I might be one of the biggest critics of one child per laptop. Yes, there are ideological reasons. I think the traditional way of life in places should be preserved and I want to reduce waste. I also think that there is no magic cure-all solution. It has time and time again failed to increase retention in schools or improve math and language skills. It is also very costly.
I couldn’t imagine it being successful anywhere but after doing some research, I read about a successful experiment in Ethiopia. OLPC dropped 2 boxes of tablets (& of course their solar-powered chargers) in an Ethiopian village where almost everyone is illiterate. There was no instruction and it was pretty much “Hey kids, figure it out yourselves.
According to the article by Good (http://goo.gl/zweVB), amazing results ensued (although it’s legitimate to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism). Here is the description provided by MIT tech lab.
We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.
The children gained the skills to ultimately hack the computers, but there are many questions left unanswered. How would they use these skills later? How many of the tablets were used? How many children actually learned to use them? Did they work with the computers independently or communally? How much English did they actually learn.
Thus, it might be asked, can the success of the program be fairly measured by this one outstanding case of success?