Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Laptop Per Child Program Shows Promise

A guest post by Tony Harris

The One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPCP) is a highly ambitious endeavor that has aimed to provide children in developing countries with a "rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop." An example of one such laptop developed through the OLPCP is the XO-1, also known as the "$100 laptop." This inexpensive laptop has been distributed to children to give them the opportunity to access a wealth of knowledge and to express themselves. The XO-1 is manufactured by Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese based computer company. The OLPCP has worked with other companies to create and distribute newer models of inexpensive laptops for children.

Studies have revealed a mixed bag of results in terms of the effectiveness of the OLPCP throughout various regions of the world. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) conducted a study of more than 300 rural schools in Peru, a developing nation that received almost 1 million laptops through the OLPCP. The study revealed that the three-year-old program did narrow the technological gap between the rich and poor, and helped boost elementary school students' learning abilities.

However, the study also revealed that the 900,000 children who received free laptops did not exhibit any improvement in math and critical reading skills. Also, the acquisition of these free laptops did not seem to motivate students to study more than before. The students did, however, demonstrate a stronger vocabulary and ability to solve challenging logical sequences.

It is clear that the OLPCP has shown signs of promise in rural Peru but that more needs to be done. It is very important to note that many of the instructors simply did not receive adequate training in terms of properly using the program's laptops. In many Peruvian schools, instructors only obtained 40 hours of training prior to facing their students, which is just not enough. Instructors must be trained more thoroughly in handling OLPCP laptops. The fact that the OLPCP in Peru has helped to narrow the technological gap between the rich and poor is a very positive sign.

More importantly than anything else, the program has given poor children the chance to quickly enter into the digital age. Most well-paying jobs throughout the world will require at least some understanding of computers. Students who receive free laptops through the OLPCP are on their way to developing the skills necessary for higher education and for life in general.

Tony Harris is an online instructor and coordinator for The College City. As an online instructor, Tony is very interested in understanding how to maximize the effectiveness of technology to transform education in developing countries.

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