1 comments posted · 0 followers · following 0

619 weeks ago @ Educational Technology... - Are ICTs the Best Educ... · 1 reply · +1 points

Greetings. By way of introduction, I can lay claim to being perhaps the earliest and most persistent critics of the One Laptop Per Child program. My opening commentary, from November 2005 entitled "Some Problems with the $100 Laptop", can easily be found through search engines, and starts a thread of comments indexed under "OLPC commentary" on the blog. Other comments may be found in the archives of OLPC News.

One might surmise from this description that my response to the salient question would be a firm negative, but this is not the case. I believe that there is a significant role to be played in education by ICT, but that the primary focus must not be placed on simple design and delivery of technology. Rather, the technology must fit into the economic and social environment and be generally seen as beneficial by the community. The necessary skills for use and maintenance must be not be hoarded and materials required for support and maintenance must be available from more than one source.

It is my opinion that such requirements can be met through the kind of application I call "One Telecentre Per Village" (q.v.), in which ICT provides immediate telecommunications capability in support of village economic life, with involvement of students in the system operation. This configuration and application would provide the necessary infrastructural support for educational use but would not be sufficient in that the educational applications and courseware would still need to be provided and/or developed.

The problem of creating such courseware and applications requires participation and involvement by educators in not only the user countries but at an even more local level, in my opinion. Such work is just getting under way in some of the OLPC pilot projects (established in direct contravention of the original OLPC policy and only when the project had to abandon its original top-down morphology), with OLPC Nepal being perhaps the most advanced.

My argument can be summarized in the statement that ICT, like all technology, exists within a social matrix which must accept it in order that it might function. This acceptance cannot be secured by fiat and cannot be assumed from mere non-opposition. As a designer I of course see this as a design problem, and a difficult one given that the problem cannot be solved without great interaction between the community of users and the designers.

This might seem to be a pessimistic outlook, but I am in fact optimistic, given the history of radical redesign of computers and their infrastructure that has taken place in the last 35 years, under no centralized leadership. We have done it before, and we should not shrink from this next necessary step in making the benefits of the technology available on a large and significant scale.