Monday, March 23

Does giving a laptop to a child help?

Well, unfortunately to the aficionados of giving laptops and ipads to kids, it doesn't seem to make a whit of difference as all the kids did was to use it to search for information on the internet. No change to the mathematics skills or on the reading levels. Go figure. When will people go back to basics, hire the best teachers possible, remunerate them on performance, support them well, bring in parents into the education process and make it fun to teach. All this poking around with technology detracts from the basics. Read and weep, think about the sheer amount of resources wasted on this boondongle.

We present evidence on the impact on students´ math and reading scores of one of the largest deployments of an OLPC program and the only one implemented at a national scale: Plan Ceibal in Uruguay. We have unique data that allow us to know the exact date of laptop delivery for every student in the sample. This gives us the ability to use days of exposure as a treatment intensity measure. Given that there is some variation in the date of laptop delivery across individuals within the same school, we can identify the effect of the program net of potential heterogeneity in the rate schools gain improvements on students´ achievement over time independently of the OLPC program. Our results suggest that in the first two years of its implementation the program had no effects on math and reading scores. The absence of effect could be explained by the fact that the program did not involve compulsory teacher training and that laptops in class were mainly used to search for information on the internet.

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