OLPC alone, not enough to improve education
A 15 month study of 319 primary schools in rural Peru by the Inter-American Development bank (IDB) has concluded that the One Laptop per Child project is not enough, at least on its own, to improve educational outcomes. This is believed to be the first evaluation of OLPC that looks at student learning and was performed by taking 320 schools of which 210 were randomly selected to get OLPC-XO laptops.
The results showed dramatically increased computer usage both at school and at home in the groups with XOs; 82% reported using a computer at school and 42% at home, compared to the control group's 26% and 4%. Internet use was harder to evaluate though because few of the schools had access.
But, the researchers found no improvements in learning in maths or languages; a result that didn't surprise them as there was no attempt to integrate the laptops into the curriculum and no software for maths or languages was included on the laptops. They also found no increase in attendance, homework time, increased motivation, better reading habits or any effect on the quality of instruction. They did, though, find some benefits on general cognitive skills.
The results have raised questions about the effectiveness of the OLPC programme and whether it or not it is better to provide laptops or better training for teachers and reduced class sizes. The IDB report offers a first data point for consideration.