Cultural and Educational Implications of Global Media. The One Laptop per Child Initiative in Rural Peruvian Schools.

Posted: March 12, 2013 in Trend in ELT Assignment


This thesis investigates the impact of the “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC) project on local Peruvianelementary schools. Since 2007 the Peruvian Ministry of Education has been implementing laptopcomputers for schools and children in remote villages as part of a national OLPC initiative. OLPCrepresents an approach to address various educational challenges worldwide with the help oftechnology, referring for example to Information Technology for Development (ICT4D) programsand other contemporary global discourses on education that often emphasize the importance ofincorporating technology into educational development initiatives. The project promotes the use ofthe so-called XO laptop, a portable computer that was designed by members of the MIT media labunder the chairmanship of Nicholas Negroponte, to meet the educational needs of children. Thistechnology-led approach has been criticized from various perspectives and can be understood as atechnologically deterministic solution, which underestimates social, political, economic and culturalcircumstances and challenges.At first, the author identifies her own point of view as a culturally sensitive one, which was guidingespecially the field research, and thereby provided the basis for the here presented arguments. Themain topics of this first chapter concern different models of understanding and researching culturalphenomena, especially material culture, introduce the theory of the cultural production of the“educated person” (Levison and Holland, 1996), education as an act of modern citizen building andtechnology as a cultural environment.After a short description of the fieldwork process, the thesis briefly discusses the main principlesand assumptions of OLPC, mainly referring to critical perspectives. It then proceeds to show how,in the case of Peru, these assumptions were transferred unquestioned to the rhetoric of policymakers and promoters of the project. Peru has undertaken a tremendous financial effort to provideall elementary and secondary schools with the above-mentioned technology. The thesis shows thatthe question of how to meaningfully use these machines in schools all around the country remainsmostly unsolved, and there are rather few concrete examples of how to actually use the laptops inclasses in accordance with the national curriculum. Financial means, appropriate materials andcontent, as well as adequately trained personnel and technical support are scarce, so that teachersand children are left alone with the seemingly marvelous technology.A main starting point for the following discussion of the OLPC project in a particular localenvironment is the supposition, based on Debray (1996), that with the introduction of a newmedium into the school, the meanings that are being negotiated, transformed and transmitted by thissocial institution will be altered. According to C.A. Bowers (2005), knowledge gains its
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