Mane (CRIN 604)

         Digital tools in education

February 21, 2010

Chapter 4: The Promise of the Computer

Filed under: Laptops,Larry Cuban — mepada @ 1:38 pm


Chapter 4 reminded me immediately of the “One laptop per Child” initiative that took place in Uruguay not long ago. In 2006, the government of Uruguay, most specifically their president, Tabara Vazquez, decided to provide all public school students with apple laptops. 380,000 computers were distributed.

A little history:

  • These mini/energy-efficient computers were designed at MIT by Professor Nicholas Negroponte.
  • US Scientist founded the “One Laptop per Child” group which distributes these computers to selected governments.
  • The computers are rugged, low-cost and energy-efficient laptop with Internet connectivity, learning software and a photo camera.

What great news some may think! Poor children can now have access to the same resources as their wealthier counterparts!

However, when we referred back to the questions posed in Chapter 4 (page 74):

  • What is the nature of the innovation?
  • How is it being introduced?
  • Who are the users, and how much are the machines used?, and
  • Should computers be used in the classroom?

It makes us reflect on how some teachers in Uruguay reacted to this initiative.

This article, All Public Primary School Students in Uruguay Will Now Have a laptop ( states that this decision did not please all teachers, “Some would have preferred to use the funds to reform the local school system or to increase teacher salaries”

Miguel Brechner who heads this program called “Ceibal Plan” stated:

“The goal is to teach students how to work in a different way, so they can get better jobs five to six years from now”, and added: “…we also would like to give students equal opportunity. As a result of this decision 220,000 more household now have a computer, and half of them are among the poorest ones.”

According to this article, (as of November 2009) the internet has not yet reached 25% of Uruguay elementary schools, however, they plan to have wireless connectivity by the end 2010.

When the students took the laptop homes they realized that their parents have never touched a keyboard before. Therefore they have implemented free local training programs for parents and community members on how to use the equipment.

The article also points out that this program is still too recent to measure its impact.

During 2010 they plan to extend this program to the high schools. Brechner stated that this time “It will be a compact version of the popular notebook, with greater power and memory than the computers given to elementary school children.”

“Preliminary results from one study… shared with a group of international experts who met in Uruguay… apparently show that, as a result of increased access to technology in the two years since the rollout of Ceibal commenced, eight-year old children now have the same level of computer literacy that 18 year olds demonstrated just a few years ago.”

More formal research and studies are being conducted to determine the impact of this program. They hope to discover useful information that would perhaps allow us to answer some of Cuban’s own questions:

“What is the most useful frame of reference for assessing the impact of Plan Ceibal in and on Uruguay?  Standardized test scores?  Something broader?  How about it’s larger societal and community impact?”

Cost of this program:

“The amount (of the Ceibal program) accounts for less than five percent of the primary school budget, according to Miguel Brechner, who heads the program.”

“…cost the state $260 (£159) per child, including maintenance costs, equipment repairs, training for the teachers and internet connection.”



  1. It goes back to an earlier blog I wrote where I was concerned that we do not provide teachers with the professional development they need to move forward with technology. That could be the problem teachers faced here. I am impressed that they looked at supporting parents in learning how to use the technology.

    Comment by debg — February 21, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

  2. Hey Partner! While reading your blog I was reminded of Henrico County public school’s laptop initiative. I thought you might be interested in the information I found on the school division’s website at

    Check out the last section of the article on “Support”. I was impressed with what is available for teachers and parents.

    Comment by Sue Land — February 22, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

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