The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program was introduced globally by its founder, Nicholas Negroponte, at the World Economic Forum in January 2006. Internationally, the program is carried out by the OLPC organization, which was created by professors from the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to design, manufacture and distribute non-marketable portable computers to children in developing countries.
In May 2008, a group of young Paraguayan entrepreneurs participated in the Annual Summit of the OLPC Program in Boston at MIT. They never imagined that after four days of intense seminars and conferences they would end up meeting with one of the people in charge of the OLPC program worldwide and that this program would eventually become a reality in Paraguay. They returned to their country with a US$ 1,000,000 grant from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), with the condition that an institution take charge of logistics, management, and execution of the pedagogical component, as well as connectivity resources and community development. Back in Paraguay, these young men and women and others who were involved with the cause left their jobs and embarked on the development of Paraguay Educa. Months of intense work followed, presenting the project to local business leaders, politicians, civil society and authorities together with well-known technical experts and educators, who also took on the cause. The goal was to create a pedagogical model that would demonstrate to the National Government, by means of a pilot program, that the initiative could be replicated in the country’s public schools. The district of Caacupé was selected to implement the pilot project because of its proximity to Asunción and its high levels of poverty and emigration.
Strategic alliances were established with universities, private companies and other civil society organizations. The role and contribution of the media was key in developing the project and increasing Paraguay Educa’s visibility, by exposing its work in important publications and following the implementation process very closely.
All the teachers in the community were provided with orientation and training before beginning the 2009 school year, when the children received their laptop computers. Eight months after Paraguay Educa was created, a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank was received, which made it possible to cover implementation and system maintenance expenses and to hire 10 full-time trainers for 10 public schools.
In 2011, after two years of successful implementation of the pilot project, Paraguay Educa obtained a grant from Itaipu Binacional to cover all 37 public and government subsidized schools in Caacupé, thus achieving the program’s saturation principle.
Having uninterruptedly run the program since 2009, Paraguay Educa has become a reference in the country in the field of ICT applied to education. The organization is creating the country’s first digital city in Caacupé by providing the equipment, connectivity, and continuous training to children and teachers.
Since 2009 the OLPC program implemented by Paraguay Educa in Caacupé, Paraguay has had the support of the Ministry of Education. It provides an opportunity for school-age children to use computer technology in personal and individual ways, as a tool that allows them to expand their learning horizons.
The program is based on the theoretical framework of “constructivism”, supported by authors such as Seymour Papert, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and the inventor of the programming language Logo and computer assisted learning, as well as by his mentor, Jean Piaget, who studied logical mathematical thought in preschool children.
We coined the term Information, Communication and Knowledge Construction Technologies (TICCC, in Spanish) because we believe that in the educational process computers are more than simply tools to store and transfer information; they must be used in such a way that students are able to construct knowledge.
We believe that technology coupled with a constructivist pedagogical model and community involvement work provides children, educators, families and government authorities with the skills to actively participate in their community’s development. When the child introduces the computer into his or her social environment, the inclusion of the family and the community in the learning processes is achieved. The child thus becomes a multiplying agent of change, generating socio-economic impact beyond the classroom and the school.
The 1:1 model used by Paraguay Educa differs from other technology education models. Computer technology is employed not only as an instrument, but also as a tool through which the child can strengthen his or her creativity and build his or her own knowledge based on acquired experience.
This pedagogical model becomes an innovative alternative in the learning process of the children in the program by basing the implementation of technology in the curriculum as a means for children to develop their creativity and build their own learning.
“Learning to learn” is the revolutionary change factor in the students’ cognitive and creative process. The child has in his or her hands, as the owner of their personal laptop, a digital learning platform that allows him or her to become more informed, communicate with others, and, above all, freely build knowledge.
Sugar is the graphic interface and set of applications running on free software that was designed for educational purposes by developers at the non-profit organization Sugar Labs.
Sugar is an alternative learning platform in which the child chooses activities that work with icons designed to build ideas, representations, concepts, etc. The child becomes involved with the tool in a more user friendly and dynamic way, in a learning place designed with open source and flexible code that allows him or her to mold and adapt his or her creative process.
Sugar is not limited by registrations or patents, since its fundamental principle is knowledge sharing globally through hundreds of developers, and through the children themselves, who build learning tools that benefit all those who use them.
OLPC is founded on philosophical principles that must be followed during the execution of the program for the correct implementation of the proposed model. These principles are:
1. Early Childhood: the earlier the child is exposed to the initiative, the faster he or she will acquire the skills to achieve digital fluency.
2. Ownership: the child owns the laptop computer. Learning is not limited to formal education settings, nor does it stop upon leaving the classroom. The child is able to continuing to learn in other spaces, both at home and on personal projects outside the school. This also allows the family to have indirect access to the laptop and thereby to the digital platform.
3. Saturation: the worldwide OLPC experience shows that communities take ownership of the program when all community members participate in the project. That is to say, in a given district, as is the case in Caacupé, the program involves all school children and not only certain groups. In this way, collaborative learning is emphasized, as well as a sense of equity in access since all are provided with the same opportunities.
4. Connectivity: through the Internet, the children have access to a world of information and the school becomes the hub of innovation in the community well beyond class hours. Children and their families benefit from the creation and publication of knowledge.
5. Free software: information and knowledge must be universally accessible and therefore OLPC adheres to the global Open Source Code movement. Free open source software is used so that each child can create his or her own learning space and access a universe of data that will allow him or her to create and/or modify programming tools.
The cost to the organization of introducing a child into in the program is approximately US$ 350, and the yearly cost of maintaining the student in the program is approximately US$ 50.
This is an evaluation of the effects of the incorporation of XO laptop computers in the Caacupé education community and on the students’ learning process and teachers’ performance. It identifies the differentiating elements of how the management systems work, from the school directors/principals and the educational community, and it determines the minimum infrastructure requirements needed for good performance of activities.
Evaluation on the academic performance of students in language, math and social studies.
Evaluation on the incorporation of OLPC XO computers to develop social competences for building citizenship.
Evaluation of competencies and skills in reading comprehension and logical reasoning in mathematics of children who are beneficiaries of the OLPC Program.