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OLPC

Evaluating the One Laptop Per Child Initiative in Sri Lanka

how do we know she's learning? | image attribution at bottomThe Sri Lanka Ministry of Education (MOE) recently decided to pilot the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program by purchasing laptops from the OLPC Foundation, with funding from the World Bank, and distributing them to 1,300 students in selected primary schools throughout the country. The scheme may eventually be scaled up, depending upon the educational benefits of the pilot stage.

The UNESCO Prize on ICT use in education

Michael Trucano's picture

UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for ICT use in Education | image copyright UNESCO, please see bottom of posting for attributionThe UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize is perhaps the highest profile international award given to acknowledge excellence in the use of ICTs in education around the world.  Created in 2005 following a donation made by the Kingdom of Bahrain, it is meant "to reward projects and activities of individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations for excellent models, best practice, and creative use of information and communication technologies to enhance learning, teaching and overall educational performance".

The winners for 2009, announced back in December, will receive their awards in a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in Paris next week. The latest winners are Dr. Alexei Semenov, Rector of the Moscow Institute of Open Education, Russian Federation, and Jordan's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology  (acknowledging its work in leading the Jordan Education Initiative). 

In its short history, the Prize has has done a good job in drawing attention to important work being done related to the use of technologies in the education sector that is, in many cases, largely unknown outside the borders of the host country.

How do you evaluate a plan like Ceibal?

Michael Trucano's picture

I'd like to teach the world to code ... (used according to terms of CC license courtesy LIRNET.NET & AK Mahan)If you have had your fill of theories and promises about what the widespread diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) might mean for teaching and learning practices across an entire education system and want to see what actual practice looks like, a trip to Montevideo (or better yet, one of the regions outside the Uruguayan capital) should be high on your list.

Under Plan Ceibal (earlier blog post here), Uruguay is the first country in the world to ensure that all primary school students (or at least those in public schools) have their own personal laptop.  For free.  (The program is being extended to high schools, and, under a different financial scheme, to private schools as well).  Ceibal is about more than just 'free laptops for kids', however.  There is a complementary educational television channel. Schools serve as centers for free community wi-fi, and free connectivity has been introduced in hundreds of municipal centers around the country as well.  There are free local training programs for parents and community members on how to use the equipment.  Visiting Uruguay last week, I was struck by how many references there were to 'one laptop per teacher' (and not just 'one laptop per child', which has been the rallying cry for a larger international initiative and movement). Much digital content has been created, and digital learning content is something that is expected to have a much greater prominence within Ceibal now that the technology infrastructure is largely in place.

What have we learned from OLPC pilots to date?

Michael Trucano's picture

CC licensed photo courtesy of Daniel Drake via Flickr It's been four years since the The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (known then as the '$100 laptop) was announced.   According to recent unconfirmed news reports from India, one quarter million of the little green and white OLPC XO laptops are now on order for use in 1500 hundred schools on the subcontinent.  Four years on, what have we learned about the impact of various OLPC pilots that might be of relevance to a deployment in India?  Thankfully, preliminary results are starting to circulate among researchers.  While nothing yet has approached what many consider to be the gold standard of evaluation work in this area, some of this research is beginning to see the light of day (or at least the Internet) -- and more is planned.

Big Changes at OLPC

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preparing for a change-up | image attribution at bottomBig changes are apparently underway at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation (referred to by many as the '$100 laptop project').  The organization has announced it is laying off about half of its staff and refocusing its mission.  Included in its new intentions is that "Sub-Saharan Africa will become a major learning hub". 

You can read the official announcement over at the OLPC blog, which goes into much more detail.

What this may mean for the fate of perhaps the most famous "low-cost laptop" remains to be seen, but a few things *are* clear: Since the idea for a $100 laptop gained wide currency in the aftermath of the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos in early 2005, and its first unveiling (of a sort) at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis later that year, the landscape for 'low-cost computing', and the recognition that there are emerging markets in developing countries for such appliances right now, if the price is right, has changed radically.  infoDev used to track about 50 'Low-cost computing devices and initiatives for the developing world', but gave up at the end of 2007, when the explosion of activity in this area made the maintenance of such a list increasingly unfeasible (and, given that one of the rationales for such a list was to highlight that there was a lot of burgeoning activity in this area that people didn't know about, increasingly unnecessary).  While many of the highly-publicized commitments to buy the OLPC XO laptop for use by students in developing countries have not (yet) materialized, it is a testament to the attractiveness in many quarters of the vision (if not its implementation) of the 'one laptop per child' idea that the of the relevance of computer use in schools continues to gain traction in many ministries of education and parliaments around the world. 

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