1:1 in Peru Suggests Instruction is Important

The Inter-American Development Bank conducted an evaluation of the first 15 months of laptop deployment in 319 schools in Peru and found little benefit.  This was the first large scale review of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program.
A UNESCO analysis notes that OLPC “aims to improve learning in the poorest regions of the world though providing laptops to children for use at school and home. Since its start, the program has been implemented in 36 countries and more than two million laptops have been distributed.”  But, “there is little solid evidence regarding the effectiveness of this program.”
This cautionary tale comes with several important lessons.  The fact that “the program did not seem to have affected the quality of instruction in class” may be explained by “the lack of software in the laptops directly linked to Math and Language and the absence of clear instructions to teachers about which activities to use for specific curricular goals.”
OLPC aims “to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.”
Like 1:1 efforts I led in the 90s, the OLPC approach appears to be content-light and naive.  Kids appears to spend a lot of time on non-academic software (which may have some cognitive benefit) but there is no evidence that student spend more time reading.  Unlike top blended models in the states, UNESCO points out that “the time allocated to activities directly related to school does not seem to have changed.”  With no effort to change time and literacy and numeracy instruction it is not surprising that academic impacts appear to be weak.
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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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