If you hand a child a violin or a piano they can make noise with it, right? But will they be able to make music?This is an interesting analogy that Charbax took exception to:
And if you give a child a computer they'll be able to operate the computer, but will they really be able to learn without having a teacher, whether it's formal, informal, to help them along that learning path?
OLPC is not like a violin. It's like a box that does all instruments in the world and lets the student listen to all the music in the world, watch all the learning video courses in the world, read all the theory in the world and record and upload recordings.I am Winter and I have a corollary view. Recently, there was an article in a local newspaper that summarized scientific evidence for educational effectiveness of different regimes. The result? The only aspect of education really supported by scientific evidence is the importance of teacher guidance. Student's own initiative and choice was a second, much weaker, positive factor. Shockingly, the "transfer" of learned subject matter to real life could be as low as 10%.
I'd say the teachers are like average violin players playing on not very tuned and old rusty violins. This may be approximate music that each teacher is playing in front of the class, but it would be much more educational for the child to access complete collections of all orchestra concertos, worldwide variety of artists and the ability to try and imitate the music that is being discovered.
The One Laptop Per Child computers are meant for regions with a chronic teacher shortage. A teacher shortage that countries have been unable to alleviate for decades. Any call for spending OLPC money on more teachers should at the least tell us how to succeed where we failed in the last decades. As a result of the teacher shortage, the children in these regions get only half the hours of teacher guidance they need.
One solution to these problems would be to let one teacher guide twice as many pupils using more efficient communication methods. This is one area the XO will increase the efficiency of education. Another solution is to allow children to do more on their own, needing teacher guidance less often. This is the often derided "learning to learn" approach.
But it is clear, that if half the group can master a certain subject matter on their own, the teacher can devote twice as much time to those students that cannot master it on their own. So, the OLPC tries to increase teacher efficiency and other aspects of educational inefficiencies (eg, distribution of books).
The question to answer is, whether the OLPC is (cost) effective and efficient in reaching this goal. Another question is, whether there are cheaper and less risky alternatives. What I often see is people "questioning" specific aspects of the educational and cost models of the OLPC while ignoring the main question of educational efficiency. The real questions from an educational and economic development perspective are:
- How much does the XO increase the school's efficiency?
- Does this amount justify the cost?
The cost of distribution of school books in general and audio-visual material for specific subject matters can be compared between the OLPC and alternatives. That would be a very simple accounting exercise. Also the hours spent in the classroom answering questions could be compared with the same work done on a discussion board.
I really think the cost effectiveness of the XO in education can be quantified fairly straightforward without having to implement extremely costly and risky educational experiments. It is relatively easy to collect data on the use of on-line resources, electronic communication, and computer programs in developed countries like the USA and the Netherlands (to name only a two) by interviewing students. Teachers can be asked to estimate the relation on-line work/classroom work. The cost of the distribution of books and libraries is in the books.
Another question is why One Laptop Per Child hasn't done this? Now the OLPC is but a very small organization. And all the data are locked into the educational departments of the target countries. Brazil, Nigeria, and Nepal really do know the numbers, Negroponte does not. It is really the receiving countries that can, and should, do the summs.