Dec 1, 2011

"One Laptop per Child" has to be evaluated.

 I have seen recently two posts and one document on this issue: 
 Chris Blattman reported on a paper that is not available: 
Short term experimental results from Peru (link temporarily disabled at request of authors):
…teachers report frequent use at school and about half of students report to take it home. Students in general master basic operation of the laptop.
Results indicate no impacts on students’ attendance and time use. Similarly, expectations by teachers and parents about students’ future educational achievements have not been altered.
Unexpectedly, the program seems to have reduced motivation by students related to traditional school activities.
There are no impacts in Math and Language learning, an expected result given the short exposure (three months).
This Briefly Noted by the IDB reports:
Even though this program has only recently been implemented, this document presents a few preliminary findings that could be relevant for its future development. On the one hand, we find evidence of better attitudes and expectations among teachers and parents; students that are more critical of school work and of their own performance; and a greater development of technological skills among girls and boys. On the other hand, there seems to be a decrease in the intensity of computer use in the classroom, as time passes and difficulties arise in the implementation of the project. Due to the short interval of time since implementation, no impact was observed in learning. This should be verified in future surveys.
 This is from "A View From the Cave:"
In the ICT world, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) has been the gold standard of failure. The idea preceded the need rather than the other way around. OLPC set out the mission to “provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.” In doing so, they imagined classrooms transforming from blackboards to a room full of children on alien looking laptops as a way to overcome barriers like not enough books. 
An admirable goal, but OLPC started with the assumption that every person needed a laptop and designed a way to make it happen. Unfortunately, the technology led the way rather than the solution. As Linda Raftree points out, “you can be pretty sure that you have things backwards and are going to run into trouble down the road, wasting resources and energy on programs that are resting on weak foundations.” OLPC ran into simple issues like not having adequate power sources. Yes, a power efficient product was designed, but the battery does eventually run out.
In some countries, like Guatemala, there is interest in the "One Laptop per Child" program. Given the uncertainties, the implementation of the project should include an impact evaluation process, using RCT. Meaning that a control group and a base line is selected to determine the effects. The evaluation can be very beneficial for future interventions in the country, and also for other countries that will consider implementing the program. 

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