Claudia Urrea's Reaction to IDB's OLPC Peru Evaluation

   
   
   
   
   

Resumen en español al final del artículo

(Editor's Note: Peru's Una Laptop por Niño isn't just the largest OLPC implementation in terms of the number of distributed laptop but also the most hotly debated one. Claudia Urrea (OLPC Association's Director of Learning) wrote up a reaction to the second report of IDB's OLPC Peru Evaluation and it offers a great perspective and several arguments which haven't received much attention so far. The following text is Claudia Urrea's full comment and re-published here with her permission.)

The report done in Peru with 320 schools informs us about the specific context of Peru, highlights positive results that have emerged mostly as the children use their computers, both at school and at home, and provide information about aspects that could be addressed to make the program better.


Teacher training in Peru

1. The report tells us that the initial teachers' development program was not enough and that teachers need additional training and support. This is something that el Digete knew from the beginning, but as the government in Perú has points out, the conditions in their country are very difficult and it is remarkable that they were able to get to all those remote areas, and that, according to the report: most of the machines are in good condition, and that teachers and students use them regularly.

For example, Plan Ceibal had a similar response regarding its initial teacher development component (even shorter that the one given in Peru), and has incorporated a stronger teacher development and support strategies. These new programs are showing positive results in Uruguay.

- The report from IADB tells us that some of the teachers are integrating the XO in the curriculum, but obviously not taking advantage of the full potential of the machine. They also report no changes in the teaching and learning dynamics of the classroom. This has direct implications in the academic outcomes, which were based on results of the standardized test taken by the children. This confirms that if there aren't significant changes in the way teachers teach and children learn, there won't be any significant changes in children's academic performances. One could be surprised (and worried) if the changes in former were observed, but no changes in academic performance.

- The authors of the report mention that the XO doesn't have educational software. There is an obvious difference in approach and understanding of the philosophy and work promoted by OLPC/MIT, therefore there is an assumption in the report that educational software refers only to drill and practice software that bring content to the children from different disciplines.

2. No change in motivation, attendance and registration. This is the second set of indicators from the evaluation in Peru. A few comments regarding these indicators, some of which were mentioned in the report as possible reasons for no significant changes:

- The report of no change in the motivation of students contradicts a study being done in Peru, which (in preliminary results) tells us that teachers, children and parents are in fact motivated after the problem, and more critical about their learning, their future and the current situation (ref. Oscar Becerra).

- Attendance and registration. The 319 schools in the study are located in remote/small communities where you wouldn't observe a lot of mobility and where the few number of students were already enrolled in school.

- In my opinion, the motivation to include these indicators has to do with a statement made by OLPC regarding changes in registration and attendance as early positive indicators of some change or benefit. While it may be true in other OLPC programs and context, the same cannot be said in Peru.

3. The nature of this kind of study is that it sacrifices detail and deepness. The study designed and implemented by the IADB leaves out the kind of examples mentioned by Walter, for instance, remarkable teaching by some of the teachers who have appropriated the technology and even become influential in their local and international communities, and detail of the nature of use and kind of work done by the children.

-There was limited data available for every child (one log file, which contains only the last 4 activities done by the children), combined with the large amount of children in the study, resulted in very little information about the type of the activities children are really engaging in.

- Perhaps the lack of knowledge and benefits associated with the use of some of the Sugar Activities had implications in the design of the study. Some case studies of deeper and more detailed use of the XO by the children could have complemented the study and provided more information about what makes a difference in the significant changes in the development of cognitive skills (see next point).

4. Positive and significant changes in the development of cognitive skills: the last set of indicators has to do with cognitive development, aspects that are at the core of the OLPC mission. They used Raven's Progressive Matrices, a verbal Fluency test and a Coding test. The Ravens are aimed at measuring non-verbal abstract reasoning, the verbal fluency test intends to capture language functions and the coding test measures processing speed and working memory. Results were as significant as the kids were 5 months ahead of other children that didn't use the XO (again, we do not have the details of what they really did with the XO that contributes to those benefits). Some comments:

- I do not want to suggest that math and language skills are not important. However, in a broader context which is going to be more useful to these children in the longer term: that they remember some facts measured by the standardized test? Or that they can think and communicate in a more sophisticated way?

- The fact that academic impact in math and languages is not seen, but development of cognitive skills are, may suggest that we need to look at the standardized tests to see if they really measure the real learning of math and languages.


Resumen en español:

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