In class this week, we discussed many of the criticisms of the “One Laptop Per Child” program, which gives sturdy, affordable laptops to children in developing countries. Some of these criticisms include the fact that the model is entirely dependent on the computer itself, which could break, the fact that the teachers are almost completely left out of the equation, the financial instability of the project, and the fact that the local historical context is rarely considered in the implementation of OLPC. Studies have shown that the program has caused very little improvement in learning benchmarks or economic indicators in most cases.
However, there are other voices on the ground who argue that OLPC is making a big difference. For example, Maureen Orth, an award-winning journalist, Peace Corps volunteer, and founder of the Marina Orth school in Medellin, Colombia states that OLPC is “the most wonderful tool they could possibly have.” In an isolated region plagued by gang-related and drug violence, Orth says that One Laptop Per Child is making a big difference to children’s education. According to her, computer and English skills are essential to helping children compete in the global market. She also says that the laptop keeps children interested because they view activities as a game, and it teaches them responsibility because they take it home.
I think that maybe the key to OLPC’s success at Orth’s school in Colombia is that they design their own curriculum and put a lot of emphasis on teacher training. These are traits that make Orth’s school different from other places where OLPC has been implemented. Despite One Laptop Per Child’s many flaws, Orth’s on-the-ground perspectives shows that it can be successful in improving children’s education in developing countries if it is implemented in the right way, such as keeping the emphasis on teachers and being aware of the local context.