Tag Archives: teacher training

OLPC in Colombia: A Different Perspective

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.


The Digital StudyHall Project: mediated virtual education

This week our class read a efficacy study of The Digital Study Hall (DSH), a program of facilitated video instruction for government primary schools in North India (“Facilitated Video Instruction in Low Resource Schools”, Anderson et al). The project is an interesting conglomeration of video ICT technology, teacher training, administrative support and foreign aid.

The Digital StudyHall website describes the project like this:

“We digitally record live classes by the best grassroots teachers, transmit them on the “Postmanet” (effected by DVDs sent in the postal system), collect them in a large distributed database, and distribute them on DVDs to poor rural and slum schools.

The program emphasizes teacher training to improve quality of education. The videos are meant provide teachers with inspiration for teachers. The other purpose of the videos is for “mediation-based pedagogy” in which a mediator facilitates in-class student interaction with the videos (role-playing activities, working on the board, etc.)

Digital StudyHall utilizes “light-tech” equipment such as TV’s, DVD players, camcorders, the postal system and cell phones as well as “higher-tech” operations like databases and DVD burning robots.

The Digital StudyHall is funded by a mix of individuals, NGO organizations, foreign and domestic government bodies and for-profit companies including: Intel Labs, Ashoka, Microsoft, National Science Foundation, University of Washington, Google, and others.

In Anderson et al.’s analysis of the Digital StudyHall program, administrative and teacher support as well as theft of equipment proved to impede successful continuation of the  program. In all, I think this program is a great model for the incorporation of easily available and easy-to-use ICT equipment to address educational development.

Open Learning Exchange Nepal

OLE Nepal (Open Learning Exchange) is “s a social benefit organization dedicated to enhancing teaching-learning in schools through the integration of technology and to provide uniform access to quality educational materials across different geographic areas and socio-economic strata”

The organization emphasizes that ICT education should not be the end, but a means to the end. OLE Nepal uses technology to teach mathematics, science and English.

In 2008, OLE Nepal implemented the controversial One Laptop Per Child Program. As of this year, the program operates in 34 schools and has impacted 4,000 students. OLE Nepal has ensured that every school is equipped with digital library and interactive resources and, most importantly, power backup. Lack of reliable access to electricity is a major problem in both rural and urban Nepal. Additionally, OLE Nepal conducts teacher training using the XO computers from the OLPC initiative.

Teacher training is one of the main goals of OLE Nepal. They state that, “Unless teachers are fully comfortable and confident with this new approach to teaching, the initiative will have limited impact on the teaching-learning process.” (OLE Nepal Project)

Perhaps cooperation among existing education organizations, teachers and the OLPC program can improve the success of the program? Among the many flaws of the OLPC program is a lack of infrastructure and human resource support. It seems OLE Nepal has attempted to address some of these issues and remains optimistic about ICT use in education.


Pinterest for Education

Although we discussed some of the most basic and widely used ICTs for education during our class presentation, there is another interesting ICT tool that is used by many teachers in the US that may be useful in other areas of the world.  Pinterest is a very new and unique ICT tool that allows people to share links to blogs, images, and various resources available online in an organized way.  People use pinterest to find and organize internet resources that are of interest to them and to share them with their social networks.  Recently, teachers have discovered the amazing benefits of using pinterest.  If you go to pinterest and search for boards entitled “teacher” you will see all of these results. Teachers use pinterest to share teaching methods, lesson plans, multimedia teaching resources, and links to teacher blogs.  This is a unique and interesting use of an ICT to improve the quality of education and skills of teachers through collaboration, communication, democratization of information, and technology.  Now, there are even blog posts on well-known teacher blogs — such as this one on edutopia.org — that provides an overview of how to use pinterest for education, so that teachers who aren’t familiar with pinterest can learn how to take advantage of this new tool.  This new type of collaboration has greatly helped teachers in the U.S., and I wonder if this is an ICT that could be used to improve education and teacher training in the developing world.  Obviously internet penetration and computer access, language barriers, lack of culturally relevant material, and the considerations that are important for any ICT for education project would need to be addressed.  However, this certainly an interesting possibility for the future once the primary technology needs have been addressed.

ICT Teacher Training

When researching whether or not Tanzania has adopted OLPC I came across a statement from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training who said in 2009, “We are still far from reaching that level where every child could be provided with a laptop, in fact most teachers do not have the knowledge, therefore we want to train teachers first” (olpcnews).

I thought this was a very smart statement. When going over OLPC in class we discussed how many of the pitfalls started from how the teachers had no incentive to incorporate ICT into their lessons because they were not given laptops, they were not ICT literate, and they had no incentive to become ICT literate. So, the children were mostly using the laptops for games, as they were not introduced/regularly used in their classrooms. Focusing on training teachers in ICTs is a more important first step in my mind, so that if a project like this was ever to be introduced into the country the teachers would actually know how to use the technology and actually incorporate it into their lessons.

After further research I came across an article on an initiative that focuses on ICT teacher training in Tanzania. This project aims at implementing ICT into all teacher-training colleges in the country, in order to improve access and quality of education into the country. The goals of this project are to, “i) integrate the use of ICT to achieve educational objectives, (ii) facilitate the use of ICT resources in schools and (iii) facilitate development and use of ICT as a pedagogical tool for teaching and learning” (ictinteachereducation) From doing our short paper 1 I recalled that an important part of Tanzania’s ICT policy was involving teachers in the ICT process too.

In 2010,  The East African Community(including Tanzania), signed a memo of understanding to incorporate OLPC into primary education in their schools; hopefully they did not abandon their original thinking about how crucial it is for teachers to be ICT literate first before the children receive laptops to be used in their classrooms (olpcnews).

OLPC: A Feasible Program?

If I had to choose one word to describe the OLPC initiative in the developing world it would have to be overzealous.

The main reason why the United States and other developed countries have been able to take advantage of the spur of advancements in technology is not only because of their influences in effectively improving the efficiency of varying sectors relative to societal needs, but because we crave them. We are a consumer society obsessed with having the newest edition and most updated version of every knick and knack that proves useful or amusing to our every day lives. We desire the latest, the best, and the fastest, even if it doesn’t make sense to have either of the three. These attributes, which many people living in the developed world are the least bit of necessities, are what differentiate us from the developing world, and thus the lack success of ICT implementation. This case is especially true in the education where programs like OLPC, though a great idea on paper and in theory, are failing.

The article WILL CARIBBEAN ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD PROJECTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE? by Russell Williams describes the current situation with the implementation of OLPC in the Caribbean Islands. The result: like countless developers have observed before, a program cannot be efficient or effective if it is in an area that does not see it necessary. What makes programs thrive is the mutual benefit that the user and system both receive from the implementation. Successful programs are implemented because of the request of individuals or a community to have a program or resource made available to them. And it is that motivation that separates the useful products from the unproductive. According to Rogers, ICTs being handed out in the Caribbean where demand is low, resources (both financial and electrical) are scarce, and the purpose is far from understood is a waste of time and money. What’s worse is how in many areas the relative size of the program is too small to even impact the country on a minor scale, soiling the investment by taking money away from the educational programs that could instead be utilized in developing the infrastructure and teacher training of and in schools to more directly adhere to the problem.

In another development article about OLPC, OLPC in Peru: A Problematic Una Laptop Por Niño Program, Christopher Derndorfer writes, “Uruguay’s 400,000 XOs result in full saturation of the country’s public primary school system whereas Peru’s 300,000 only cover a small double-digit percentage of its primary school pupils” making the true execution of “one laptop per child” far from a reality.

Developers need to start readily examining the cultural and societal considerations necessary for this kind of program to not just be implemented but successful in the developing world. Otherwise, the objectives of these programs are put to question, and the question becomes: for whose benefit are these organizations really working?