5 minute read

Like most in the OLPC community, Ivan Krstić's discussion on the OLPC yesterday left me (almost) speechless, and even Wayan at OLPCNews left it mostly as a repost of Ivan's essay, and slashdot is, well, talking about Australian government issues it seems.

The important parts - 1:1 laptop programs have no studies supporting that they work at all:
As far as I know, there is no real study anywhere that demonstrates constructionism works at scale. There is no documented moderate-scale constructionist learning pilot that has been convincingly successful; when Nicholas points to "decades of work by Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, and Jean Piaget", he's talking about theory. He likes to mention Dakar, but doesn't like to mention how that pilot ended — or that no real facts about the validity of the approach came out of it. And there sure as hell doesn't exist a peer-reviewed study (or any other kind, to my knowledge) showing free software does any better than proprietary software when it comes to aiding learning, or that children prefer the openness, or that they care about software freedom one bit.

Free/Open software is often buggier (by fault of hardware manufacturers) and therefore harder to use, and is not some magic solution to creating constructionist learning using technology

The real insight here is this:
There are three key problems in one-to-one computer programs: choosing a suitable device, getting it to children, and using it to create sustainable learning and teaching experiences. They're listed in order of exponentially increasing difficulty.

OLPC managed the first one, and well, and seems to have opened up interest in the low-cost, "4P" market in general. Deployment and implementation have been, from day one, ignored by OLPC, and I as well as Wayan at OLPCNews have been hitting on the desperate need for implementation plans over and over and over again. It seems like this grand-canyon sized oversight finally got to be too much for some of the core members:

Other than the incredible Carla Gomez-Monroy who worked on setting up the pilots, there was no one hired to work on deployment while I was at OLPC, with Uruguay’s and Peru’s combined 360,000 laptop rollout in progress. I was parachuted in as the sole OLPC person to deal with Uruguay, and sent to Peru at the last minute. And I’m really good at thinking on my feet, but what the shit do I know about deployment? Right around that time, Walter was demoted and theoretically made the “director of deployment,” a position where he directed his expansive team of — himself. Then he left, and get this: now the company has half a million laptops in the wild, with no one even pretending to be officially in charge of deployment. “I quit,” Walter told me on the phone after leaving, “because I can’t continue to work on a lie.”

[...] That OLPC was never serious about solving deployment, and that it seems to no longer be interested in even trying, is criminal. Left uncorrected, it will turn the project into a historical fuckup unparalleled in scale.

I put it better myself.</p>

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