One-per-child laptops flop in Peru

Five years ago Peru partnered with One Laptop Per Child to give low-cost laptops to 800,000 public school students, writes Innosight’s Michael Horn. Digital technology was supposed to improve learning and fight poverty. The $200 million initiative “has largely been a flop.”

In an eSchool News story, one person “wonders if it may have even widened the gaps between rich and poor students in the country,” Horn notes.

Ouch.

Yet this was entirely predictable ahead of time.

. . . Technology by itself does not transform anything in any sector. What tends to matter far more is the model in which the technology is used.

The One Laptop Per Child initiative in particular gathered significant publicity and hype for its admirable goals, but people implementing it in many countries appeared not to have thought through the professional development teachers would need or, even more importantly, a redesign of the schooling model itself to leverage the considerable benefits that digital learning can deliver.

The U.S. spent well over $60 billion to equip classrooms with computers with little to show for it, Horn writes.  A potentially disruptive technology has been used to sustain the existing education model, not to transform it.

There is a long history of schools using technologies to, in effect, sustain the chalkboard and prop up the 20th-century factory model classroom with the teacher in front of 20 to 30 students of the same age. The recent hype over electronic white boards has been only the latest incarnation of this.

“Districts spending wildly on iPads and other devices should take note” of technology’s limits, concludes Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class