Syndicate content

One Laptop Per Child

Two new rigorous evaluations of technology use in education

Michael Trucano's picture
Look, right there, there it is: Impact! (I think ...)
Look, right there, there it is: Impact! (I think ...)

Last week saw a flurry of news reports in response to a single blog post about the well known One Laptop Per Child project. It's dead, proclaimed one news report as a result; it's not dead yet, countered another. Recalling Mark Twain's famous quotation, Wired chimed in to announce that Reports of One Laptop Per Child's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Whatever the status and future of the iconic initiative that has helped bring a few million green and white laptops to students in places like Uruguay, Peru and Rwanda, it is hard to argue that, ten years ago, when the idea was thrown out there, you heard a lot of people asking, ‘Why would you do such a thing?’ Ten years on, however, the idea of providing low cost computing devices like laptops and tablets to students is now (for better and/or for worse, depending on your perspective) part of the mainstream conversation in countries all around the world.

What do we know about the impact and results of initiatives
to provide computing devices to students
in middle and low income countries around the world?

Big educational laptop and tablet projects -- Ten countries to learn from

Michael Trucano's picture
tablets loom increasingly large on the horizon in many places
tablets loom increasingly large
on the horizon in many places

[also available in Thai]

Recent headlines from places as diverse as Kenya ("6,000 primary schools picked for free laptop project") and California ("Los Angeles plans to give 640,000 students free iPads") are just two announcements  among many which highlight the increasing speed and scale by which portable computing devices (laptops, tablets) are being rolled out in school systems all over the world. Based on costs alone -- and the costs can be very large! -- such headlines suggest that discussions of technology use in schools are starting to become much more central to educational policies and planning processes in scores of countries, rich and poor, across all continents.

Are these sorts of projects good ideas? It depends. The devil is often in the details (and the cost-benefit analysis), I find. Whether or not they are good ideas, there is no denying that they are occurring, for better and/or for worse, in greater frequency, and in greater amounts. More practically, then:

What do we know about what works,
and what doesn't (and how?, and why?)
when planning for and implementing such projects,
what the related costs and benefits might be,
and where might we look as we try to find answers to such questions?

Inside a School in Nepal’s Mountains

Mamata Pokharel's picture

I am in Phaplu, a small mountain town, which is more developed than most other towns in Solukhumbu. There is an airport, and a road that reaches the town. This is also where Sir Edmund Hillary, who was among the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, has set up a hospital.  

India's $35 Tablet Computer: A Pill for Poverty?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Recently featured in the news was a 35 USD version of Apple’s iPad that the Indian government hopes to mass produce by 2011.  India also hopes to bring the unit price down to around 10 USD.  If successful, this initiative could bring an affordable, mobile, multiple application device within reach of lower income families in poor countries.  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria expressed the opinion that a fully-functioning 10 USD computer “could change the world” similar to the way in which satellite dishes and mobile phones have in the past.  I think implicit in Zakaria’s point is the belief that information and communication revolutions have the potential to increase productivity and enhance human development.  But this potential rarely leads to an actual breakthrough.  Due to a host of factors in addition to price (see, for instance, Michael Trucano's post), what might perhaps be called “socio-technological epidemics” tend to be few and far between, especially in poor countries.  There is a difference, of course, between a predominantly commercial success and one that really contributes to development results.