One Laptop Per T.C. Williams High School Student

   
   
   
   
   

I wonder that Nicholas Negroponte thinks of Tara Bahrampour's "For Some, Laptops Don't Compute" article in the Washington Post? From the title, he can expect it to be a slightly negative take on laptops in education, and the beginning does not bode well.

But before Negroponte dismisses Bahrampour's description of T.C. Williams High School's leap into the future of education, he should note the reasons why it seems a negative take on the one laptop per child idea: the lack of initial teacher training and a misguided reliance of technology as a cure all.


Future OLPC'ers?

When the program first started, the laptops were distributed without extensive teacher training. That lead to push-back by the teachers that only now, two years into the program, is being corrected. To quote the article:

Teacher training has also intensified.

"I think they made the realization that they may have put the cart before the horse," said G.A. Hagen, a technology resource teacher at T.C. Williams. "It was like, 'Okay, teacher, here's the laptop -- go with it,' and [teachers] were like, 'What do you mean, go with it? Is there a Web site I go to?' "

Then there is the role that technology should play in education. As usual, people were fixated on the "boat", instead of where they were going, or as an anonymous teacher was quoted as saying:
"There's a big drive now to get everyone to do as much as possible on the computer. There's a real divide between those who see the computers as an end in itself and those who see them as a tool."
Of course, the most damming comments were directed at the belief in implementation miracles. Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, echoed what Andrew Zucker, co-Director of the Ubiquitous Computing Evaluation Consortium, told Nicholas Negroponte directly:
"There have been studies that try to show that laptops and test scores are related," said Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. "There have been correlated rises but . . . no evidence to show that simply giving out laptops will raise test scores or close the achievement gap."
So while Negroponte may not like the article, I do wish he reads it, if only to note others' errors. Errors he will be destined to repeat while we go ISO: a OLPC comprehensive implementation plan

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7 Comments

How independent is OLPC news?
Whilst I'm a great believer in healthy skepticism I worry that yours is running a little on the rabid side.
Occasionally, ones message is better to be delivered in a quiet, balanced, measured way.
Your blood pressure would remain healthier as well.

Does Negroponte think laptops as such are good for education? Or does he think they are good but only if they impliment Papert's colaborative education philosophy? And does he think they have a special advantage in developing countries that is lacking in developed ones?

By the way, Slashdot had an article on the olpc interface guidelines.
http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/11/1155242

The guidelines
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines
are very interesting. How about a post on it?

Gideon,
We are quite independent, as ICT experts we love the technology and Negroponte's dream, but are painfully worried that the hubris around it is obscuring the real issues of cost and implementation, which ignored will result in wanton waste and failure.

Eduardo,
As far as we can tell, Negroponte believes in Papert's views on laptops in education only - children need to learn learning via child-centric computers, period. OLPC is just a tool to reach that goal.

I believe that Negroponte chose the developing world angle because in the USA, he would face both the current laptop manufactures and the teachers unions (mainly the teacher's union), who would skin him alive if he tried his act here.

Nick Negroponte is a typical technology centric academic who cant see the students for the laptops. Who's in charge of the education angle at OLPC?

Give students laptops and they'll play games rather than study. My son went to school, received a laptop and installed games on it. The school had no real education plan - it was just 'cool' for kids.
We've already seen the OLPC guys load up Doom.

The teachers' unions, now that's what I call hubris. The teachers' unions totally frustrate innovation in American education.

When schools deploy laptops without educational materials for them, that is poor use of a great tool for learning. Robert, your kid probably learns alot from playing Doom, seriously. Many of the best engineers and businesspeople I know played alot of video games when they were young.

Thanks for the reply, Wayan.

If the laptop is only for Papert's educational philosophy, then the good or bad outcomes that laptops have had in the US in schools that follow conventional eduction are irrelevant to the question of how successful oplc will be.

Is there any research that shows that Papert's approach really works?

I am a frustrated parent of 3 stuck in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District). I welcome the use of these laptops here! The teacher's unions need a wake-up call (and a clue) that our kids need more than to be force-fed data in order to prep for tests. Many of our students are low-income with parents who aren't able (or willing) to buy computers for home use. These kids are missing out, and can't possibly be competitive academically with students who have easy access to technology.

There is a strong parent's movement afoot that is making loud demands on what, and how children are learning. My eldest child is gifted, my youngest is in Special Ed for Autism. I feel that these laptops would make great learning tools for them and would allow us to escape the monopoly that Windows/Mac based programs have on what passes for tech education in our district.

If they marketed to schools in the US I would recommend first appealing to the home-school community (which is HUGE), then to the charters. These environments allow for, and encourage creative teaching tools.

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