Monday, March 10, 2014

Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World's Poor?

While reading the case studies presented by Joanna Goode in "The digital identity divide: how technology knowledge impacts college students," I came across the section in which the author mentions the constructivist view that access to technology is the only barrier to social inequality (p 501). This portion really resonated with me, and I couldn't help but think of the One Laptop Per Child program that was once so popular, and wondering about its outcomes.

After doing a quick search in the UW Library and Information Studies database, I came across an article by Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames from a 2010 issue of the Journal of International Affairs entitled "Can one Laptop Per Child Save the World's Poor?" In the article, Warschauer and Ames point to examples in which donors ordered sets of laptops for students in low socioeconomic settings, expecting the children to take the technology and instantly "run with it."

However, most of the findings show that the laptops did not make much of an impact in the students' academic skills, and there was a lack of knowledgeable adults who could provide the scaffolding necessary for the students to construct their own meanings from the technology (p. 44-45). This echoes what Goode presents in her article- that digital divides are perhaps first a question of identity, and then a question of access. And while no one would argue the philanthropic merit of exposing kids in need to the increasingly globalized technological network, Warschauer and Ames make an excellent case for priroitizing which needs should first be addressed:

"The poorest countries targeted by OLPC cannot afford laptop computers for all their children and would be better off building schools, training teachers, developing curricula, providing books and subsidizing attendance."


Works Consulted:
Goode, J. The digital identity divide: how technology impacts college students.
New Media & Society, 2010, Vol.12(3), pp.497-513

Warschauer, M. , & Ames, M. (2010). Can one laptop per child save the world's poor?. Journal of International Affairs, 64(1), 33-54.

1 comment:

  1. Guess what? In a "digital divides and differences" class I taught some years back, we purchased one of the first generation One Laptop Per Child machines. It's lurking around the SLIS library somewhere if you would like to try it out.


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