Monday, September 03, 2012

Remember "One Laptop Per Child"?

Also known as the "$100 laptop" program, I wrote about it several times (here are a couple) in the past.  And then it disappeared, as I knew it would.  It was one of those nice, touchy-feely ideas that was doomed to failure in part because it wasn't completely thought out, but it made people feel good for awhile to believe in it.

Six years ago I wrote about how blowing tons of money on laptops wasn't going to improve education.  Six years ago.  But even today some will be surprised at the abject failure of the One Laptop Per Child program:
Five years ago Peru partnered with One Laptop Per Child to give low-cost laptops to 800,000 public school students, writes Innosight’s Michael Horn. Digital technology was supposed to improve learning and fight poverty. The $200 million initiative “has largely been a flop.”

In an eSchool News story, one person “wonders if it may have even widened the gaps between rich and poor students in the country,” Horn notes...

The U.S. spent well over $60 billion to equip classrooms with computers with little to show for it, Horn writes. A potentially disruptive technology has been used to sustain the existing education model, not to transform it.
As I said in some of the linked posts above, technology on its own is just a tool; how it is used will determine if good comes from it or not. For all the money we've thrown at schools in this country with no real results, you'd think people would get the idea.  But the zealots out there think we haven't spent enough yet....


allen (in Michigan) said...

I wonder what Nick Negroponte thinks of Sal Khan?

Given Negroponte's blowhardiness during the brief heyday of the OLPC it's not hard to guess how he'll view the unprepossessing guy who's actually doing what Negroponte so noisily, and vulgarly, claimed he was doing.

John said...

We actually used the One Laptop per Child program in a design course took last year as an example of why doing humanitarian design for other cultures is really difficult and often fails.

Rose Godfrey said...

There was a big article in our local paper this past week about one of the schools using more technology, the smart boards with remotes and iPads all over the place. The kids were quoted as saying how they are learning more because everything is so "real." The teachers were quoted as saying they can barely keep up with the kids because they are so savvy. Technology may be great, but I'll wager that kids will learn how to use an iPad without someone telling them to because the kids find the iPad (not the history lesson) inherently interesting with immediate and constant feedback.

I'm just not sure that I'd call that style of learning "real" and "hands-on." I still remember making butter in class in 4th grade--35 years ago--by passing around a jar of cream and taking turns shaking it. That is hands-on learning. Moving icons around on an iPad just isn't the same. And the end result doesn't taste as good either.