

In the Uk here that process probably took us2 decades, maybe more. My guess is that places such as Arahuay will gto through that process a whole lot quicker than we did.

David said...

Thanks for the links chaps. However, they kind of illustrate the problem in that they are all linked with the OLPC group. I'm not suggesting they will be biased or misleading... but it would strengthen the student's assignment if she could find independent evaluations.

However, there's some good stuff there, so thanks again.

Ewan McIntosh said...

Something that might be of more help since it has nothing to do with OLPC, are my notes from the web on India:

and China:

There is some duplcation there. It's also worth checking out some of the mobile links I have in delicious since it is mobile phone tech, not laptops, that are likely to make the biggest splash.

David said...

Thanks Ewan

These look useful. And the mobilephone comment is interesting. I'd forgotten... but when I was at a meeting about entrepreneurial education in Africa, it was said that mobile connections were more reliable than web connections, so browsing the web on a phone was the preferred method.

Anonymous said...

While this may only be alightly helpful - take a look at this BBC news coverage.

Also, a few folks from the University of Memphis and Wayne State implemented and evaluated a program where elementary students were given laptops for use in the classroom as well as to take home. While it is not an evaluation of laptops in less economically developed countries, it may provide some info.

I think this may also have been published in a journal, but I'm unsure where.

David said...

Hello Anonymous

These links are both very helpful. Thank you for sharing.