One Laptop Per Child and Education Reform

   
   
   
   
   
olpc robert kozma
Robert Kozma

I am Robert B. Kozma, Ph.D., an international consultant on technology in service of developing countries. I have just returned from Kenya where I where I attended the eLearning Africa Conference in Nairobi from May 28-30.

The OLPC XO machine was displayed in the vendor area and several presentations referenced it. Having worked in Africa and other developing countries over the past ten years, I was prompted to reflect on the implications that One Laptop Per Child has for education improvement in these countries.

The OLPC group has come up with some truly novel features meant to address the specific constraints of users in developing countries, such as the mesh network, the dual-mode display, and a range off-grid power sources, although the latter are yet to be fully developed. This is not surprising, given its MIT Media Lab origins.

But Professor Negroponte consistently points out that, "This is an education project, not a laptop project." And this is where my reservations begin. Based on my 35 years of studying educational applications of technology in developed (the U.S. and a range of OECD countries) and developing countries (Thailand, Chile, Jordan, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya), I have to say that as an "education project" OLPC is fundamentally incomplete.

olpc screen b&w
Screen technology isn't enough

Numerous research studies and my personal experience in many countries suggest that the mere introduction of computers into schools will not bring about educational improvement. Reforming education is hard work that involves making coordinated changes in pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and teacher training, as well as technology.

While any one of these factors - such as technology - can be used as a lever to launch other changes, reform has to be viewed as systemic change. Without coordinating all of the components, it is more likely that change in a single factor - such as technology - will be merely assimilated into the current system unreformed or be rejected altogether.

But the OLPC education philosophy does not address the education system at all. The entire OLPC enterprise is based on the premise that if given the proper resources - in this case "appropriately designed" hardware and software - children will learn how to learn on their own. There is no consideration of how this intervention fits or does not fit with the current curriculum, assessment, or pedagogical practices.

The goal of the OLPC is laudable but I sincerely doubt that the pervasive use of computers envisioned by OLPC will be realized without addressing these overriding factors in the education system. Let me give two personal experiences that support my conclusion.

olpc nigeria
Rural school OLPC XO usage

Several years ago, I visited a secondary school in rural Uganda while evaluating the World Links for Development program for the World Bank. A teacher was describing how excited his students were about projects they were doing with other students in Canada and South Africa. We were standing in the middle of the computer lab filled with twelve brand new work stations.

Yet it was the middle of the school day and the lab was totally empty of students. I pointed this out to the teacher and he said that since computers were not part of the curriculum and were not covered by the examination he could not use them during the school day.

In the second case, I was visiting a secondary school in Alexandria, Egypt and a social studies teacher was showing the exciting collaborative projects that students were doing in the computer lab. I happen to be accompanied by an inspector from the Ministry of Education who jumped at the teacher and berated him in front of all his students for deviating from the established curriculum for that day.

The dedication of these teachers was sincere and the enthusiasm of their students was clear. But I doubt that either these teachers or their students will be able to sustain their efforts without important changes being made in the system that they confront daily. To bring about education reform in developing countries, curricula need to be changed to move from rote learning to problem solving, creative thinking, and team skills.

National examinations need to move from the recall of facts to complex, collaborative tasks that involve the use of technology. And teachers need training in new pedagogical approaches. But Professor Negroponte shows only distain for teachers and the educational system, as evidenced by these quotes:

olpc code jam
Children learn learning solo?
"Teachers teach the kids? Give me a break." (Negroponte, 2006, LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, Boston).

"In many countries, school is a treat. Teachers often don't show up." (Negroponte, 2007, UCLA, Los Angeles)

"In some countries, which I'll leave unnamed, as many of as one-third of the teachers never show up at school. And some show up drunk" (Negroponte, 2006, NetEvents Conference, Hong Kong).

AIDS and malaria are common problems among teachers, as they are among the African population more generally, and they contribute significantly to absenteeism in the workforce. But I have met many teachers in Africa and I have yet to meet one that was drunk.

If only Professor Negroponte held the same level of positive regard for teachers and unbounded faith in their human potential as he does for students. Yet in many of his statements, Negroponte's attitude about teachers borders on contempt. It is difficult to see how the OLPC program can bring about positive change in education systems with this kind of cynical attitude at its core.

Which raises the question, why it is that OLPC is working with education systems at all? Instead, why are they not working through after-school programs where children can explore their own projects free of the constraints of the established curriculum, much as is done in developing countries with the Computer Clubhouse program?

The answer is that the business model demands that they work with the education system. In order to get the desired features of the XO laptop at a low price, OLPC needs the hundreds of millions of customers that can only be delivered by Ministries of Education (Negroponte, 2004, NetEvents European Press Summit).

This brings us back to the original question: Is this an education project or merely a laptop project? We know Lee Felsenstein's opinion. What's yours?

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50 Comments

"This brings us back to the original question: Is this an education project or merely a laptop project?"


It has been a "laptop" project from the very beginning. Constructivism was never on the agenda; it was used by Negroponte as a not-so-clever means of dispensing with the need for an implementation plan. Constructivism was the perfect answer to the "How are we going to use this thing?" question. Nothing more - that's why it was summarily dismissed from the OLPC's mission statement when it became a source of mild controversy.

However, even as a *laptop* project, Negroponte's enterprise has many questions to answer, the main one being: "Will we ever see a fully working XO before we place an order?".


Dick Einstein (aka Socrates Montenegro)
Dean of Quechua Studies
Huasipungo College for Small Incas (HCSI)
Chacras, Peru

The San Diego school system are about to launch a very large one-to-one laptop program. With Linux.

http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStoryts.cfm?ArticleID=7178#2343881240835174876

How does this square with talking about imminent dissaster? Are they going to fail misserably?

On the other hand, all the examples given are from situations where the children were forcefully kept away from the computers, and the internet.

The OLPC is about children getting their own laptops. And any pilot run has shown that these kids use the laptops franticly for the whole duration of onbservation. So the current data suggest that the children will NOT abandon the laptops as long as they can keep them and at least have internet access.

That also squares very well with evidence from the developed world: Children in the developed world have to be forcefully separated from their computers.

Remains to be seen whether the laptops will improve education in situations where there is a lack of teachers and books. All evidence points towards that this is indeed the case:

The Differential Learning Achievements of Constructivist Technology-Intensive Learning Environments as Compared with Traditional Ones: A Meta-Analysis
Authors: Rosen, Yigal; Salomon, Gavriel
(as posted by Robert Lane)

So, To conclude:
- US school districts indeed regularly supply laptops to students who have no computer access (this was just one of many examples).
- Studies do show that technological aids in education help in education (Constructivism).
- All observations indicate that children are really fond of their XOs and no example has been found where they abandoned them.
- Dick Einstein/delusional/troy has yet to say a single positive word about the OLPC in general and Negroponte in particular

Winter

Just for emphasis:

It's not valid to compare a computer lab where kids have limited access/exposure to a computer that they own.

Great link, Winter. Thank you!

I wanted to point out a minor inaccuracy in your post: it's NOT a one-to-one laptop program.

"Each teacher has his or her own set of laptops; some have the same students all day long, and others rotate students, so the students who go to that specific teacher's classroom have access to the laptops."


-------------------------------
"a district with 130,000 students"

"Phase I of the pilot, which began in March, used $300,000 to fund machines in nine elementary, middle, and high school classrooms."

"The Lenovo model that McIntosh and his colleagues designed, with its open-source operating system and software, came in at about $683"

That makes it a grand total 439 computers, or 1 computer for every 296 students or 49 laptops per chosen school.

The initiative, however, is very good and very smart. Prof. Negroponte should offer the same flexibility to third world countries: start small, test and then decide if a larger investment is warranted.

Even a rich country like the USA is careful with its money; a third world country should be very wary of investing billions of dollars on an untested product.

"That makes it a grand total 439 computers, or 1 computer for every 296 students or 49 laptops per chosen school."

So I assume they will chain the laptops to the tables? :-)

Winter

"So I assume they will chain the laptops to the tables?"

I don't think so. It looks like students will just go to a place where the laptops are:

[quote]
Each teacher has his or her own set of laptops; some have the same students all day long, and others rotate students, so the students who go to that specific teacher's classroom have access to the laptops.
[/end quote]

Once gain, thank you, Winter for providing this fascinating link.


Dick Einstein (aka Socrates Montenegro)
Dean of Quechua Studies
Huasipungo College for Small Incas (HCSI)
Chacras, Peru

All, Just to recap:

Learning style is not a mere preference, it is a biological fact. It's just that people are ignorant.

Types of learners (from right-brained to left-brained)

Dyslexia - severely Right-Brained

Attention Deficit Disorder - Right-Brained, but overly so

Auditory Learner - Right-Brained

Global Learner - Both sides of Brain with 2D thinking

Kinesthetic Learner - Both sides of Brain (right bias) with 3D thinking

Visual-Spatial Learner - Both sides of Brain (left bias) with 3D thinking

Linear/Sequential Learner - Left-Brained

Aspberger Syndrome - Left-Brained,but overly so

Autism - Severely Left-Brained

Strong Auditory learners are the teachers pet, because they learn by dialogue.
Strong Linear Learners break the curve, because the read the book instead of the Cliffnotes.The rest fall through the cracks of our education system. The is a case for real reform.

Robert Lane wrote:

"Learning style is not a mere preference, it is a biological fact. It's just that people are ignorant.

Dyslexia - severely Right-Brained"


I propose we give laptops to Indigo Children only.

http://www.indigochild.com/


El Indi(g)o Chato
Leading the Fight Against STD
(Severe Testicular Dyslexia)

Robert,

To OLPC or not to OLPC? Or does it really matter? Is your point that OLPC sucks huge resources but doesn't address fundamental issues with education?

Good post Robert. That it has been my impression of the overall OLPC project. For this reason I keep asking for a field testing (for effectiveness in education) of such devices, before the large scale deployment. People will keep saying that computers will indeed save the educational system in developing countries. However that needs to be proved in that environment, possibly before a large, very expensive, deployment. As Robert correctly says, teacher are an incredibly important part of any education system, and neglecting them in OLPC vision is to me a big mistake.For OLPC to actually get around an inexistent implementation plan is something I would really worry.

Unless of course we pretend to live in an ideal country, where tales always become reality with a simple leap of faith.

Guest writer Robert B. Kozma shows telling insights closely echoing my own experiences as an educator. My 36 years (yawn-ongoing!)at mainly Western chalk faces covered not only the 1980s "computers in classrooms" era, but also the much earlier hue & cry associated with -yes- calculators!

We're talking the mid 1970s here, when even battery chewing basic 4 function calculators cost ~a weeks income, & produced bitter educational adoption debates that often made front page news. Old timers will no doubt recall school boards screaming about cheating,"teaching the kids to think", security, budgets & even- gasp- calculator labs! Yes- rooms devoted to just chained down mains powered 4 function number crunchers...
Kids would often play for hours with number puzzles or "SHELL OIL" (inverted 710.77345) calculator spelling phrases => http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculator_spelling
All mind expanding harmless fun,& I pleasingly occasionally hear from former students who made IT careers after apparently being stimulated with a programmable HP-41(?) I "borrowed" for some months in 1977. One student astoundingly even wrote a flight simulator program on it!

SO- 30 years later and what are/were the benefits? Naturally immense global productivity gains have resulted,& even the humblest peasant has access to coin shop solar calculators now.It's hard to credit that slide rules were the norm for mega engineering projects like the late 60s Apollo lunar landings! "Slide WHAT" I hear ? See => http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slide_rule

BUT - does the average high school age student, now spared the drudgery of slide rules and REAL understanding,show superior maths skills? I put it to you that log tables and rote learning gave clearer insights! Parallels with OLPC abound...

Nick,

"As Robert correctly says, teacher are an incredibly important part of any education system"

Where does Robert say that?

And OLPC is working to provide a useful education-oriented device. They have their philosophy but that doesn't take away from what they are creating and it's usefulness. It doesn't ban teachers from the classroom or force anything on the recipients. OLPC provides a (relatively) low cost medium for access to information, collaboration, etc...

What I saw in Roberts post was a critique of education in general.

Patrick Hallinan wrote:

"What I saw in Roberts post was a critique of education in general."

Yep. Robert is a mix Indigo Child/Scientology Guy.

You can tell by his outlandish claims that Autism is nothing but a "Severely Left-Brained Child" (whatever that means). Lane is lunatic and his spamming of this forum has nothing to do with OLPC.

El Chato.

I once noted a motivating placard on the wall of a NZ school staffroom (a.k.a "faculty lounge")saying - "LONG AFTER STUDENTS FORGET YOUR LESSONS THEY WILL STILL RECALL YOUR ENTHUSIASM"

Robert B. Kozma,

like you I have criticized Negroponte's resentment towards teachers. And I also see that the education systems seem not well prepared to make good use of XO laptops.

A) But what needs to be done to change that?
B) What could OLPC be expected to do about it?

For B) I would recommend OLPC to stop their trojan horse tactics telling the countries that no changes of their education systems would be necessary because this is simply wrong. But even if they stopped it then OLPC still could not change the local education systems by themselves. I doubt that they could even advise the local governments on implementation since OLPC is just 15 people of which, I guess, 14 are busy with technology.
In that sense it is true that OLPC is incomplete. But they have not the possibility to become more complete even if they wanted.

Therefore, I am afraid the only hope for correcting the current implementation plans (if any) are the local ministries of education and the local supporting communities. It's no use to blame OLPC because they cannot do much about it.

Patrick,

http://www.dyslexia.com/science/different_pathways.htm

"Scientists studying the brain have found that dyslexic adults who become capable readers use different neural pathways than nondyslexics. This research shows that there are two independent systems for reading: one that is typical for the majority of readers, and another that is more effective for the dyslexic thinker."


"Research correlating brain activity with reading ability showed an intriguing inverse relationship between reading ability and cerebral blood flow patterns. For nondyslexic controls, stronger activation of left hemispheric reading systems, including the left angular gyrus, corresponded to better reading skill. For dyslexic subjects, the opposite was true: the stronger the left-hemispheric pattern, the poorer the reader. In contrast, increased reading skill for dyslexics was correlated with greater reliance on the right hemispheric systems. "

http://www.thehelpgroup.org/pdf/guide/Book_brainimaging.pdf


What Brain Imaging Can Tell Us About Developmental Disorders

By Susan Bookheimer, Ph.D.,

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine Why do some children have difficulty learning to read or to develop social skills? Today, it isuniversally accepted among scientists that differences in how the brain functions are the root cause of common behavioral and learning problems like dyslexia and autism/Asperger’s Disorder. Yet it hasonly been in the past 10 years that researchers have had the tools needed to explore how the brain works in children. In 1992, researchers discovered that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) could be adapted to show not just brain structure — what the brain looks like — but also brain function — how the brain works. In this new technique, called functional MRI or fMRI, the patient or research subject performs a task of interest, like reading or looking at facial expressions, while their brain is being scanned. Areas of the brain that are necessary for that task have to work harder; more blood flows to those areas, and the MRI scans are sensitive to this increased blood flow. Because MRI is completelysafe and non-invasive, even young children can have fMRI scans. Although fMRI is still young, it has already taught us quite a lot about how the brain learns to read andwhat goes wrong in dyslexia, and is starting to yield new information about autism. Using fMRI, we can now “see” which areas of the brain are working and how they communicate with each other when a child is reading words. Comparing these scans to those of children with dyslexia trying to read can teach us which areas of the brain do not work properly or are not communicating with the rest of the brain normally. Several laboratories, such as at the Yale Child Studies Center and at our lab at UCLA, have examined the brain pathways involved in reading and the impairment in dyslexia. When children are first learning to read, their job is to learn to associate letters with sounds, and to combine and sequence these sounds quickly until they recognize them as a familiar word. FMRI studies haveshown that developing these skills uses a pathway that begins in the visual cortex where children recognize the letters, and transfers this information to the superior (top) temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is responsible for hearing sounds and, in the left side of the brain, translating sounds into words.This information is then sent to the frontal lobes where combinations of sounds are put into a sequence and read aloud. Together, the pathway from the visual cortex to the temporal and frontal lobes is called the “phonological route.” In adults and children who have become good readers, a second pathway in the brain appears to dominate. This pathway also starts in the visual cortex, but instead heads to the inferior (bottom) temporal lobe. The inferior temporal lobe is important for recognizing objects. In the experienced reader, this area of the brain effectively sees the word as an object, instantly recognizing it and its meaning, without the need to sound it out. This pathway isknown as the “visual route”, and only becomes involved in reading after much experience and practice. Because not all words can be instantly recognized (for instance, less common or very long words) the brain must always use both pathways to some extent.

Bob (K), hi,
Great set of comments on the OLPC relationship to education.

I'd like to point out that there are significant questions with regard to equity and education budgeting. The OLPC project requires a minimum order of 1 mm per country at $175/machine (roughly). Perhaps that's a good deal in a developed country, but when spending-per-student is $100 year, $175/student is prohibitive.

Even if that amount is amortized across 5 years (say $35 - $50 per student per year), the cost is high in relation to _discretionary spending_ (as opposed to spending on teacher salaries, school facilities and other fixed recurrent costs), which hovers somewhere around 15-17% of spending per student.

SO: Say Brazil orders 1 million OLPC machines for 2008-9. Good enough, they can possibly find the $175 million within their discretionary budget or $35 million per year amortized. However, there are about 24 million secondary-age youths in the country; equitable provision of OLPCs has a total price tag, then, of $4.2 BILLION or about a billion a year amortized. Just for secondary students. Wow!

Let me try to explain this one more time...

Ok, I will start from the beginning: There is no point in you going on and on about things that have already been invented.

1.Testing and Metrics for alternatvive types of education have already been invented.
2. Constructivism has already been validated and accepted by education authorities.
3. Constructivist classes already exist.
4. Computer-assisted learning already exists.
5. Computer-assisted learning and Constructism both already incorporate socialization and team building.

see posts under "Connected Family"

The current school systems has already been proven to be obsolete. The current school systems do not take into account differences in peoples' brain. People have different types of brains. (see post above).

Education Psychologists have known about this for years, but could not do anything about it. All they had to work with was books and paper. Now we have multimedia computers; people in education are hoping they can use them to create something new.

The current one-size-fits-all systems do not work. Drop outs, juvenile deliquency, and dismal grades all points out that you can show somebody a "Blue Book Speller" type textbook a hundred times; It won't work for them, because their brain can't process it.

People like Negroponte don't have to look around for software or applications. Alternative learning software was created years ago, but computers were too big,too slow, or lacking in graphics to implement them. Cogntive Psychologists already have stuff. Education Psychologists already have stuff.

If Negroponte really cared, he would work with these people to solve problems that already exist and have designed and planned solutions. Instead, I think that he just wants to sell a product.

Are we all clear about this now???

Oh, God! This is quicky down-spiraling into utter insanity...

I love it!


Dick-lexic Einstein

Yes indeed- it reminds me of those acrimonious (& ongoing! => http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/counton.html )1970s classroom calculator debates...

Robert Kozma,

Thank you for a well written and incisive point of view on the educational aspects of implementing new education technology.

I fully agree on your views and have always felt that the thrust of OLPC should be content focused (the media has always looked at the hardware only). Obviously the hardware development was crucial in the early stages of the OLPC initiative. Development of a cheap, rugged and innovative laptop was really the first stepping stone.

Now they have a platform for delivering the education package the focus must move to innovation in education. The difficult part is changing the mindset of the educators to use the technology effectively.

It would seem that putting laptops in front of children and telling them to 'go for it' while the teacher still writes times tables on a blackboard is ridiculous. A techno-education can only be achieved by fully adopting the inherent advantages of using laptops while preparing children to become adults of the 21st century. I would like to see an organisation (maybe the OLPC iteslf masquerading as the MIT) concentrate on techno-education packaging and integrate and leverage products that just drop-in to any laptops, not just the XO.

I point once again at the website for the Namibia Instute for Educational Development http://www.nied.edu.na/
It would seem from the information here that somebody is trying to take education in Africa in the right direction.

So, is the conclusion of the debate now: Just give up on poor children?

I see a lot of posts effectively claiming the OLPC is wrong, kids need US style education.

The starting point of the OLPC is that poor kids in poor countries cannot get US style education. So if any of you has the magic potion that cures third (second?) world educational woes, I haven't seen it.

The question now is, can the OLPC help to give those children better education. I will just ignore all those who haven't gone further than "IS NOT/CAN NOT" and stick to those posts that actually came with arguments either way. And modern schools in the developed world all require advanced (graphical) calculaters. So that debate can put to rest.

We have seen that scientific studies and pilot projects showed that:
- Technological measures help in education (that is why all rich countries use computers in education)
- Constructivist methods work
- Children can and will use their XOs for any period of observation

The price of the XOs is about half what children in my country spend on school books A YEAR. The fact that most poor countries have a severe shortage of school books and libraries, I think the price situation is not much different there.

Then there are people who seriously question the technical feasability of the XO. If you go to Groklaw you will find two links to videos on the XO:
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070621204444692

Here we have an OLPC developer twice in front of halls full of those people who either invented the technologies used in the XO or implemented them. None, really NONE stands up and questions the feasability. If you go to ANY technological site on the internet, then NO one questions the feasabilities of the XO. Only initially there were real doubts whether the display technology would work out. And that part has been a real success.

So, I would really want to know what secret knowledge the posters on OLPCnews hide that allows them to predict the utter technological failure of the XO? Those people whom I know could warn us for failure are all either silent or in favor of the project.

In short, I see only a single real problem for the OLPC: Are target countries able to spend so much money on the OLPC for poor children and do they think it will be worth it?

In one form or another, this financial question is at the root of most, if not all, problems in the developing countries: Lack of money and selection of opportunities.

So the real questions for the OLPC to answer are not whether they can build XOs or whether the children will use them, but what is the economical value of a good education to the country, and how cost effective is the XO in achieving that.

And no small short term (mere months) pilot project will help in answering these questions. The science is all available, see the comments on:
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/papert_connected_family.html

Winter

Winter wrote:

"So the real questions for the OLPC to answer are what is the economical value of a good education to the country, and how cost effective is the XO in achieving that."


I agree. Those are the real questions.

And, given that there are no clear answers, potential buyers are reluctant to part with their money.

The most difficult part is establishing the XO's real worthiness. The hardware is untested: the has not been any real deployment where the power generator, battery life, mesh networking, school server, etc., have been put to the test for an extended period of time.

The software side is not tested, either. In fact, the latest trend is to "let countries decide what to do with the laptop". According to Negrponte himself, it would be ok to add Windows to the picture - so the emphasis is not on education (constructivism or no constructivism) at this point; the emphasis is on getting the first order.

It is a real mess and there is no relief in sight.

It would be a good move by OLPC to just roll out a simple pilot program (with accompanying web-accessible video) where at least people can see the whole system working. It doesn't even need to be in a remote school of a third world country. It could be on any medium-sized city in Latin America (what happenned to the Mexican tycoon who promised to sponsor the project?), so that reporters and interested parties could see the entire system (100 networked XO's, perhaps?) working in harmony:

1. Mesh network in place
2. School server providing content and hosting applications
3. Software in use
4. Display at work
5. Uploading and saving to Google servers in place
6. Extended battery life becoming a reality
7. Power generator (yo-yo) at work


That would be a good starting point for prospective buyers to see how the product works and decide if the XO is a good fit for their plans.


Dick Einstein

Dick,

Why don't you tell us why this all will not work? I have seen many comments claiming it all won't work. But no reason why. Except, maybe, the claim that if it isn't perfect now, it won't work in half a year.

As I wrote, those who could see wether or not this will work never complain. So you know something they don't know?

That the stuff is untested is rubish. There are even OLPCnews stories with pictures where they show almost destructive testing of all the network functions.

The clients can get the tests they want. But they never complain.

Actually, the only ones predicting technological failure are posters on the OLPCnews site. If you know others who found technological problems, please give us the links. I would really like to see what is wrong with the technology.

Btw, the yo-yo is only one of the many charging options that are being tested. You might go to the OLPC wiki to find more options.

And requiring the OLPC to deliver the educational material would be rather insensitive. If they did, they would be instantly disqualified as cultural colonialists.

Winter

Winter,

I didn't say it WILL NOT work I only said that the X0's entire system has never been deployed so that prospective clients can see it working.

It is very possible that, once finished, the XO will be in perfect working condition. As of today, the sytem is not finished or tested by any means. Let me give you some proof:

http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/networking/2007-June/000129.html

As you can see from that and other recent posts, the mesh networking in being tested now. It is not ready for deployment.

The remote storage on Google servers is not settled either.

The school server is not finished either:

http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/server-devel/2007-June/000039.html

As you can see, extensive work is being done to finish the server. It is not ready, by any stretch of the imagination.


So, to put it in a few words: the XO is not ready for deployment. It will be a little while. Until then, prospective buyers will not be in a position to make an informed purchasing decision - thus the lack of orders.

I hope I made my message a bit clearer ths time: I'm NOT predicting that the XO will or will not work as advertised. I'm saying that we don't know at this point, because the project has not been finished or tested.

(Those are official OLPC links, btw -).


Sincerely,


Dick Einstein

I think Mr. Einstein makes a very good point.

The problem seems to be, that no-one should buy an XO until it has been field tested for, say, a month?

And it does not really surprise me if a product that is on schedule isn't ready months ahead of time. That is the meaning of "on schedule". I hardly ever chastide a project for beeing on schedule.

But what exactly hasn't been tested? The mesh network? These are off-the shelf chips (Martell) of an international standard ISO network protocol. What is there not to work? Drivers?

And, if you buy goods with certain features, the goods can be returned if they don't deliver. So I don't see the problem.

Country A orders 1 million XOs with a working mesh network. If it doesn't work, country A just doesn't pay. The same for any other feature.

Do I miss something?

On the other hand, if no one orders, there will be no XO. And no field test. So we will never know whether it might have worked.

Winter

Robert Kozma:

"my personal experience in many countries suggest that the mere introduction of computers into schools will not bring about educational improvement."

But what about if there aren't schools, or there are but the teachers aren't there to teach?

On the unavailablity of teachers:

"according to a survey in 2004, only half of the paid teachers in Indian primary schools were actually teaching during official hours."

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20339

The question is what can be done in situations where there is a great deficiency of schools, a great deficiency of teachers, and a great deficiency in money to remediate the first two problems

Oplc is a solution. Load it up with self-instructional software and just put it out there. Not an ideal solution, but a far more workable one than the alternatives.

Kozma,

"Reforming education is hard work that involves making coordinated changes in pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and teacher training, as well as technology."

And a vast amount of money, but in the main target for oplc, the vast amount of money needed to do that is simply not available. And you, Dr. Kozma, know that quite well. So why do you push solutions you know are unworkable?

"The answer is that the business model demands that they work with the education system. In order to get the desired features of the XO laptop at a low price, OLPC needs the hundreds of millions of customers that can only be delivered by Ministries of Education (Negroponte, 2004, NetEvents European Press Summit). "

So you talk about money for oplc, but not for what you yourself are pushing.

Let me give you two concrete but very different examples of how reform of education systems can be done well: Finland and Singapore. Both of these countries were "poor" forty years ago but both are stellar economic and education performers today. Both saw education as crucial to their development and made corresponding political and financial committments to improving their education systems. Both of them have incorporated technology into their education systems but technology is only one part of the overall picture. Both have used national policies to coordinate educational changes in curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. These policies have been driven by national visions of how education can support social and economic development. If you're interested in learning more about these two countries, see:

http://www.humantechnology.jyu.fi/articles/volume1/2005/kozma.pdf

Eduardo Montez,

The actual article at the source of your quote is here:
http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/kremer/papers/MissinginAction.pdf

This details the actual absenteeism research.

This article:
http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/07/01/13/10096461.html
was the source mentioned by your quote.

"The emergence in slums and villages of private schools that charge near-destitute families between $1-$3 (Dh3.67-Dh11) a month for basic primary education is regarded as an indictment of the state's ability to provide a traditionally core service."

Dont just take what someone says as fact.
Do some research.

I just listened to Ivan Krstic
Movie:
http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid988327368

Audio only:
http://www.peapodcast.com/msc-oss-sig/index.html#osssig-2007-06-21-17-47-10

He tells what the OLPC is all about, and where they are now. They seem to be on schedule, with a lot of work to do. Even for those who think "on schedule" is not good enough and advocate delaying application for some years, this might be an interesting talk.

What (not quite) amazes me, is that the technological savy persons in the audience don't feel that these goals are impossible. Neither have I seen such remark in the technological press. If anyone should know whether this is (im-)possible, it is these people.
(but maybe in the end people will stand up to say that, I have still some minutes to listen)

Winter

Winter wrote:

"I just listened to Ivan Krstic Movie:
http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid988327368

They seem to be on schedule, with a lot of work to do."


I'm glad you're beginning to see what is being said here and what is blatantly obvious to any impartial observer: the project is unfinished and and untested.

As for the XO being "on schedule", it's hard to believe, with all the work left, no orders in place and massive production being announced as beginning in September 2007.

There have been several delays in launching the project and the most troubling aspect for anyone is the fact that mass production of the XO will not begin until there are enough orders in place. As you can see, "on schedule" means, in this case, "we are trying to get there, but we don't really know when".

Now, I'm NOT saying the project will never launch. All I'm saying is that there's a LOT of work to do - as you yourself admit - and that things are very difficult right now. Will the XO ever succeed? Only time will tell.

Sincerely,


Dick Einstein

"As for the XO being "on schedule", it's hard to believe, with all the work left, no orders in place and massive production being announced as beginning in September 2007."

You think they are not on schedule? Where did you get that? What work cannot be completed in time? I really would like to know.

Btw, massive production has indeed been delayed to, I believe, October. Probably because of HW changes, maybe also order requests.

Winter

Winter wrote:

"You think they are not on schedule? Where did you get that? What work cannot be completed in time?"

Two examples for you:

1. The power generator solution is FAR from settled. In fact, several options are being considered now.

2. Massive production is dependent on getting formal orders. Being that there are no official orders, it is hard to believe that massive production will begin in September (it has been pushed to October, as you rightfully say).

Here's a news item from 2005:

"Advanced discussions with various governments for pilot projects are already well underway, Negroponte says. China is expected to order 3 million machines and Brazil is expected to buy 1 million of the laptops. He's looking for three more nations--one each in Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia--to commit to laptops orders, in addition to supplying some to the U.S., before the machine goes into production, hopefully sometime in 2006."

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,120845-page,1/article.html

I'm pretty confident I can find several of those announcements, with different launch dates, but I feel we have enough evidence in place.


Sincerely,


Dick Einstein

"Two examples for you:

1. The power generator solution is FAR from settled. In fact, several options are being considered now.

2. Massive production is dependent on getting formal orders. Being that there are no official orders, it is hard to believe that massive production will begin in September (it has been pushed to October, as you rightfully say). "

I don't understand. There is a choice of power charge options (everything between 8-30V DC works), and that is a problem? That is not on-schedule?

And how does our ignorance about the order-book become evidence the development team is not on schedule?

I really do not understand what you mean. Ivan says development is on schedule, and you say it is not because you have not seen the orders. And this translate into Ivan is wrong?

You actually wrote that countries should not buy the OLPC because you suspect they cannot deliver. And now you say you think they cannot deliver because the orders are lagging. This sounds rather circular to me. Where should I enter the circle?

Winter

Winter & Dick/Troy:

You can be on schedule with production and yet behind schedule in sales. Either way, the both of you are going off-topic with this theme. Remember, this post is on OLPC & education reform.

Production/distribution schedules can be debated here: http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/production/ or here: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/countries/

Bob Kozma,

"Let me give you two concrete but very different examples of how reform of education systems can be done well: Finland and Singapore. Both of these countries were "poor" forty years ago but both are stellar economic and education performers today."

Oh come on, Bob, let's be realistic. Finland and Singapore both had highly efficient governments when they initiated their educational reforms. And both embarked on their education reforms at the same time as also launching highly effective economic programs that, as they proceeded, greatly increased the funds available for education.

Most of the countries that oplc is most directly aimed at simply lack either of these conditions. Their governments are corrupt and inefficient, and their economies are, in part due to governmental policies, stagnant.


Bob, why do you keep pushing a form of educational reform that you know perfectly well the target countries could never successfully impliment?

Bob Kozma,

"Let me give you two concrete but very different examples of how reform of education systems can be done well: Finland and Singapore. Both of these countries were "poor" forty years ago but both are stellar economic and education performers today."

Oh come on, Bob, let's be realistic. Finland and Singapore both had highly efficient governments when they initiated their educational reforms. And both embarked on their education reforms at the same time as also launching highly effective economic programs that, as they proceeded, greatly increased the funds available for education.

Most of the countries that oplc is most directly aimed at simply lack either of these conditions. Their governments are corrupt and inefficient, and their economies are, in part due to governmental policies, stagnant.


Bob, why do you keep pushing a form of educational reform that you know perfectly well the target countries could never successfully impliment?

Eduardo,

That is exactly my point: "These countries embarked on their education reforms at the same time that they launched highly effective economic programs." Education reform--or the introduction of technology in schools, for that matter--must be done in a systemic, coordinated way, if it is to be successful.

The success of countries like Finland and Singapore is inspiring other countries to examine their policies in a systematic way: countries such as Jordan and Chile.

Do you think that if you distribute XO computers to every child and ignore corrupt and inefficient governments (if they are as you say) and their stagnant economies that you can bring about massive change?

To quote Nicholas Negroponte: "Give me a break."

Bob, what you're saying it's exactly my point from the very beginning of this discussion. Check my posts here, and my recent "OLPC has a moral obligation to do things right" argument in a recent post about implementation. I strongly disagree with the attitude expressed in many posts here about OLPC bringing a wonderful device and not having any further responsibility, and that's one of many reasons I opposed this project.

Thank you for the clarification, Eduardo. One of the key points that I'm trying to make--one on which we appear to agree--is that there is no technological short-cut to good education. If countries--and this includes the US--want to have good education systems, they are going to have to invest the time, money, and effort into doing it right. This is particularly challenging for developing countries but necessary nonetheless.

Bob Kozma,

"That is exactly my point: "These countries embarked on their education reforms at the same time that they launched highly effective economic programs." Education reform--or the introduction of technology in schools, for that matter--must be done in a systemic, coordinated way, if it is to be successful.

"The success of countries like Finland and Singapore is inspiring other countries to examine their policies in a systematic way: countries such as Jordan and Chile."

No, it's not inspiring most of the countries that oplc is most directly targeted at. You make it sound as if what Singapore and Finland did was something recent, and the severely underdeveloped countries had been sincerely looking around for a workable path, and just recently realized that Singapore and Finland gave them a workable model, and so are adopting it.

In fact, as you are perfectly aware, the success of Sinapore and Findand has been known around the world for decades, and most of the severely underdeveloped countries have decided, for political reasons, to ignore it and continue on their corrupt, economically ineffective ways.

"Do you think that if you distribute XO computers to every child and ignore corrupt and inefficient governments (if they are as you say) and their stagnant economies that you can bring about massive change?"

The computers will be in the hands of the locals, which means they will most likely put them to good use. Will it bring about massive change? It is more likely to than any other plan than most of the governments in question are likely to adopt.

"Yet it was the middle of the school day and the lab was totally empty of students. I pointed this out to the teacher and he said that since computers were not part of the curriculum and were not covered by the examination he could not use them during the school day."

Don't you understand, the primary target of olpc is regions where there aren't enough schools or enough teachers (or they don't show up, as in my link in a previous post), and so students go half day or not at all. The central governments lack the money or the financial resources (or both) to remediate this problem. It's either oplc or nothing.

By the way, this link mentions a study (see p. 3) that found that treachers were absent 24 percent of the time in one area of Kenya.

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DEC/Resources/37912_Ecuador.Teacher.Absenteeism.August13.2004.pdf

I think I have figured out where you are coming from, Bob. You make a comfortable living advising governments on educational programs, based on expertise you have spent many years acquiring. It's good advice, if the countries actually are willing and able to follow it. Perhaps the countries you advise do adopt your ideas, or perhaps they don't.

Oplc undercuts your model, so you oppose it, even though it might well break through barriers that your approach can't. It's not that you're a bad person, you just don't want to think outside your comfortable box.

"Don't you understand, the primary target of olpc is regions where there aren't enough schools or enough teachers (or they don't show up, as in my link in a previous post), and so students go half day or not at all. The central governments lack the money or the financial resources (or both) to remediate this problem. It's either oplc or nothing."

You've insisted many times that implementation is in the hands of national governments. If so, what makes you think that the 250.000 minimal sale is the right figure for covering this supposed primary target group, or that the priorities are to cover them?

How exactly a government lacking money or financial resources is going to find the money to buy computers? Currently, one argument in Peru is exactly why should the government spend over 50 million USD in computers while denying a raise to teachers... including the extra money teachers going to small rural areas get. We don't have enough teachers willing to go to rural areas due to, among many reasons, the lack of financial incentives.

You may say that the computers are cheaper than a teacher, but then you are assuming that the solution to many of the woes of the rural poor in the developing world are solvable through a computer. The argument many have stated here, in many different posts, is that computers are helpful but in no way a replacement to school as a socialization, social-cohesion building institution, something that the rural poor need as much as many of the other stuff you get from schools.

Finally, "The computers will be in the hands of the locals, which means they will most likely put them to good use. "

What makes you believe that such a generalization is sensible? Poverty breeds, among many other things, as much corruption, malfeasance and thievery as wealth does, only in a minor, petty scale. Something as coveted and valuable as a computer will bring a lot of problems, especially if the allocation of such computers is left to a corrupt, immoral government, something you have dismissed many times as a non-issue.

And be certain, I'm not passing judgment on your motives, intentions or lack of vision, as you are doing with Bob. I cannot talk about him, since I've not heard of him till he posted this, but I'd refrain from judging someone's motives so easily.

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,

"You've insisted many times that implementation is in the hands of national governments."

When I said something like that, I was contrasting it with the idea that oplc should itself design the implimentation plan. I think the implimentation in practice will tend to be in the hands of the locals.

" If so, what makes you think that the 250.000 minimal sale is the right figure for covering this supposed primary target group, or that the priorities are to cover them? "

I have not stated on anything on that, though I do think it was a smart move on Negroponte's part.

"How exactly a government lacking money or financial resources is going to find the money to buy computers? Currently, one argument in Peru is exactly why should the government spend over 50 million USD in computers while denying a raise to teachers?

Negroponte discusses that, and a lot of other interesing things, here:

http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_world_bank_group.html

"We don't have enough teachers willing to go to rural areas due to, among many reasons, the lack of financial incentives."

I am glad we agree on that.

"You may say that the computers are cheaper than a teacher, but then you are assuming that the solution to many of the woes of the rural poor in the developing world are solvable through a computer. The argument many have stated here, in many different posts, is that computers are helpful but in no way a replacement to school as a socialization, social-cohesion building institution, something that the rural poor need as much as many of the other stuff you get from schools."

Agreed, but oplc is better, I would argue, than any alternative that has any real hope of being actually implimented in the countries in question. I pose to you the same question I keep putting to Bob: what is alternative plan that really could happen?

"What makes you believe that such a generalization is sensible? Poverty breeds, among many other things, as much corruption, malfeasance and thievery as wealth does, only in a minor, petty scale. Something as coveted and valuable as a computer will bring a lot of problems, especially if the allocation of such computers is left to a corrupt, immoral government, something you have dismissed many times as a non-issue. "

Rural villages, from all I have read, are pretty uncorrupt. There is no money to steal, and the people have to cooperate to a considerable degree to survive. Where thing go really wrong is 1) higher up in government 2) urban areas. But again I must throw the question back to you, if the central govenment is corrupt, are you saying it is best to not push oplc and instead do nothing?

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,

"You've insisted many times that implementation is in the hands of national governments."

When I said something like that, I was contrasting it with the idea that oplc should itself design the implimentation plan. I think the implimentation in practice will tend to be in the hands of the locals.

" If so, what makes you think that the 250.000 minimal sale is the right figure for covering this supposed primary target group, or that the priorities are to cover them? "

I have not stated on anything on that, though I do think it was a smart move on Negroponte's part.

"How exactly a government lacking money or financial resources is going to find the money to buy computers? Currently, one argument in Peru is exactly why should the government spend over 50 million USD in computers while denying a raise to teachers?

Negroponte discusses that, and a lot of other interesing things, here:

http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_world_bank_group.html

"We don't have enough teachers willing to go to rural areas due to, among many reasons, the lack of financial incentives."

I am glad we agree on that.

"You may say that the computers are cheaper than a teacher, but then you are assuming that the solution to many of the woes of the rural poor in the developing world are solvable through a computer. The argument many have stated here, in many different posts, is that computers are helpful but in no way a replacement to school as a socialization, social-cohesion building institution, something that the rural poor need as much as many of the other stuff you get from schools."

Agreed, but oplc is better, I would argue, than any alternative that has any real hope of being actually implimented in the countries in question. I pose to you the same question I keep putting to Bob: what is your alternative plan that really could happen?

"What makes you believe that such a generalization is sensible? Poverty breeds, among many other things, as much corruption, malfeasance and thievery as wealth does, only in a minor, petty scale. Something as coveted and valuable as a computer will bring a lot of problems, especially if the allocation of such computers is left to a corrupt, immoral government, something you have dismissed many times as a non-issue. "

Rural villages, from all I have read, are pretty uncorrupt. There is no money to steal, and the people have to cooperate to a considerable degree to survive. Where thing go really wrong is 1) higher up in government 2) urban areas. But again I must throw the question back to you, if the central govenment is corrupt, are you saying it is best to not push oplc and instead do nothing?

Bob,

I have been thinking some more and I have an idea.

To start, let me say that you are an expert on integrating ICT in education, and I assume you have a lot of useful knowledge on this. Now, my guess is that for many years you have been focused on how to do this with pc-compatible hardware.

But now oplc has come up with some clearly superior hardware. It is both considerably more capable and also considerably less expensive. What I am thinking is, why don't you get involved with oplc in one or more developing countries, and contribute your expertise?

I think this would be possible. Oplc implimentation is not under the rigid control of Negroponte's organization, but is instead being handled at the national and local level, and so there is a place for your input. And you are an international consultant, with a reputation and lots of contacts, so it seems to me you could find one or more places where you could get involved.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea or is there a reason you shouldn't take it up?

Edward Montez,

"It's not that you're a bad person; you just don't want to think outside your comfortable box."

Please read my posting next week on "OLPC and Economic Development", based on my volunteer work in rural villages in east Africa. Then let me know if you still feel I'm not willing to think outside the box. Conversely, I believe it is the OLPC project that is fixated on "the box".

Regarding your most recent posting, I should say under full disclosure that I have consulted with Intel on their Intel Teach program. I like the work that they are doing with governments and teachers in developing countries all over the world on helping them integrate computers into the curriculum and helping students do project-based work and acquire 21st century skills.

However, I have no allegiance to the PC and I am an equal employer opportunity. I would be glad to advise the OLPC program on how to work with teachers and governments to integrate the XO machine into a revised curriculum. I would be particularly interested in working with NGOs or local schools on this issue. My rates are adjustable (sometimes zero).

Bob,

"I would be glad to advise the OLPC program on how to work with teachers and governments to integrate the XO machine into a revised curriculum. I would be particularly interested in working with NGOs or local schools on this issue. My rates are adjustable (sometimes zero)."

Ok, the only thing is they are probably not going to come to you, you are going to have to seek them out.

I'm not sure how this whole thing will go over, but I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this attempt.

What would happen if we were to introduce a computer for every student in the United States? Since we have been implementing various reforms such as teacher evaluations, improved mentoring of new teachers, more relevant teacher education programs, and etcetera, is it not the prime time to put a personal computer in every student desk, or provide one for every student, much as we provide textbooks today? After all, personal computers today are about the same price as are textbooks.

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