Saturday, 16 April 2011

Weekend Work for week 3 MobiMOOC

As I am away until Monday evening I may not even see a computer for
two days so I have rushed through the weekend work and decided I had
better post before I go:-)

What is your perspective on the OLPC programme?

It was a great idea but flawed!

What do you like about it?

I love the concept of being able to educate pupils with technology to
help them overcome some of the difficulties they have to get the most
basic education. I admire the ideology that pupils given a computer
will educate themselves and the amount of money that various people
have put into this dream. The fact that it was initially aimed at
those pupils who have virtually nothing and this was going to give
some sort of equality is great.

What do you think went right and wrong?

The foundations for this initiative simply were not in place. Pupils
and schools needed electricity, a support system, wireless
infrastructure, the internet, and staff training. Most of those needed
to be in place before there could be serious hopes of success.  Sadly
that lack caused huge problems, staff had little idea of how to
approach using them, often schools did not have the means to charge
them, did not have the repairs when they broke and the computers do
seem to have suffered even though the design was that they were to be

The project, in some places, suffered at the hands of man, crime meant
that the computers did not get into the hands of children, and even
where crime was not an issue still many computers did not get in the
hands of pupils.

 The assumption that children would learn proved not to be the case.
Children did not learn how to use them, look after them or repair them
as had been expected in far too many cases. Being aware of Sugata
Mitra’s work I can’t help but wonder whether there was too much made
available and to individuals not groups. He proved that groups of
children will support each other and work things out but his computers
had internet access, power and were hardy desktops not laptops being
carted about.

Possibly children who were given the computers were given too much too
quickly so that they could not get to grips with them. This is where
the SMS on the simple mobile phone projects teaching pupils to read
and write seem to have the advantage, they can do much less but what
they do is more structured. Mobile coverage is improving all of the
time and they are much cheaper.

I am not sure that much actually went right though I am sure that in
some places people are striving to make as much use of them as
possible such as Uruguay seems to be doing.

When compared with the statements:

“The cost of implementing an XO program, including the purchase of
laptops and other infrastructure, as well as development expenses, has
been estimated at about $75 per student per year. Even a less
expensive national program would be difficult to afford in a country
such as Rwanda, which currently spends a total of about $109 per pupil
per year on primary education.
If donors are expected to foot the bill, they need to consider how the
costs and benefits of laptop computers compare to the proven cost-
benefit ratios of other aid programs for improving social or
educational conditions; in short, opportunity costs. For example,
apportioning a total of $8 per person per year over the next five
years to basic health expenses could save 11 million lives in Africa,
according to projections of a prominent coalition.  A total
expenditure of $0.50 per pupil per year in Kenya on deworming was
found to increase school participation by 14 percent.”

One cannot help but wonder whether the money used in the initiative so
far may have been better spent!

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