400,000 XO Laptops in Uruguay Cannot be Wrong


Another quotable from the Reinventing the Classroom IADB seminar was "in a few years we will be wondering why we needed this kind of meetings", This was said, of course, by people who expect their solution for education will be the one everyone else will adopt...

What Happens When...

I actually have been reflecting a while already on possibly unexpected impact(s) of XOs delivered by Ceibal. Since us here at One Laptop Per Child News are also in a revisiting / refocusing season, let's also remark that something like what Ceibal has done has never happened before anywhere, thus there is, indeed, a marking point here.

Yes, most previous initiatives have usually reverted back to jungle, a Poisonwood Bible scenario, the usual result of ethnocentric and self-righteous efforts to fix other people's problems by pretending that deeper issues of disenfranchisement will go away, quietly, as progress moves in. However, be it ICT4D, plain development aid, whatever, attempts at transplanting paradigms have little chance of getting anywhere - they just don't take roots outside of Boston town café halls. Something about the Charles river water may just be missing...

Now, the Ceibal thing is quite different from trying in Cameroon or Thailand, and hauntingly so. For one thing, it is happening in the "Switzerland of the Americas", a place where there is already a cultural affinity to communicate and deal with conflict in post-modern ways. A place where roads, pre-existing levels of education and a lot of the infrastructure are pretty good, compared. And secret banking!. Implementation cost might seem lower than, say, Haiti, since so much of basic costs is already paid for.

For another, even while mimicking OLPC ways in the disregard for educometrics and preference for top-down policies, they have really worked hard to make it their project, with their own look and feel. They may not go as far as the Portuguese who think the Magalhao Intel Classmate is their own design, but close. Their security system is theirs, and to much deserved kudos the infrastructure and logistics are well-nigh impeccable, a lesson for the rest of us on how to deal with those specific areas.

Yet the clincher is the sheer number. Some private school may still make it a matter of pride that "they" use the Redmont legacy software, but for 97%+ of kids, 400.000 computers, in a country with 3 million people, that has to make an impact. At least a third of the families in the place have one of the "Ceibalitas" at home, daily.


OK, some of the doomsday scenarios did not happen. I will not revisit them here, no need to jinx things. Neither have many of the expectations. Of course, to be fair, it may be just Too Soon To Tell, either way.

When You See These Wonders, You Will Know The Time Is Close

Details, details we have very few of, way too few. "Evaluations" so far have been mostly of opinions. In a country where Egalitarian is close to be the State religion, Monitoring and Evaluation is not a priority. A big change is coming, in itself quite surprising, The Primary Education Council (agency that supervises all schools in Uruguay) might indeed do a country-wide evaluation by the end of October (originally scheduled for September).
All 2nd graders will be tested on-line, and somewhat reasonable providences are taken to deal with the widely known fact that not all students have XOs that work, and not all schools have connectivity.

OK, you will ask me, where are the results of the evaluation of actual use of the XO in the classrooms that were done in May? I will have to answer that I have no idea. You would have thought that Brechner would show them in Washington, and he didn't, so I cannot help you.
That study was very simple and very forthright: check how many teachers in 3rd A and 6th A actually did put in their lesson plans/logs that they used XOs in class between April 27 and May 8. I guess we will never know.

Will these October results be made public? now, that would be a miracle, but considering Ceibal itself is a bit miraculous already, maybe we are on a roll, and we'll get to see how botijas (uy. kids) do.

So what!

Well, maybe solid evaluations are not needed, because the impact is all around. OK, let's try that one more time

That's a lot of computers, check.
Connectivity? mostly, check.
Content? somebody getting hired, volunteers paying more attention, check
Same video bits rehashed on each new infomercial, check

What we are unprepared/prepared/excited is for the disruptive something that might just happen, when pretty much every gifted kid in the country has access to this tool, no matter where they come from. Up to now it didn't matter your giftings, let's get your round shape in the (same, government issue one-size-fits-all) square hole as every one else.
Now, for the first time, those few, they have a chance- It almost covers up and doesn't seem to matter many of the rest are losing theirs (does it?). What will happen if 2 or 3 of those anklebiter-geeks just come together, and start doing Good Things... That will be something to see!

a sideline, will hiring this rather expensive consulting firm mess up the razor thin cost that we have been told Ceibal has?

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That's a lot of computers, check.

Connectivity? mostly, check.

Content? somebody getting hired, volunteers paying more attention, check

Same video bits rehashed on each new infomercial, check"

So this *is* a giant experiment in economic development:

Can a "civil" society kick-start economic development if a whole new generation gets all the information and communication they will ever need?

We all are anxious to see the outcome.