BBC Visit to OLPC Nigeria's Galamida School Pilot

   
   
   
   
   
Nigeria OLPC
A key OLPNC actor in action

Hi, I am Winter. We had Anders Mogensen's wonderful reports from Galamida School, Abuja Model City, Nigeria on OLPC News just in early October

  1. One Laptop Per XO'ing Child with OLPNC
  2. OLPNC Galadima School Headmaster Interview
Now the BBC carries a story about the same school.

The story is set in a positive tone. Children, teachers, and reporter do seem to like the project. They do not seem to expect to solve world peace, hunger, and the climate problems like Negroponte envisions.

We do get a first example of class room use.

At the moment the laptops are used to augment the text books and black boards rather than replace them. "One of the biggest uses of the laptop is for note-taking in class," said Mr Kusamotu.

In addition, he said, teachers use the preloaded encyclopedia to teach classes. During our visit we saw a lesson on the mammalian eye based on the preloaded content along with maths lessons that used the calculator.

This is more or less what is to be expected from a short deployment. In such a short time, no real results will be gathered. But the teachers remain positive. On the downside, around 40 laptops were broken, lost, or stolen. This disrupts classes as some children (more than 10%) have no XO anymore. Clearly, some sort of replacement program must be added to the program to offset the losses.

Children be as they are, they will not always pay attention.

In addition, the laptops can be a distraction - often pupils play games on their computer rather than follow the class.
It is good to see that "maintenance" is what we all hoped it would be, the children themselves. But without parts this will remain a problem.
Nigeria OLPC
OLPNC XO geography class
Some of the children have learnt how to fix broken keyboards and remove the screens and batteries. They act as engineers for the whole of the school - fixing friends laptops as and when needs arise. But software and infrastructure problems may be more tricky.
An early example of technical problems were the solar panels which were not installed correctly and did not function. A bigger problem will be funding for the internet connection. The current connection is way too expensive to pay after the free trial period is over. However, the local people remain optimistic about the future price developments.

Mostly, this article looks as if the reporter, Jonathan Fildes, has read OLPC News. Many of the points discussed here were included. There is even the obligatory "porn" reference. It's nice, though, to see the broader public being informed.

Here's a video about the BBC visit:

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17 Comments

Thanks for the link.

Of the 40 that where 'broken, lost or stolen' how many were broken, meaning they could not be repaired on site? Considering we're talking about kids, 10% loss is pretty good.

Indeed a very interesting article and I think it's a *very* good first insight into how a real deployment might work out, what benefits there are, what needs to be done (esp. wrt to internet access, repairs, techer training, etc.)...

Prosperity is not built on technology -- it is built on a platform of fundamental human rights. Prosperity can only be created in a society that respects property, the rule of law and free markets (not something the left is yet adept at defending or understanding). One Laptop Per Child succumbs to the Jeffrey Sachs fallacy - the "Poverty Trap" lie.

Prosperity is dependent on a multitude of different factors, not *just* technology or property rights or anything else. In my experience, culture is the most important factor though.

MPH:

I'm not a fan of J. Sach's vision, either -- but there's at least some silver lining to the cloud you see.

At least to the degree that the XO laptops really are given to the kids *as their own property*, to have and to hold from this day forward, etc., at least some sense of property will I hope be inculcated. (I'm sure some people think that's a bad thing; phooey on them ;)).

Another angle: past "small village" scale, property, markets and law I think require some technology (of the information variety) to gain much of a foothold. (Along these lines, I mean something like the idea that in 18th C. America, the relevant tech included printing presses and lanterns in the Old North Church ;))

I'm sure someone more awake than I am can figure out some clever twist on the old "the capitalists will gladly sell you the rope with which to hang themselves" saw -- the socialists may eventually accidentally spark a market, because they don't realize that markets emerge despite their best efforts.

timothy

"Prosperity is not built on technology -- "

Actually, history is full of societies that were prosperous missing several or all of the features you name. Saudi Arabia is a current example.

Furthermore, technological progress is a prerequisite for an increase in productivity and ultimately, prosperity. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic growth.

But better communication has increased prosperity in every society. And better education did the same in most societies (depending on your vision of what is "better education").

Btw, I am never sure what kind of historic phenomenon is meant by "free market" as used by (USA) Americans. Mostly, the theories I was presented have no counterpart in any historic period for any society.

Winter

You ought to check your facts before popping off Winter:

> In 2004, Saudi Arabia earned around $4,564 per person, versus $22,589 in 1980.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia

Prosperity's built on risk-taking with the expectation of rewards, if any, going to the risk-taker. That's why socialist states have such lousy productivity. Risk-takers aren't rewarded for their energy and daring so fewer risk-takers take risks. Why bother if you know you're going to be screwed out of your reward as is institutionalized in socialism and expected in monarchy?

But enough of that stuff. I'd like to know what the expectations are of the Galamida pilot? What's being looked for in terms of educational results? What information about the educational performance of kids with XO's is being sought? Presumably, the expectation is of educational results superior to a school which doesn't have access to XO's but it would be nice to have an idea of the expectations of the people who, I assume, have some responsibility to show results rather then enthusiasm. What would the Nigerian education officials consider a successful enough pilot to go ahead with more generalized distribution?

There's also a pilot program in progress in Uruguay. Would anyone care to post/translate the metrics by which the Uruguayan ministry of education proposes to judge the program's value?

It's getting pretty late in the day for generalized enthusiasm at the immense but unspecified promise of computers in education. I have a bad feeling that, to paraphrase Woody Allen, we'll strike out educationally with a better class of computers.

I am not sure I can parse your text. And I cannot find your $4564 number anywhere. The latest numbers from wikipedia are a GDP of $21,200 per capita (2007, with the number of Saudi's a state secret). Furthermore, Wikipedia has ample documentation about how Saudi Arabia flouts about every single one of these non-scientific "rules for prosperity" as presented above.

My short answer is that there has been phenomenal economic growth before and outside the advent of USA or Anglo-Saxon market capitalism. More specifically, Japan, Korea, Singapure, and Taiwan started their economic miracles with a very closed and regulated market.

But instead of discussing economic development theory here, I suggest readers to look at the history of the Asian tigers in the 20th century, and the USA in the 19th century. Very interested readers could take a look at 7th and 14th century China, 9th century Iraq, 13/14th century Northern Italy and 16th century Low Countries.

but:
"It's getting pretty late in the day for generalized enthusiasm at the immense but unspecified promise of computers in education. I have a bad feeling that, to paraphrase Woody Allen, we'll strike out educationally with a better class of computers."

My personal examples of technological breakthroughs that changed economies are the mobile phone in the 3rd world and the introduction of reliable mail services, telegraph, telephone, and radio around the world.

In education, legally forcing parents to send their children to functioning schools has been good everywhere and everytime. The critical point is of course, "functioning" (as in having teachers and books).

Winter

Two paragraphs up from the "Law" link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia#Law

Also, I guess it depends on the numbers you want to examine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia#Economy

You get to choose between per capita GDP of $17,000 and $21,200 or inflation-adjusted $7,400.

In any case, considering the massive oil wealth the economic performance of the country is nothing short of pathetic. 90% of export earnings come from petroleum so absent that income they'd be back to robbing religious pilgrims in a heartbeat.

There's never been growth, phenomenal or otherwise, outside market capitalism because outside market capitalism the risk-takers are threats to the status quo and are suppressed or they have the fruit of their risk-taking appropriated. That's why monarchies and tribal cultures are so rarely economically successful.

Your personal examples of technological breakthroughs aside, I've been an observer of and participant in the computer education field for something over thirty years and I've yet to see a glimmer of the promise that everyone, myself included, assumes computers hold for education.

The failure of that promise to materialize certainly wasn't due to a want of resources. There were several times in which I could have shown you floor-to-ceiling stacks of computers in their original packaging, sitting in a warehouse, obsolete. The money to purchase them was available but no one knew quite what to do with them once they arrived. Put them in a computer lab so students can do what? Play solitaire? Learn to use Microsoft Word and Excel?

There were attempts, of varying degrees of sophistication, to introduce the use of computers into education in general but they all fell by the wayside. In no small part the reason was because of the political nature of any government agency, public education included. But at least as important was that there was no clear path to superior educational results that necessitated the use of computers.

I'll put the question to you Winter. Describe a computer-accelerated education. What's a classroom look like on the Friday afternoon of the first week of the deployment of XO's? How's it differ from the non-XO classroom next door? Are the education ministry officials smiling and nodding to each other in relief that the decision they chose to back, the acquisition of XO's, the correct decision? What exactly are they smiling and nodding about? What do you see happening to those kids after a month of XO-mediated education? A year? Ten years?

> In education, legally forcing parents to send their children to functioning schools has been good everywhere and every time.

Oh yeah? Here's a thought experiment for you then. Imagine the reaction of average parents if you were to deny them the opportunity to educate their child.

During the era of slavery here in the U.S. and in the Warsaw ghetto during the German occupation parents risked their lives to provide such education for their children as they could manage and you think there's some value in forcing parents to send their children to school?

"In any case, considering the massive oil wealth the economic performance of the country is nothing short of pathetic. 90% of export earnings come from petroleum so absent that income they'd be back to robbing religious pilgrims in a heartbeat."

I used too much crypto-humor. But seriously, I have no intention to give the Saudis any credit for anything. They are rich by letting others do the work.

"There's never been growth, phenomenal or otherwise, outside market capitalism because outside market capitalism the risk-takers are threats to the status quo and are suppressed or they have the fruit of their risk-taking appropriated. That's why monarchies and tribal cultures are so rarely economically successful."

Actually, all growth before the industrial revolution was outside market capitalism. Until the 17th century, both Chinese and Indian empires were the most prosperous regions in the world. It took the Europeans quite some time before they outdid them.

I must disappoint you, but it seems your sources about economic history were rather politically biased. My reark about 8-9th century Iraq was not empty. Real marvels happened then that still resound in the Arabian Nights (the fall of the abbasids was likely caused by the rise to power of the military over the other sections of society).

"I'll put the question to you Winter. Describe a computer-accelerated education. What's a classroom look like on the Friday afternoon of the first week of the deployment of XO's? How's it differ from the non-XO classroom next door?"

Wrong questions. But to give you an impression. In my country high-school education is based on computers and the internet. But these are NOT used in the classroom.

Actually, the schools are short of enough computers, but every kids is required to have one at home. They are used for home work and study (books contain CDs, but many programs are on-line). Communication between students and with the school is by IM/email/sms etc. Children sit up late in their rooms helping others, or being helped, with their homework. I asked some children, whether they can think of a child that could attend their school without a computer, and they couldn't. Mind you, this holds for all schools in my country. Btw, a lot of material is on-line
(WARNING: NON ENGLISH SITE AHEAD, DO NOT CLICK IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE OTHER LANGUAGES):
http://www.kennisnet.nl/

"Are the education ministry officials smiling and nodding to each other in relief that the decision they chose to back, the acquisition of XO's, the correct decision?"

Our ministers actually based a lot of budget cutbacks on the fact they could put the students behind their own computers. And our country has a slightly below average education budget (%GDP, OESO) but a very good PISA performance score (9th place).

Personally, I think most improvements from computers in education will be the result of improved communication and knowledge dissimination (ie, the internet). That is why you will not see a lot of use of computers in the classroom. You don't need better communication inside the classroom, but outside it. For the OLPC there are also improvements related to electronic books, curricula, and writing materials, as these are scarce in developing countries.

There is more, if you like here
http://www.olpcnews.com/content/localization/american_laptop_child.html
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

Winter

"> In education, legally forcing parents to send their children to functioning schools has been good everywhere and every time.

Oh yeah? Here's a thought experiment for you then. Imagine the reaction of average parents if you were to deny them the opportunity to educate their child. "

Universal obligatory education was only introduced in the early 20th century in the West, and is still not found everywhere. The alternative is child labor, which still is rive in many parts of the world. Obligatory education was always introduced to stop child labor, both inside and outside the home.

Winter

> I used too much crypto-humor. But seriously, I have no intention to give the Saudis any credit for anything. They are rich by letting others do the work.

...which neatly avoids engaging the assertion that monarchies, like all non-representative forms of government, are inevitably economically inept. Even when they have stupendous unearned advantages they still manage to turn a silk purse into a sow's ear.

> Actually, all growth before the industrial revolution was outside market capitalism.

Nonsense. What do you think the mechanism was? A monarchic command to create wealth? The smarter monarchs, in the minority since intelligence isn't required to pick the king as your father, understood that too much meddling or too much taxation and the goose would stop laying the golden eggs.

> Until the 17th century, both Chinese and Indian empires were the most prosperous regions in the world.

Cite?

> I must disappoint you, but it seems your sources about economic history were rather politically biased.

As opposed to your Olympian detachment and viewpoint? Look Winter, you're no mystery to me. I grew up surrounded by bland assumptions of the inevitability and superiority of non-representative government forms and am well steeped in their myths and tropes. "The masses", of which I am neither proud nor ashamed to be member, are less and less interested in the guidance of our self-elevated superiors as evidenced by the collapse of international communism and the steady retrenchment of socialist institutions.

> And our country has a slightly below average education budget (%GDP, OESO) but a very good PISA performance score (9th place).

As revolutions go it leaves something to be desired. Matter of fact, it sounds like the sort of performance that'd be achievable without a lick of technology and the vigorous cracking of the organizational whip.

> Personally, I think most improvements from computers in education will be the result of improved communication and knowledge dissemination (ie, the internet).

Well don't be so coy. Provide some details about how to get it done and start working on your Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

I've been an interested, some would say obsessed, observer of the computers-in-education scene for better then thirty years. You'd think that in that length of time and with nothing worthwhile to show for all the effort and money expended, I'd be a trifle disappointed but no. I'm like the excited little boy in the room full of horse shit; somewhere in there there's got to be a pony.

For a couple of weeks I was all pumped about the XO but then I noticed that as clever, even brilliant, the design it could never be brilliant enough to overcome the inherent, structural shortcomings of public education.

"I grew up surrounded by bland assumptions of the inevitability and superiority of non-representative government forms and am well steeped in their myths and tropes."

Actually, this seems to be a gross miscommunication. First of all, any useful definition of "free market economy" will be limited in time a place. Simply put, before the industrial revolution there was no such thing as a "free market" in the modern economic sense.

Second, wealth has been created everywhere in all times. Some systems are better at it than others. Fossil fuel based industrial free markets like those existing in the west are very good at it. The Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese (Hong Kong, Singapure, Taiwan) have used different variants of the western social and political models to achieve the same aim. Others are more like the old empires, where the court elite extracts all surpluses from the poplace. The latter prove either less efficient, eg, Moghul India, or strongly dependend, eg, modern day Saudis.

The blindfold that tries to shoehorn all of human history and variation into a USA middle class economic morality looks out of place when discussing educational policies for children in the developing world. The idea that other people don't live up to our ideals is very short sighted.

I am very happy to live in a democratic free country and wish that luck upon every human being. But I will not try to force them there at gun-point. Neither will I tell them they are doing everything wrong, as I mostly have no idea what trade-offs they have to make.

"Well don't be so coy. Provide some details about how to get it done and start working on your Nobel Prize acceptance speech."

As I did not think of these methods, I won't deserve the prizes. I wrote down two links where I expand on my own ideas which I won't repeat here:
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html
http://www.olpcnews.com/content/localization/american_laptop_child.html

The Kennislink URL in my previous comment will give you all information you want about how this is handled in the Netherlands. It might be worth learning a new language for such information, don't you think. Most of us had to learn several languages just to be able to participate here.

"> Until the 17th century, both Chinese and Indian empires were the most prosperous regions in the world.

Cite?"

Sorry to see that the achievements of the great Asian civilizations which brought us so many things like paper, gun-powder, and a lot of mathematics are so little known.
But I have only one link left so I will pick China:
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1468-0289.00150
(PDF)
KENT G. DENG
"A critical survey of recent research in Chinese economic history"
Economic History Review, LIII, 1 (2000), pp. 1­28

BLOCKQUOTE
As late as 1800, China accounted for roughly one-third of the total world manufacturing output and was still ahead of the West. By about 1830 the shares were comparable.
BLOCKQUOTE

"For a couple of weeks I was all pumped about the XO but then I noticed that as clever, even brilliant, the design it could never be brilliant enough to overcome the inherent, structural shortcomings of public education."

I am sorry that you feel the OLPC can only succeed if the target populations embrace American middle class culture. Even if that could be possible, which I don't think so, they wouldn't need our help anymore. But worse, by requiring the social improvements you want to achieve at the outset, you won't be able to help anywhere. And these people DO need some help.

Winter

> Simply put, before the industrial revolution there was no such thing as a "free market" in the modern economic sense.

And if assertion were verification you'd have been right several times already but it isn't. Saying it's so doesn't make it so. In fact, free enterprise, market economics, doesn't even require the trading partners to be human. All that's necessary is a voluntary exchange of valuable considerations:

http://www.livescience.com/animals/050128_monkey_business.html

The oldest profession predates opposable thumbs. Now that's funny.

I think that places the advent of free market economics pretty well ahead of the industrial revolution don't you?

Oh, and save your multi-lingual uber-mensch shtick for someone who's easily impressed. Turns out I'm an immigrant to these United States and I speak Hungarian and a bit of Hebrew. That last, if you're much of a student of history, ought to tell you everything you need to know about the value I place on Dutch moral pretensions.

Read the links you provide. The first link - www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html - has this telling quote about the efficacy of computers in education:

> The literature on computer-assisted learning does not provide a clear picture of the value of this form of learning.

Oooh, let's just declare that the revolution's arrived, shall we?

If you had a clue, if you had the slightest idea how to make computers in general, let alone this particular computer, enhance education you'd be far better off by just laying it out and illuminating the deep, dark secret that's eluded so many smart people for so long. But no, instead I get a hat-full of tedious clichés implying the refinement and elevation of the generic European as compared to the straw-chewing American rustic which of course has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand. Gee, if only I was smart enough to notice.

"I think that places the advent of free market economics pretty well ahead of the industrial revolution don't you?"

Your link only shows monkeys want to pay. If you go to the work on Chimpansees, you will find out fast that trading intercourse is heavily regulated, even monopolized, in their society. Even the oldest proffession is not a free trade in, eg, Chimpansees (but it might be in Bonobos).

I am very puzzled about your definition of a "free market economy". What you describe here is just a tendency for trading goods and services, which is very common because it increases wealth enormously.

So what IS your definition of a Free Market Economy?

For a "Free Market Economy", there must be few or no legal and human obstacles to this trade. Even today, there is hardly a region in the world that doesn't hamper the trade of every good in some way or another. Before the industrial revolution, trading goods and services was anything but free anywhere in the world.

"Oh, and save your multi-lingual uber-mensch shtick for someone who's easily impressed. Turns out I'm an immigrant to these United States and I speak Hungarian and a bit of Hebrew. That last, if you're much of a student of history, ought to tell you everything you need to know about the value I place on Dutch moral pretensions."

Great that you are able to get informed based on non-English materials. The conversion of Hungary to a free society was, and is, a fascinating tale. The entry into the EU and the recent political troubles will have shown you that such a transformation is never easy. For one thing, the Hungarians have not converted to middle class Americans yet. They still think they should do the things the Magyar way.

And I am not proud of the behavior of my ancestors, but that does not change my arguments. My arguments were not about morality, but about the use of ICT in education.

"Oooh, let's just declare that the revolution's arrived, shall we?"

Reading the complete text is very informative. For one thing, they do find many examples of productive deployments of ICT in schools. But these were not the common "drill" routines. These positive examples were much more in the spirit of the OLPC. My main point in that piece was that laptops can help where teachers are in serious short supply to increase productivity. Which was not the aim of the study I quoted.


"But no, instead I get a hat-full of tedious clichés implying the refinement and elevation of the generic European as compared to the straw-chewing American rustic which of course has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand. Gee, if only I was smart enough to notice."

I am really at a loss where you read that.

You wanted examples so I gave you one where I at least know what happened. This one example has to be located SOMEwhere in the world.

This particular example was in the Netherlands for no other reason than that I happen to know that. For what ever I know, there could be dozens of such examples in the USA. Whenever I post links to non-English materials I get complains from Americans that they cannot read the information (and that this is somehow my fault). Therefore, I add warnings. And I do think USA Americans seriously undervalue the need for second language learning.

What I do see, at least in your comments, is a rather worrying ignorance about the world's history and general economic theory. The worrying part is that you seem to be very agressively defending your ignorance as somehow valuable.

You could argue that the manufacturing industry in Ming and Qin China was indeed working under some form of "free market" conditions that caused it to be so productive. That would make my previous example strengthen your position. And you might even have been right. But you chose to attack me as an immoral Yankee basher and ignore the substance of my remarks. Even if I would have been an immoral Yankee basher, you still need to address my arguments, not my personality.

"If you had a clue, if you had the slightest idea how to make computers in general, let alone this particular computer, enhance education you'd be far better off by just laying it out and illuminating the deep, dark secret that's eluded so many smart people for so long."

Now this is the interesting part. I do like to go into the technical details of the XO and the deployment. If you write up an article for Wayan about such technical details, Allen, I promise I will discuss it to the end with you.

But please, do not shy away on other matters. I would love to discuss social primate behavior with you. I never can find people who want to stay long enough to go into the interesting details of Bonobo versus Chimpansee social political behavior (I admire the work of Frans de Waal).

Winter

Did you happen to see this by any chance?
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/07/30/070730fa_fact_parker

A good read.

A modern ecological perspective that considers, for example, the scaling of species diversity finds, somewhat surprisingly, remarkably similar across space and time.

In general, in ecosystems, the most likely distribution of "resources" is unequal but not too unequal... This, of course, says what is without explaining why...
http://eco.confex.com/eco/2008/techprogram/P12093.HTM

@Xian:
"In general, in ecosystems, the most likely distribution of "resources" is unequal but not too unequal... This, of course, says what is without explaining why..."

This has always intrigued me. There are comparably simple power laws that explain metabolic rate to temperature and body size:

"The model fits metabolic rates of microbes, ectotherms, endotherms (including those in hibernation), and plants in temperatures ranging from 0° to 40°C."

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/293/5538/2248

This relation seems to be determined by diffusion speed and geometrical factors (ie, the distance oxygen and metabolites have to travel)

However, how to include ecosystems into it is puzzling. I do know that the size of organisms is limited by the size of the population that can be sustained. A population with too few individuals simply goes extinct. So I understood that ecosystem fragmentation seems to have been behind the size decrease in mammals since the last ice age.

To come back to our primate relatives. I have not yet seen a convincing explanation for the ecological background of the different social structures in Bonobos, Chimps, and Humans. That IS intriguing.

Winter

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