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Peru’s Ambitious Laptop Program Gets Mixed Grades

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“It’s been difficult for many teachers to adapt to them,” said Graciela Martinez, the school’s technology coordinator.

Many of teacher Magnus Fajardo’s second-graders struggled when he took them to computer lab and asked them to write, sequentially, the numbers from 200 to 300 on their laptops.

The children knew their numbers but few knew their laptops. Less bashful children asked a visiting reporter for help. They wanted to know how to advance to a new line, how to increase the font size.

In the higher grades, Martinez said, children’s use of the machines is mostly social. They have Internet, and Facebook is big. So are online games.

“For them, the laptop is more for playing than for learning,” she says.

Educators say that’s a clear sign the children haven’t been properly introduced either to the Internet or to what is on the machines.

Negroponte thinks the main goal should be simply getting computers into poor kids’ hands. Last year he proposed parachuting table computers from helicopters and he has begun a pilot project in two Ethiopian villages to test whether tablets alone, loaded with the right software, can teach children to read.

There are about 100 million kids without schools, without access to literate adults, and I would like to explore a way to get tablets to them in a manner that does not need “educators” to go to the village,” he said via email.

The OLPC team always considered Internet connectivity part of the recipe for success. They also insisted each child be given a laptop and be permitted to take it home.

Uruguay, a small, flat country with a far higher standard of living, has honored those requirements and achieved ubiquitous Internet access in the process. Peru did not.

Becerra said trade-offs were necessary because it would have cost $1.2 billion to provide all 6 million children in Peru’s elementary schools with laptops. Rural schools, beginning with those where a single teacher manages multiple grades, got priority.

But those schools’ very remoteness complicated matters.

Some parents, mistakenly believing themselves the laptops’ owners, tried to sell the machines, Becerra said.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Aug 1st, 2012 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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