The One Laptop per Child project and the need for media literacy: The problems of technology led educational development
The One Laptop per Child project and theneed for media literacy: The problems oftechnology led educational developmentPresented at Media Literacy Conference – London Friday 19th - Saturday 20th November 2010<br />Dr Marcus Leaning<br />University of Winchester<br />
Introduction<br />Examine OLPC programme in relation to number of critical issues and particularly media literacy ones.<br />Background to the OLPC<br />Three critical areas:<br />OLPC and the issue of technological determinism<br />Ethical issues of ‘top-down’ solutions to poverty - the ‘Pro-Poor’ approach to education.<br />Concern of ‘technology-only’ mass media dissemination. <br />Call for a more ‘pre-poor’ approach to technology dissemination and more recognition of media literacy issues.<br />
The OLPC XO-1<br />Educational netbook produced for the developing world.<br />High spec.<br />Super tough.<br />Very cheap about $100 off the shelf.<br />
Numbers<br />Launched in 2005 at Davos with prototype at WSIS in Tunis.<br />Released in November ‘06.<br />As well as success, lots of problems: distribution; countries not committing in sufficient numbers; rivals; economic downturn.<br />OLPC *claims* over 1.8 million in the field as of August ‘10.<br />
Theoretical background<br />Ideas of using the laptop in education is based upon Papert’sconstructionism (a derivative of Piagetian informed constructivism). <br />We learn by building ‘things’.<br />Kay’s 1971 ‘Dynabook’ the educational computer.<br />Also healthy dose of e-book optimism.<br />
Critical issue No. 1Technological determinism<br />One big criticism has been that the OLPC understands itself as technological determinist (James, 2010; Leaning, 2010; Winston, 2007).<br />A specific technology will result in a specific outcome – lots of reasons why TD is problematic:<br />Technology not discreet – technology is part of culture, not clean.<br />Target environment is downplayed – TD ‘flattens difference’.<br />Unintended consequences – impact is not linear, technology is an ecosystem, one change impacts many areas.<br />
Technological determinism revisited… ongoing research<br />Is it this simple?<br />Analysis of Negroponte’s speeches reveals additional more subtle interpretation of TD – a ‘softer’ version.<br />Multipart account of domino transformation of social practices occurring at same time as hard changes to material conditions.<br />
Critical issue No. 2Top down aid…<br />OLPC runs against most ICT4D guidance.<br />Heek’s model:<br />Pro-poor – externally determined aid – we know what you need – least specific but most scalable<br />Para-poor – work alongside local agents in partnership – problems with political issues.<br />Pre-poor – locally initiated projects – most specific but least scalable.<br />
Colonial aid?<br />OLPC is a great almost textbook example of pro-poor aid.<br />A single solution regardless of local conditions.<br />Values external to contexts of use.<br />A big impact to change ‘faulty’ practice.<br />Developing world is problematic, should change to our way of doing things.<br />
Critical issue No. 3 Media education<br />Xo-1 is designed for the child user.<br />Interface and (somewhat limited) bundled software is educational. <br />One key principle of OLPC is internet connectivity – Negroponte argues (counter intuitively ) that network availability is not the problem – lots of networks, 3G wi-fi, etc.<br />It is having a means to connect that is the problem and is solved by OLPC.<br />Means that technology is divorced from content.<br />
Information literacy problems<br />Technology is only ever part of an educational system.<br />Must be integrated into programme (not have a programme structured around it).<br />Media and information literacy issues are NOT addressed.<br />Information literacy is more than technical competency – skills such as evaluation and analysis need to be considered.<br />
Media literacy problems <br />The network connectivity means that the OLPC is a media technology and that media literacy issues are also relevant.<br />XO-1 can deliver internet content.<br />Media education has long history in some countries and is none existent in others.<br />Even with (or because of) extensive experience of media and media literate populations media education is given high accord in many developed countries.<br />Means by which to deal with such content need to be considered with the XO-1.<br />Such issues need to be integrated into the dissemination of the technology and not simply appended (or not in many instances) to the ‘roll-out’.<br />
Conclusion and recommendations<br />OLPC a vast and ambitious project – very successful given its staffing base.<br />Recommendations:<br />Technology take a secondary role to soft less measurable issues.<br />An approach more sympathetic to local needs.<br />Technology be considered only as part of a project of education, media education vital as part of a system of media technology dissemination. <br />
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