Last modified on 5 July 2009, at 20:21

One-to-One Laptop Schools/Australia


OLPC AUSTRALIAEdit

IntroductionEdit

This is 100% an education project not a laptop project, was a statement by Jeff Waugh (2008), a board of director member of OLPC Australia[1] . OLPC should in essence be a constructivist ideology because it customizes student learning experiences. To effectively enhance student learning experiences, scaling up constructivist instruction will create a system wide revamp of instructional technology approaches. Australia’s OLPC program has created a constructivist system that enhances student learning by providing children access to laptops, open-source software, and internet connectivity. Dede (2005), a leading academic in the field, is a supporter of the relationship between constructivism and technology. He affirmed that technology is not the object of learning, rather, it supports teaching and learning [2]. Australia’s OLPC initiative combines constructivism and technology to form a platform that augments education. Research performed by Wenglinsky (2005) pointed out that learning consists of three pieces, the teacher, the student, and the medium; and it is not possible to separate one from the other[3]. The medium for this discussion is the XO laptop provided by the Australian Government. Through the constructivism platform, Australia’s OLPC presents to its students the chance to succeed in the classroom.

MissionEdit

According to Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen (2008), the proper use of technology as a platform for learning offers a chance to modularize the system and thereby customize learning…student-centric learning opens the door for students to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the paces they prefer by combining content in customized sequences[4]. In essence, he is speaking about the application of constructivism as a tool to enhance learning with technology. This is the excerpt from Australia’s OLPC (2009) website that explains how they want this program to work in the country:

"OLPC Australia's mission is to create educational opportunities for the country's disadvantaged children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low power, connected laptop (the XO) whose hardware and software have been designed especially for kids. As in many other developed nations, there are stark differences in the quality of life experienced in Australian rural and remote regions (heavily populated by indigenous people) and metropolitan areas. This has led to an enormous disparity between the life expectancy and achievements of indigenous and non-indigenous people. The 2008 National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) study showed that in metropolitan areas 58.8 per cent of indigenous eight-year olds were above the minimum national standard in reading, while in very remote areas this figure was just 12.7 per cent. Clearly, the issue is not race or colour, but environment - the current system of teaching does not engage rural children or their teachers as well as their peers in metropolitan areas. Based on five core principles and decades of research, OLPC Australia has developed a sustainable solution to address this critical issue in our community, and its mission is to see it implemented across the nation."[5]

Australia’s OLPC initiative is exciting and hopeful because they are reaching out to all students by providing access to new technologies that will positively impact their education. The Twenty-First Century learner needs to have access to these technologies because the world is moving in a technological direction.

ProgressEdit

OLPC started gaining momentum in 2008. The program started working with the Australian authorities to try and find a way to distribute over 300,000 XO laptops to children in remote parts of Australia. An important stakeholder who helped realize this goal was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The entire community was behind this initiative, from the government to banks. This became a tremendous partnership that was able to provide XO laptops to Australian students. Australia’s OLPC (2009) is currently working with three remote Australian community schools, two of the communities will be fully saturated with one laptop per school child, while the third will initially have enough machines to saturate half the school. In the medium term, OLPC Australia is hoping to use corporate assistance to expand these 1,800 laptops to 5,000, and eventually to as many as are required to reach every remote child. These are steps towards progress that eventually 21st Century students will have had access to technology for learning.[6]

The SchoolsEdit

The three Australian schools that have implemented the OLPC program are, the Rawa Community School in remote Western-Australia that received 90 XO laptops. The students in this school fall well below the Australian socio-economic standard. The second school is Newcastle Waters School located in the central Northern Territory and received 30 XO laptops. This school is in a town of 500 people and they also fall well below the national socio-economic standard. The last school is Shepherdson College also located in the Northern Territory with just over 100 XO laptops. Again, the students in this school are in the lower echelons of the socio-economic standard. This initiative is small, but important because the process has begun for providing a laptop to every child.

Technology websites, such as Gizmodo, have articles that support the Australian OLPC project. Australian, Nick Broughall (2009) wrote in Gizmodo, for gadget nuts like you and me, the XO OLPC may not quite have the grunt to be usable, but for the poor, indigenous communities out in the middle of the Northern Territory, it’s fantastic. And a couple of days ago, the first OLPCs were officially handed out to Aboriginal primary school children at Shepherdson College on Elcho Island, Northern Territory. Over the next six months, the plan is to distribute another 5000 of the XO laptops to remote primary school children, with an overall goal of putting one in every one of the 400,000 remote childrens’ hands. This is a fantastic cause, and if you’re looking for a charity to donate to, this one definitely gets the Giz tick of approval[7]. The support is there, it is only a matter of time for every student to have an XO laptop. To support the XO initiative in Australia, Wenglinsky’s (2005) notion is that teaching should be highly customized and this customization should be so extensive that teachers are viewed as facilitating student construction of knowledge.[8]

DeploymentEdit

OLPC Australia has developed a strategy that ensures the sustainability of the project. Three main points that guarantee the existence and effectiveness of OLPC Australia are: teacher training, deployment and evaluation. OLPC Australia runs XO teacher-training workshops at the deployment schools before the laptops are given to the children. This allows for the teachers to familiarize themselves with the XO, its capabilities and functionality and, in turn, understand the added benefit the educational tools have in the classroom. Teacher-training sessions also assist the teacher in integrating the XO into the curriculum [9]. There does not appear to be any continual training for teachers throughout the project, rather a crash course for teachers at the onset of the academic year. The OLPC website does not specify how much time is spent for teacher training or a summative assessment at the end of the academic school year. The teachers convey what they know to their students, but steps should be taken to have a more continuous professional development.

Deployment of the XO’s has to do with students taking ownership of their laptop and making them responsible for the welfare of the XO. To ensure the success of the project, OLPC Australia has chosen entire classrooms, grades or schools to receive the XOs to achieve a level of digital saturation. The key point is choosing the best scale for each circumstance. In this way the whole community becomes responsible for the OLPC program, opening up children and adults alike to new experiences beyond their neighborhoods. Opportunities to improve their own circumstances, and that of the wider community, become evident, and in the end this deployment strategy will help these communities grow together and expand in different directions, outside of what was ever considered possible before [10]. Large scale ownership for the OLPC provides meaningful learning, in that there is a connection between the classroom, the technology and the student.

Evaluation is important to finding the effectiveness of the OLPC initiative. A combination of formative and summative assessment of the program helps create a picture of the impact of the XO laptops. Acer has been involved with OLPC Australia and CBA to develop a framework with which to measure the success of the remote deployments. Having interviewed the indigenous communities prior to the integration of the XOs, Acer will return six months after the deployments to collate empirical evidence on the effectiveness of the devices. Acer will measure differences in student attendance, student morale and the teachers' capacity since introducing the XOs into classrooms [11].

ConclusionEdit

Children in remote areas don’t lack the capacity to learn, only the opportunity [12]. This statement best illustrates what is a world-wide unfortunate phenomenon. Students are capable of learning, it is up to the governments to provide access to 21st Century education. Australia’s OLPC program is starting to provide students equal access to modern education. OLPC is also effective because it allows for constructivist education. The use of technology in the constructivist classroom is easier to facilitate, which results in deeper understanding for students. Wenglinsky (2005) indicated that point by implying, if technology is used in a constructivist fashion, it is a useful tool; and if used in a didactic fashion, it is worthless, or even destructive, burying students in the drill-and-kill model that turns all but the greatest or automatons off learning[13]. This notion helps to transcend technological and instructional applications that address the needs of the 21st century learner. Constructivist techniques that introduce technology as a basis for learning are steps in the right direction. Australia is moving in that direction.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Waugh, J. (2008). OLPC Australia: XO targeting education and definitely NO Windows. http://www.itwire.com/content/view/18143/1023/1/0/
  2. Dede, C, Honan, J, & Peters, L (2005). Scaling Up Success: Lessons from Technology-Based Educational Improvement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  3. Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press
  4. Christensen, C (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
  5. OLPC Australia. (2009). Mission. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
  6. OLPC Australia. (2009). Mission. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
  7. Broughall, N. (2009). OLPC Hits Indigenous Australia. Found in Gizmodo. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2009/05/olpc_hits_indigenous_australia/
  8. Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  9. OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
  10. OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
  11. OLPC Australia. (2009). Deployment. Retrieved June 29, 2009. http://www.olpc.org.au/vision/mission/
  12. Srikhanta, R. (2009). OLPC Australia uses education to help remote communities. Retrieved June 29, 2009. www.watterson.com.au/news_uploads/OLPC/OLPC_Aust_launch_release_final.pdf
  13. Wenglinsky, H (2005). Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.