The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative has published a response to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) that found kids given the program's signature PC didn't learn much and spent less time reading. The study, available here (PDF) , is titled Home Computers and Child Outcomes: Short-Term Impacts from a …
My nieces are from Uruguay where the OLPC computer is highly utilized in the educational system. It has enabled them to become familiar with computers in a functional way and has been very good for them. Granted they have good parental oversight and are greatly encouraged to use it to learn with.
I guess that last sentence says it all. If kids are encouraged to use a computer in a useful way they will. If parents just want it to be a babysitter then I guess that mind numbing "entertainment" IS all it is good for. Like all computer/kid issues, it boils down to the parents.
It all depends on what kind of usage limits the children have. That's down to parental responsibility. If you just leave them to it without supervision don't be surprised if they learn nothing except the lyrics from a Bieber song.
But surely the educational advantage is not so much in learning the lyrics, as in learning how to find and learn the lyrics. The latter is akin to learning how to use a library, which is generally regarded as a basic academic skill.
Some would argue that learning popular songs is an entertaining way to exercise memory, much the same as nursery rhymes, poetry, etc. Even if I would masochistically replace these cultural icons with the periodic table, Newton's Laws and Maxwell’s Equations.
Research. That's the point.
A single limited study that wasn't actually testing for the specific conclusion that was drawn, has been taken as evidence for what a particular group believe and want us to believe (right or wrongly).
I'm afraid a lot of educational research and the policy that is built upon it is like that. Find a single study that can be stretched to support what people want to believe and use it to justify doing what you already wanted to do. And if you really want to put a lid on it you can then make sure that the only research that gets funded is research that won't challenge the original conclusion.
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It's a good start
"... children in the OLPC project in this country have an advantage on average of 5 months in the development of their cognitive abilities with respect to children who have not been helped by the program.”
I think that any group of children who are involved in any kind of project, with adult supervision and external academic study, would show improved cognitive ability compared to children who were not. This would be due to taking part in a long term challenging/interesting activity and having the support of sympathetic and interested adults.
The question to be asked is, "does giving them a laptop have any advantages over any other kind of educational development aid?"
As for their reading activities, they need to learn to enjoy reading in the first place and that is a totally separate issue. After they 'get into' reading, then free e-books (various methods and arrangements possible) could easily be provided for their laptop.
Since I got internet access at home I read fewer books, it's not like the day suddenly got more hours, let alone more free time.
But what were they doing with the OLPCs?
Maybe they were reading ebooks?
After all, what's special about reading books? It depends what the book is about. Is reading things on t'internet not reading? Does it have less value? Like the books, it depends what they are reading.
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