OLPC Brazil Results: Attendance & Participation Increased


Coming close on the heels of OLPC Nigeria classroom testing, Walter Bender's raves about OLPC Brazil classroom testing

Lea Fagundes and her team have been working with the XO in the Luciana de Abreu Elementary School for three weeks and already is having tremendous impact. The children of course are doing fantastic work and you see them moving around the school, taking pictures, working on projects, and truly engaged in their learning.
You can even watch this video of an OLPC Children's Machine XO classroom in Luciana de Abreu School, Porto Alegre, Brazil to judge for yourself:
While I was under whelmed by the video, I am downright scared by Walter Bender's other observation from Brazil:
Yesterday two teachers were unable to come to school due to family emergencies and the principal could not get substitutes; they dismissed the children of those classes early. For the first time in anyone's recollection, no one left when dismissed, preferring to stay and work with the laptops.

The school had record attendance by parents for a meeting, with more than 10x the usual number attending. The teachers and children are ecstatic. The concrete example of children, teachers, laptops and learning is changing the minds of doubters.

So Billions of dollars should be spent on "$100 laptops" to boost attendance rates, Negroponte's "energy" in schools? Wouldn't that happen with any new shiny, flashy thing, especially one with this much hype? The real test will be the level of attendance and parental participation when the novelty and all the visitors are gone, and level of impact both attendance and participation via the OLPC has on education.

And I hope that 10x the usual numbers of parents show up when Internet-enabled computers are given to children to use without adult guidance. A mass parent's meeting should be part of a cultural integration process where the local communities are introduced to the technology and allowed to familiarize themselves with it. No one wants a wholesale rejection of computers due to ignorance and fear, or worse, unsupervised kids forming OLPC-enabled youth gangs.

Luckily for Lee Felsenstein (and those that read Portuguese at least), this testing environment is different than Nigeria's - Bruno Sperb of Laboratório de Estudos Cognitivos is posting raw progress reports from the field:

Feedbacks are being given every to OLPC team weekly (even daily), based on the interactions of children and teachers with the XO.

Some of the educational results (children's projects and researches, just in Portuguese, tough) can be seen in our virtual environment called AMADIS. Its like an orkut of learning, where children are posting their diary, learning projects, pictures and, in the next days, websites.

Hopefully One Laptop Per Child will be as open source about its field testing results as it is about its clock-stopping hot technology. Even if OLPC's Mission changed, positive educational change is still the overall goal and uncensored results would go a long way in validating their Billion dollar dreams.

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"So Billions of dollars should be spent on "$100 laptops" to boost attendance rates, Negroponte's "energy" in schools? Wouldn't that happen with any new shiny, flashy thing, especially one with this much hype?"

You think they won't learn $150 worth of skills and knowledge from using the laptops?

The fact that they spent much time on chat and play is actually stimulated by the OLPC project. And they don't need to stay in school to play with the shiny thing, they can take it home, its theirs.

What is remarkable in the movies, is that all the predictions came true: The kids use the 2b1 with ease, they are constantly collaborating, they really like and use them, and they really care about them. This rebutes about 75% of all the criticism targetted at the OLPC.

Voluntary attendance and parent involvement are the two prime predictors of school success. I wouldn't know a better predictor. Do you?

What would it make to get you positive about Billions of dollars spent on kids in the developing world?

The kids obviously are neither hungry, nor do they lack water, teachers, nor a school building. So what should be done instead with the money?

So as much as anything, your contribution looks mysantropic.


PS, I cannot help to compare these movies to the results of spending $1B on chastity education in the US, which was nope


This the first introduction of a shiny flashy thing. For the first few weeks, kids will be all over it, especially with all the attention they get when they use it. And right now XO's in classrooms are no where near $150 in total cost - $150 is the 1 million unit price of just the laptops, no implementation included.

If we see that same student attention and parental participation a year from now, along with a realistic cost profile, then we can make judgments about learning $x worth of skills and knowledge from using the laptops.

If/when those results show that the OLPC XO is the most efficient method to enhance education, I promise to become a total OLPC booster. Right now, outside the general idea and the hot technology, we have only hype and hyperbole to boost.

That makes me realistic, not misanthropic.

"If we see that same student attention and parental participation a year from now, along with a realistic cost profile, then we can make judgments about learning $x worth of skills and knowledge from using the laptops."

Indeed. However, this means we need a roll-out to find out. But your quote:

"So Billions of dollars should be spent on "$100 laptops" to boost attendance rates, Negroponte's "energy" in schools? Wouldn't that happen with any new shiny, flashy thing, especially one with this much hype?"

Was (mis-)interpreted by me as advicing against such a roll-out. Which would mean we would never know.

As attendance and parent involvement are good predictors of school success, I cannot fault the organizers for being enthusiastic about it. The movies also show that most of the early criticism was misdirected. These laptops can and will be used spontaneously by children and parents care too.

Hands-on experience with children and computers has shown me that large forces are needed to separate them. Especially if communication with peers is involved.

So while the idea that these laptops end up in a corner is theoretically possible, it would cause a massive culture shock in child psychology.



I think we are closer in opinion that it seems. I am all for an OLPC roll-out, but one that is in manageable waves, with each phase learning from the group before it. Sounds logical and that's what you would assume OLPC to do right?

Well so far OLPC leadership has been insistent that countries buy 1 million and roll out all at once - big bang stye. And a success metric of that model is initial increased attendance and participation, "energy in schools".

We both agree that attendance and parental participation are key to education, and closely related to higher test schools and such. I caution against the assumption initial excitement = long term engagement (or success). That will take time to bear out.

I happen to not be surprised that XO's are spontaneously used children, but use does not equal learning. I can IM all day long, but have I learned how to communicate properly? Or just how to IM-speak? That works well if I use SMS but will not be a basis for literacy. For that, we need those teachers and parents again.

So in essence I think we agree. Now we can only hope OLPC does too.

The same EXACT level of excitement would be present if the laptop were a $2000 off-the-shelf machine with Windows XP as the OS or a little Blackberry. A new toy ALWAYS gets kids excited.

We need more substance and less hype. A 150+ million investment requires real answers, I'd think.

Question for Wayan: have you ever invited any officer/representative from the OLPC project to come and provide some "official" perspective on the issues regularly discussed here?

It may be a form of Hawthorne Effect
or simply the excitment for the 'new toy', but one thing is for sure: we need a bit more of time a some other testing before we reach some conclusions.

We need to wait a little more people.


Wayan, I think you need to be realistic about the 1 Million Unit buy situation. I know its one of your favorite soap boxes but in manufacturing you have to think big to keep the costs down.

The computer you'll be typing a reply on probably cost you anywhere from $500 to $1000. If it wasnt for the fact that computer manufacturers make millions of them every day you'd most likely have to pay 10 times as much.

I dare say that Quanta would have no interest in the OLPC if they were not ordered in quantities of 1 million. The few thousand prototypes being let out the gate as technology testers are costing a fortune and that Research and Development cost is being recouped later in the $150 Million buys.

I'm not saying they should make any old crap and ship it off to unsuspecting buyers. From what I've seen the OLPC staff and volunteers are doing an amazing job of pulling together the technology and the content needed.

What interests me is how the project will develop in the future. What will digital classrooms mean for the future of the children? Will they be smarter adults?

In my experience its a foregone conclusion. Kids learn from studying their environment. As a new born baby studys the toys hanging above the crib, as a toddler explores objects left within reach, as a pre-schooler fingerpaints on a sheet of paper, its all about giving the amazing minds of young children the tools to learn.

I think the little green laptops will do the job amazingly well.


Not only do I invite OLPC representatives, associates, and employees to post to OLPC News, I even invite you to do the same. As I stated on the invite, I only ask for clear, concise posts relevant to the discussion.


I agree that the OLPC _should_ have a transformative effect on primary education, the OLPC developers are trying their best, and that 1 million unit orders drop prices significantly. But we don't have proof that OLPC will transform education, especially with the current drop-off at country door implementation plan espoused by OLPC leadership.

Also, 1 million units can be accomplished by several countries ordering 10-100K laptops as their budgets for experiments allows, with OLPC aggregating them to 1 million. But OLPC leadership says its 1 million laptops minimum per order no matter if you are government rich Nigeria or (relatively) poor Rwanda.