Thursday, January 24, 2008

Can we compute our way to educational equality?

OLPC (one laptop per child) aims to create a $75 laptop. At the same time, Microsoft aims to create new opportunities for everyone through education by using software to create innovative learning experiences. With provision of TabletPC linked to wireless networks, they believe children can learn at their own pace.

It may be a coincidence that two associations announced very similar projects: using TabletPC or laptop. The implication of both of these projects is that educational inequality can be reduced through the provision of physical capital: computers with Internet connection. The problem, however, is not limited to technologies per se. Teachers with different backgrounds use technologies in different ways. Meskill, Mossop, DiAngelo, and Pasquale found that some novice teachers even used opportunities to use computers as a punishment and reinforcement. Thus, the problem is how to integrate technologies into in-class teaching.

I am not sure whether these projects have curriculum design of which teachers may take advantage or not. So let’s wait and see what these ambitious projects may contribute to the world.



Femi said...

I recently had a discussion with someone at party about this very topic, using technology to self-pace education. I immediately thought of two things. What about those that can't afford the technology to participate in the self-paced vision? While as a nation we work to provide our citizens with at least the bare minimum there are still households that do not have enough food! So, I am unsure of our ability to provide computers for all the children that need them.
Secondly, how will children develop social skills? I'm already weary of homeschooling because it decreases the opportunities for children to interact with eachother and self-paced instruction with computers only decreases these opportunities further. On second thought after exploring (through class readings and discussions) what kids are being socialized into maybe homeschooling and/or self-paced instruction isn't so bad. Sorry Dewey!

chinhsi said...

I agree with Femi. Hopefully this project will succeed, but I really doubt it. There are some critical problems about these computers. Moreover, we don't know how these kids and teachers will take advantage of new technologies. Technology is not panacea. Another concern is how sustainable the project is. After this project, how can we help children in less-developed countries?