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OLPC fail

2012-07-03 17:55:35.37594+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

Peru's 'One Laptop Per Child' effort marred by teachers' ignorance, spotty Internet:

"The magical thinking that mere technology is enough to spur change, to improve learning, is what this study categorically disproves," co-author Eugenio Severin of Chile told The Associated Press.

This may be the Inter-American Development Bank report mentioned in that article:

The results indicate that the program increased the ratio of computers per student from 0.12 to 1.18 in treatment schools. This expansion in access translated into substantial increases in use both at school and at home. No evidence is found of effects on enrollment and test scores in Math and Language. ...

The Economist quotes:

Part of the problem is that students learn faster than many of their teachers, according to Lily Miranda, who runs a computer lab at a state school in San Borja, a middle-class area of Lima. Sandro Marcone, who is in charge of educational technologies at the ministry, agrees. “If teachers are telling kids to turn on computers and copy what is being written on the blackboard, then we have invested in expensive notebooks,” he said. It certainly looks like that.

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-10 23:13:01.400833+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hmmm... good question.

I grew up in a school and culture that actively eschewed technology. To the "please cover your radios if our children come over to visit" level for some families. I also grew up with lots of building things, while the television was a tightly controlled resource in our house, my Dad and I built a Heathkit oscilloscope, and the soldering iron was always available.

What I've seen far too often is spending lots of money on technology as though the technology itself is the thing that's going to teach kids, when my own experience was that having access to a KIM-1 rather than an Atari 2600 meant I had to build my own video games, and I came out of that learning experience with a huge leg over my peers.

Having had conversations with kids who've come out of Waldorf communities and who now work in the tech industry, I don't think that "exposing people to new technology early and equally" is a need. Giving students better critical thinking and problem solving skills is a need. Exposing kids to new technology is a method. It has not been proven to my satisfaction that exposing kids to new technology is a cost-effective method that actually works. I actually think we'd do better by giving kids Commodore 64s and telling them that if they want video games they have to figure out how to program them themselves.

In the community I grew up in, the technology averse attitude was about fostering an environment in which personal local creations were valued, so it wasn't so much technology averse as mass culture averse. This has been a problem for me in some areas, although it's hard to tease that out from other aspects of my personality, but it seems that many of the proposals to push technology into schools and teaching are pushing not the use of mechanisms for problem solving, but the use of ready-made content delivery systems for mass media exposure.

I submit that that latter tends to have a negative impact on critical thinking and problem solving, why bother figuring something out if you can use the ready-made solution, and that we need to be super careful when introducing new technologies so that we aren't just encouraging kids to indulge in staring mindlessly at the screen.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-10 22:31:23.146798+00 by: dexev


What do you mean by 'underlying curriculum need'? I've always figured that 'exposing people to new technology early and equally' was the need. How much did you learn about technology by playing, compared to being taught?

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-10 16:24:10.253696+00 by: Dan Lyke

Before I counted that as a positive I'd want to see comparisons with other strategies in terms of dollars spent per months of advancement, and how long that cognitive skill advance remained in place.

Because my reading was that that was very much the report writers throwing a bone to the OLPC folks, and if it's moving those three tests forward by something, say six months, but then those students remain static on those tests while the other students catch up, then net it has accomplished nothing.

On the other hand, if it's true that, as Lily Miranda posits, these tools are allowing students to learn faster than their teachers, then, yeah, we should investigate replacing the teachers.

I just still remain skeptical that technology without an underlying curriculum need is an effective use of resources.

#Comment Conventional thinking fail made: 2012-07-10 16:06:58.151735+00 by: Edward Mokurai Cherlin

The Peru/IADB report shows that students learned a wide range of computer skills, and advanced six months faster in cognitive skills. You know, being able to think effectively. But such critics don't care about stupid things like facts.

"Some positive effects are found, however, in general cognitive skills as measured by Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a verbal fluency test and a Coding test."

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-03 19:30:02.051706+00 by: petronius

If we have learned anything from the computer revolution, it has been the law of unexpected results. What happens when the kids who are learning faster than their teachers begin to set up backroom computer classes for their peers? Also, maybe what is needed are online computer classes for the official teachers, ala Kahn Academy. I don't think we should blame Negroponte for the fact that Peru isn't Cambridge MA.