What is the impact of One Laptop per Child?

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).

13 thoughts on “What is the impact of One Laptop per Child?

  1. I wonder whether there would have been greater impact had there been better internet access or access to better computer learning tools in some other way (section 3 gives a list of the applications available on the computer). For example, if a spanish version of the khan academy were available, that might have made a statistically and practically significant difference. My cleaning lady’s 11 year old daughter speaks only Tajik, and I had her do some khan academy practice exercises, and watch one o the videos (on adding numbers with decimal points). The video was in English but she still managed to get the lesson. Perhaps an Impact Evaluation 2.0 type of implementation that included such a learning tool for randomly chosen subjects would have been worthwhile.

  2. Somewhat ridiculous to evaluate this project after 3 months. Give these kids some time…

    Also, keep in mind that traditional schooling activities might well mean a teacher standing at the front of the class (if s/he showed up at all) reading from a textbook while students sit and stare. If they’d rather be on their laptops, I don’t think much is lost.

  3. Yes, short term results are not that useful. But its not difficult to put these short term results in the context of other research work. For instance, Fisman (I believe) has a longer term study in Romania of distribution of low-cost laptops and found mostly negative impact, though small. Other work in Ethiopia and other OLPC distributions has failed to find an impact. The only evaluation I’m aware of that found a positive impact from a similar program was in India (Linden one of the co-authors) where the computers were being used for repetitive drills, similar to flashcards, an approach anti-thetical to the OLPCs vision.

    Bottom line: there is good evidence for a number of education interventions that are cheaper than laptops or computers, and there is little to no evidence that distributing computers is effective in the short term or long term.

  4. The paper does say in huge text at the top “PRELIMINARY: PLEASE DO NOT CITE OR CIRCULATE”. does posting on a popular blog count as circulating? i would guess yes.

  5. So kids given laptops–the world’s greatest toy–are less motivated toward school, and that’s “unexpected”? O academics, how I love thee!

  6. All the laptops in the world do not compensate for teachers’ incompetence and inability to instill a love of learning in their students.

    While short-term results may not be conclusive, we must also consider how most children use the majority of their computer time these days. I remember learning how to use a computerized library catalogue as opposed to the paper-based drawers and turnstiles, and I remember how excited I was that now I could cross-reference every holding in the library quickly and easily. I was appalled when I returned from essentially two years of teaching and researching in the third world to find half the library computers occupied by elementary schoolers playing RPGs.

    In fact, I often DISABLE the internet when I need to be productive. The proximity of distraction in the digital world is far too seducing for the average child to resist. Furthermore, their reduced physical activity indirectly causes mental and emotional deterioration as well.

  7. “Our analysis shows positive results from a combination of a modern pedagogical
    theory base–intrinsic motivation, constructionism, constructivism, and explorative learning–and practical classroom arrangements in health care education. The motivating trigger effect of the XO-1 laptop in this learning environment was evident.”

    From: “Pedagogical outlines for OLPC initiatives: A case of Ukombozi school in Tanzania “. http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/AFRCON.2011.6072084

  8. For what it’s worth: The final version of that paper is available on the IADB’s Web site: http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=35422036 (English) and http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=35370099 (Spanish)

    Also some people might find this article of mine about Peru’s OLPC project and particularly the >100 comments below it interesting: https://edutechdebate.org/olpc-in-south-america/olpc-in-peru-one-laptop-per-child-problems/

  9. I wonder what the laptops are used for?
    learning with technology can be wonderful, beneficial and empowering…but it’s all down to the way tech is embedded to assist learning, collaboration …meaning !

  10. ICTs are good, but even better if they know how to use it. I do think that just by introducing laptops is not going to change patterns in learning, they need to assess how is should be used, and when should it be introduced, in no way it should distract from traditional teaching methods.

  11. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru who lives in a community where one of the two elementary schools are participating in the OLPC program. I can’t say anything about the use of the machines in the classroom as I don’t work in the school but I’ve seen the kids with them on occasion. The interesting thing is that there is an abundance of internet cabinas and computers in my town.