Guest Post – Benefits and Disadvantages of the One Laptop Program

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 OLPC XO3 proposed offering

The OLPC XO3 proposed offering

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.

We are all “selling” something

Ladies Market, Hong Kong

Ladies Market, Hong Kong

I love my job. It takes me into many classrooms around my region where I try to  engage with students using ICT. Without trying to sound “cocky”, I can’t recall a classroom where I have left the students less than buzzing after the lesson. I also spend a good deal of time with groups of teachers, working with them and assisting them to use powerful tools in ways that are relevant and inform their teaching. I try and draw on my experience of 25+ years in schools as teacher and administrator when assisting other teachers.

For most of my working life I have done the above in the employ of a single school, although like a lot of my colleagues I have sometimes been contracted to other bodies to do presentations and workshops. I now work full time for a private entity that has an extremely popular e-learning portal for Mathematics. The company is committed to schools and teachers rather than parents and tutors and it is anything but hard sell. To me this is a fantastic job as I live and work my passion, schools using appropriate 21C tools, and I am working with many schools who are committed to making positive change in the lives of children.

Interesting for me that recently a school that I was working  with me that they had not replied to my email because they “get a lot of offers from vendors and they would do nothing but reply if they responded to them all”. I am not talking about a bulk email, it was a personal one following up on an enquiry from a teacher.

I have to say I was a bit taken aback by this. The school in question is a fee-paying school that does promote its services to parents.

I know that in the region I work and live there are a lot of wheeler-dealers but I would like to think that the relationship building I have done with schools over the last 6 years in the region sets me apart somewhat. Yes – I do sell product and I do rely on schools buying the product for my livelihood but I do not spam, I don’t badger and I spend the majority of my time in schools were they have already purchased so I do not need to try to sell to them anyway.

I have to admit to trying to “sell ideas” though. As a teacher, I feel that I have always done that. When I first started teaching I worked with Aboriginal kids from the North West of Australia who were sent to a mission in Perth to “get a modern education.” These kids were often lonely and quite sad. Understandably they missed their families. I had to “sell” to them the idea that a good education would give them a better future.  In the same way I have been forced to “sell” the idea to kids that learning the first 20 elements of the periodic table off by heart was going to get them a grade on a paper and allow them to have a life of greater choice in learning, whether they ever used the elements for anything beyond a quiz night in their lives or not 🙂

I think that we all sell ideas, especially teachers. I think our blogs and our tweets are an example of us selling ourselves and our products – ideas. Sure the exchange of money may not be as transparent, but I would have to say that a good number of the teachers I know who blog and tweet have somewhere at the back of their minds that they might be able to be noticed more and that may have some “payoff” in the future.

All that is to say, be kind to the next “Vendor” who is making a genuine offer. We are all (Mostly) human too 🙂

Image: Ladies Market in Hong Kong

Transforming Classrooms One at a Time

It has been a long, long time since the last post, something that I have been acutely aware of! As any reader can gather from previous posts, there has been a lot going on in my life that has kept me from the keyboard. Not the least of these is this little time-consumer 🙂

The performer

The performer

Probably a bigger reason is the change of working life that I have had in the last 6 months or so now that I work full-time for Mathletics.

I have got to say that I may have thought that working for someone else was going to reduce the opportunities that I had to influence what happens in classrooms in schools in the Asian region. My experience to date is that I am in more classrooms than I ever have been in and I feel like I have a lot more opportunity to make a difference.

I just love the way that Mathematics is the hook for a lot of teachers into the use of technology as it really does lend itself to online support and when teachers see how easy it is to implement assessment for learning via online tracking and how easy it is to differentiate and ensure appropriate levels of challenge and engagement, you can almost see the lightbulb moment taking place in front of your eyes!

As I write this, I am conscious of the huge number of registrations for World Maths Day taking place. I really hope that teachers encourage students to engage in this as classes and get an idea of what is possible in terms of collaboration and challenge with the site.


Handmade Christmas card

Handmade Christmas card

OK, this is totally stolen from the oz teacher list from someone called Rachel. It is just too good to not get out to you ASAP! Forgive me Rachel, whoever you are.

Use a PAINT program to
1. Illustrate a story e.g. Read the story of the nativity at (Students illustrate a scene using paint (or for upper primary ).
These could be printed and / or combined into a Photostory with student narration.
2. Upper primary could also use to make Christmas cards.

Set up a class blog ( ) or wiki ( ) to discuss a Christmas topic of your class’s choice. Eg. Family Christmas traditions, Christmas around the world.

Take your own photos, ask students to bring some from home, or find pictures from the website (referencing of course!) and:
. Make a Photostory
. Choose an activity on such as ‘mosaic maker’,’
jigsaw’, ‘magazine cover’, ‘cube’ maker, and my personal fave ‘motivator’.

Students write then record (could use audacity) their own podcast. E.g.
Retell a well known Christmas story; or write and record a radio play.

Use to create Christmas word clouds. Could be turned into Christmas cards or simply displayed around classroom.

Go to , where students can select a design, add text and music, and to a recipient.

A collection of Christmas teaching resources is available at:

Added by another teacher: I use Animoto
free for educators

Photo: Handmade Christmas card

Change of Direction

Readers of this blog will know that the last few years of my life have been an immensely rewarding but often frustrating time for me as I have gone about trying to work with schools to support 21st Century Learning in a region where many schools are still so predominantly textbook and examination driven. Whilst I have really enjoyed working with a lot of different schools in different parts of the world to support initiatives like 1:1 programmes, the setting up of Virtual Learning Environments, wireless projectors and tablet PCs and much more, it has been a struggle to manage my time and my requests from schools to ensure that I have a steady, reliable income. The words “feast or famine” spring to mind here.
I have recently been having discussions with the company 3P Learning, a Sydney based company that have an enormously successful online mathmatics programme called “Mathletics“. Initially those discussions were about representing the company as an agent in the Asian region but it quickly became evident that the company is exploding in the region and needed a full-time person. After a bit of negotiation surrounding me still being able to carry out my role of organising the 21st Century Learning @ Hong Kong Conference and a few other small things, I have just signed a contract to represent 3P Learning in Asia as a Regional Manager.
I am very excited about this prospect as it enables me to still build my relationship with international schools in the Asian region whilst at the same time, have a reliable income to be able to contribute to the household expenses such as my new daughter’s education. This is an area I have been sadly deficient in of late!
Please drop me a line or a comment if you want to know more about Mathletics as I really am excited about the product which I see as meeting a lot of the needs of schools and teachers just beginning to make a foray into a blended learning approach, I look forward to getting to more International Schools in the Asian region and getting them to use the product effectively.

Photo: Fork in the road

Websites I Tagged Recently (weekly)

  • An outstanding video made by Eleanor Kettley-Tomlinson!

    Eleanor has produced this video on daily routine in French. It is unbelieveable – click the link to take a look for yourself!

    tags: French, video, secondlife

  • Each Monday, Wednesday, & Friday a new wordle will be posted for you and your students to view.

    Each wordle will have a TOPIC and you will need to use your diciphering skills to figure out exactly what that topic is.

    Then by using the google form, you are invited to share what you think that topic is.

    You are also invited to create your own WORDLE and send it to me (jenuinetech (at) gmail (dot) com) You will be given full credit for your creation!!

    tags: wordle, game, web2.0, wiki

  • Today I moderated a very good panel at a conference, and while this experience is fresh in my mind, I want to explain how to kick butt on a panel. At any given conference, there are about three keynote speakers and twenty five panelists, so the odds are much higher that you’ll be a panelist than a keynote speaker. Thus, I hope this entry appeals to a broader audience.

    Read more:

    tags: speaking, conference, panels, forums

  • Simple Ways To Showcase The Online You

    Personal Profile Bar

    Showcase all your web profiles at a single URL. learn more>>

    Personal Link ShortenerNEW!

    Includes value added statistics for others and a link to your homepage. learn more
    About UnHub

    We’re trying to make sharing your online presence simple and effective. To learn more, click here.

    tags: socialnetworking, Tools, aggregator, web2.0

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Websites I Tagged Recently (weekly)

  • The project involved classes with students from two or more schools who received teaching and learning through “live” interaction using video conferencing equipment and shared interactive whiteboards across the DET wide area network. The combination of these individually “mainstream” technologies created a motivating connected learning environment that was more powerful than the sum of the individual technology components.

    tags: IWB, collaboration, video

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

More on Learning Platforms

InquiryI have spent some time therefore reflecting on what a platform in a school that really gets 21st century learning and embeds challenge/inquiry based learning into all that they do might look like, especially in the middle years. I mention the middle school years as, in my experience, it is there where more often than not the struggle between motivating students and appeasing parent expectations of homework, rigour and a modality that they perceived as being best for the teachers they had, comes into conflict.
Indeed, the disconnect between what a teacher is looking to do with 21st century learning and parental expectations of more traditional “read pages 1 to 10, do exercise 1 to 4” style of teaching is often cited as the reason that teachers do put so many worksheets on a platform accessible by the parents.

So, if a school is committed to such noble things as Individual Learning Programmes, Assessment for Learning, portfolio assessment, “just in time”, as opposed to “just in case” learning, etc., how would this be evident to someone who had access to the school portal?

I am interested in your thoughts.

Photo: Inquiry

Websites I Tagged Recently (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.