I’m an EdTech enthusiast, but I’ve resisted creating a lot of tech posts and changing the overall tenor of this blog. I’m really trying to keep this pertinent to the school counseling profession. There are times, though, when the two intersect and it’s important to weigh in on matters that affect student success. This is one of them.
For some time, I’ve been a fan of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which has developed a simple, rugged laptop to be used by students in developing and third world countries. The plan has been so successful, in fact, that the project has even evolved into a student tablet due out later this year. Peru has purchased over a million laptops and has plans to put them in the hands of 100% of their students. The units run on a Linux-based OS called XO.
It was just a matter of time before they found their way to the United States. A pilot study in Birmingham, Alabama has begun with over 1,200 students taking part. Although it’s just in the initial stages, results are promising, but with a few caveats:
- Students who used a computer prior to receiving an XO say that they’re utilizing the machines for homework, as opposed to the students who didn’t use a computer for homework before the study.
- Teacher use of the XO has a strong positive correlation to the benefits perceived by the students. (Modeling, anyone?)
This is an ongoing study, and more results will be published in the future.
My thoughts and reactions:
- We need more technology in schools, not less. Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is a promising concept, but I think that that alone will only further separate the haves from the have nots. The kids with the greatest need often don’t have access to those resources.
- Why aren’t we doing this on a larger scale in the United States? The answer isn’t that we can’t afford it. A $150 laptop could easily supplant the published materials that a student uses in a given year. The answer lies more in the sociopolitical reasons that will need to be addressed before we can make something like this work. Systemically, we’re just not set up for it yet.
- I’d like to know what kind of research in regards to student success is being conducted in Peru, with nearly 100% of the students there working on XO machines.
Perhaps one day we’ll see a one-to-one initiative in the United States. Until then, I look forward to the progress of this program in the rest of the world.