The Inter-American Development Bank and the One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC) will finance a pilot project to test whether one-to-one computing can improve teaching and learning in schools in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
OLPC makes the XO laptop, a low-cost computer designed for children in places with poor infrastructure. The rugged machine, which uses open-source software, can be powered with car batteries, solar panels or devices such as cranks, pedals and pull-cords.
The IDB will make a US$3 million grant for the pilot project, which will distribute XO laptops to some 13,200 students and 500 teachers in 60 Haitian primary schools. OLPC will contribute US$2 million to the project.
"As one of the poorest countries in the world, deployment in Haiti has always been an important goal for OLPC," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child. "Doing it with our long standing partner, the Inter-American Development Bank, not only makes for the best team, but also a model for other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America."
The IDB’s project team leader, Emma Näslund-Hadley, said: "We have studies about the impact of computer labs and shared computers in the classroom, but there's never been a comprehensive evaluation of the learning model based on giving each child a laptop. This is crucial to determine the effectiveness of this model under conditions of extreme poverty and as a tool for accelerating learning."
The pilot project will assess how a child-centered learning technology can be used to bridge problems such as the shortage of qualified teachers and educating children of different grades in the same classroom. Another major priority for the Haitian government is speeding up the learning process for students who enter school late or repeat grades.
Under the project, content including text books, movies, audio files and electronic documents, will be translated into Creole and applications will be developed for subjects such as reading and writing, numerical literacy and problem solving, environmental studies and social skills.
Training will be provided for teachers and students to operate the laptops and carry out basic maintenance and trouble-shooting tasks. More complex repairs will be handled by students in vocational training schools or local information technology advisors.
UNESCO’s Regional Office on Education in Latin America and the Caribbean will conduct standardized mathematics and language tests before and after the pilot project to evaluate its performance from a quantitative standpoint.
For a qualitative evaluation, classroom practices will be continuously observed to gauge whether one-to-one computing affects attitudes and behaviors regarding school management, how families value education, the use of laptops at home and the perceived educational progress of students.
The pilot project will also help Haiti assess the requirements to design and launch a national one-to-one computing strategy that could eventually spread through the entire primary school system.
OLPC laptops are already being used in education programs in two other IDB borrowing member countries, Peru and Uruguay, which recently announced they were expanding their programs.