My mad and busy life has prevented me from posting for some time so, when from out of the blue, an email arrives asking if I accept Guest Posts, I have to admit that I was pretty keen. Natalie Hunter is the proposer and seemed to comply with the caveat’s I gave her so here is her Brief Bio:
Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.
Here is what she has written. Comments, as always, greatly appreciated.
Benefits and Disadvantages of the One Laptop Program
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) inspired education program, One Laptop Per Child, is an admirable project. The principles upon which this program was established have been acknowledged by governments, educators, and organizations that fight poverty and inequality. In theory, this program will benefit untold numbers of children and will furnish them with positive advantages in their lives.
What could be wrong with a program designed to provide every school-aged child, throughout the world, with a laptop of their own? Every child, regardless of race, gender or financial or social status, would be equipped under the One Laptop Program with a tool that has the potential to expand their knowledge exponentially, through use of computer-based tools and access to the internet.
In the vision of this plan, the giant hole of poverty would no longer keep many children from reaching their full learning potential. Children in less affluent countries would be able to utilize tools that could enhance their reading and writing skills, even though they may not be a part of online schools, giving them the opportunity for developing the basic skills essential to succeeding in the work-force and in life. These basic communications aptitudes will enable children to compete in the job market while keeping abreast of ever changing technology.
These children represent the future of their respective countries, but also, the future of our planet. Through the “World Wide Web” they can gain understanding of the different cultures around the world. They gain knowledge of other governments and how they work. They can form international networks and feel connected to others from around the globe.
Computers can bring people into contact with one another. This fosters the free exchange of ideas; it helps to ignite a passion for learning and it is the means for growth and maturation. Individual interests in a subject, such as music, art or science, become the reality, rather than the dream, of education with computer software. These benefits and advantages are just the tip of a long list of dramatic results that can be achieved from this program. Is a program based upon noble principle, but what is required for these blessings to become real?
Gayle Laakmann McDowell expressed her concerns and reasons for not supporting the one laptop program. She saw for herself that it was common occurrance for the internet not to be available, curtailing student efforts to use them as a learning tool resource while visiting Mayange, a rural village in Rwanda. She and others believe that this is not a cost effective program; a more productive arrangement, in her opinion, would be to provide laptops per family or establish a computer lab, based at school. This plan would offer more support for the children trying to use their new technology, and provide online educational resources for less money.
Venezuela inaugurated the One Laptop program in 2009; it has provided more than 750,000 laptops. President Hugo Chavez stated, “I plan to issue 3 million laptops by 2012.” The Venezuelan government believes that children’s natural curiosity will propel them towards a greater interest in learning. Computer technology coupled with access to the internet will offer children the opportunity to have unlimited resources at their fingertips.
Fortunately, Venezuela realizes that the key to this programs success is teacher training. The one-to-one program will need constant monitoring and updating, before it can meet its proposed objectives. Some potential problems have already surfaced; many of the children, who have received laptops, do not understand how to use them. Another problem that has come to the forefront is the exclusion of state schools from the teacher-training program.
Deomira, sister of the former opposition governor, suggested establishing school-based computer labs and providing teacher training for all schools. In the Miami Herald article, Miss Deomira told the reporter that these changes would optimize the original intent of the program.
The One Laptop Per Child Program, that was considered to be the panacea for inequality and educational deprivation, among the world’s children, failed to produce the expected results. There are inherent flaws in the original plan that had initially gone unnoticed. The program creators failed to take into account that children, as well as teachers, were not adequately trained to use this wondrous research tool. This program might also countermand other established programs which promote positive changes. As it stands now, it seems almost impossible for this program to succeed, only if it is revised and the problems are addressed will the program have the positive effect originally intended.