Inter-American Development Bank researchers were less polite.
“There is little solid evidence regarding the effectiveness of this program,” they said in a study based on a look at 319 schools in small, rural Peruvian communities that got laptops.
“The magical thinking that mere technology is enough to spur change, to improve learning, is what this study categorically disproves,” co-author Eugenio Severin of Chile told The Associated Press.
The study found no increased math or language skills, no improvement in classroom instruction quality, no boost in time spent on homework, no improvement in reading habits.
On the positive side, the “dramatic increase in access to computers” accelerated by about six months students’ abstract reasoning, verbal fluency and speed in processing information, the report said.
A study in Ethiopian schools by Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, published last year in the journal Computers and Education, similarly indicated that OLPC laptops improved abstract reasoning.
The teachers in those schools had received extensive training in the laptops, which the researchers said introduced an “information-rich novelty” into an environment previously starved for learning material.
The laptops in Ethiopia, like those in Peru, were loaded with books, memory games, music composing software and other programs.
The Education Ministry official who ran Peru’s program until last year, Oscar Becerra, calls the abstract reasoning findings “spectacular” and disputes claims that the program has been a failure.
“We knew from the start that it wouldn’t be possible to improve the teachers,” he said, citing a 2007 census of 180,000 Peruvian teachers that showed more than 90 percent lacked basic math skills while three in five could not read above sixth-grade level.
Many of the teachers had never so much as booted up a computer. In Patzer’s experience “most of them barely knew how to interact with the computers at all.”
At the Jose Arguedas primary school in Lima’s gritty San Juan de Lurigancho neighborhood, 40 computers for its 570 students arrived nearly two years ago but few teachers have worked them into their lesson plans.<< previous 1 2 3 4 next >>