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Submitted by Helen Abadzi on
The above posts contain much sociology and theology, but they are missing the real religion on the critical issue: The laptops were supposed to improve academic skills, but they did not contain basic skills programs. They had no literacy and math for beginners or even more advanced stages. And without specific training in academic skills, there was no chance that the students would acquire them and perform. The laptops instead delivered computer operation skills. They may not sound like high-priority skills, but the evaluations show that the students learned them. So the laptops were a resounding success in delivering what could be reasonably taught. Now why were there no programs for basic skills? According to the US computer philosophers the students were supposed to produce such software themselves ! I won't comment on the sanity of the syllogisms. But countries were misled on what to expect. After all, which government officials would be reasonably expected to know the software lists in the laptops (pippy, drumming, tic-tac-toe, journal, etc etc). Some software was added in various countries, but the evaluation leaves this unclear. To provide the missing literacy skills, I commissioned a very gradual, low-graphics phonics program for transparently spelled languages. For efficiency it was done in html5, and we hoped to run it in XO laptops. But it did not work with the XO laptops. I could have gotten it rewritten, but from the OLPC folks, I was told not to bother. The XO laptops are obsolete, and now XO ipads are coming out ! So after using up millions and letting down governments, the education philosophers are on to the next thing. And what happens with the millions of laptops out there that could still do a splendid job of teaching basic skills but lack software? Indeed let them eat laptops. And better swallow fast, to make way for the ipads ! I think governments like Rwanda that sacrificed valuable money deserve refunds.