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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?

When students are in charge of maintaining the computers in schools

Michael Trucano's picture

how may I be of service?How do you keep computers in schools in working order? Basic technical maintenance is a perennial challenge for many schools in developing countries.  The phenomenon of unused -- and unusable! -- computers in schools is all too well known to anyone who works in the field.  While it is a bit of an exaggeration to label this a 'tragedy', few could argue that this isn't a very unfortunate situation -- especially given the high costs associated with acquiring and installing such equipment, to say nothing of the learning opportunities lost when students and teachers are unable to use expensive equipment that is already paid for.

What to do about this? I regularly encounter a number of common answers to this question.

1-to-1 educational computing initiatives around the world

Michael Trucano's picture

replicating one-to-one, to one, to one ... | image atribution at bottomThe One Laptop Per Child program has brought much attention to issues related to '1-to-1 computing' (each child has her/his own personal computing device).  While perhaps the most prominent initiative of this sort in public consciousness, OLPC is just one of many such programs around the world.  At a recent event in Vienna, the OECD, the Inter-american Development Bank and the World Bank brought together representatives from these programs, the first such face-to-face global gathering of leaders in this area to share information and insights about their experiences. 

In putting together this event, it was clear that there was no consolidated list of leading '1-to-1 educational computing initiatives'.  Here's a first attempt at such a list, based on participants in this event (links are meant as pointers to more related information; not all lead to the specific project sites):

Linking up with Enlaces (Chile)

Michael Trucano's picture

Enlaces logoWith apologies in advance to initiatives in a handful of other countries considered world leaders in this area (including Costa Rica, Namibia, Thailand, Mexico and Brazil):

Of all the programs in middle income and developing countries that have sought to introduce ICTs systematically into the education, the Chilean experience is perhaps the most lauded.  Enlaces has been the subject of much scholarly and policy attention since its inception almost two decades ago (including a publication from the World Bank back in 2004 [pdf]).

The fact that Chile and Enlaces is considered by many to be a global model of good practice presents policymakers in Chile with a(n enviable) challenge:

Where should Chile look for inspiration as it continues to evolve its programs exploring the effective use of ICTs in education?

On-line safety for students in developing countries

Michael Trucano's picture

just how safe and secure? | public domain image courtesy of Membeth at the German Wikipedia project  When participating in discussions with officials planning for the use of computers and the Internet in schools in many developing countries, I am struck by how child Internet safety issues are often only considered as an afterthought -- if indeed they are considered at all.  Yet these issues almost *always* present themselves during implementation, and schools (and education systems) then scramble to figure out what to do.

What do we know about child Internet saftey issues in developing countries?

Preliminary work done by the Berkman Center up at Harvard, in partnership with UNICEF, suggests: Not much.

What do we know about using mobile phones in education? (part 2)

Michael Trucano's picture

image courtesy kiwanja.netRecent posts to this blog about the use of mobile phones in education in developing countries have generated a *lot* of page views.  News earlier this year that firms in the United States are beginning to make a pitch for greater use of mobile phones in the education sector highlights the increased attention that this topic is now receiving in OECD member countries as well.