Friday, July 11, 2008

XO study in Ethiopia

Ethiopia Implementation Report, September - December 2007 (pdf 14pp) by eduvision ("a Swiss company that offers an innovative turnkey solution for state-of-the-art education")

This report does provide some evidence for success in a method used to break down rigid, hierarchical teaching methods, which are part of a culture where it is seen to be impolite to question a teacher

In broad terms the method was to find ways of establishing some continuity with the existing culture and then, down the track, ask questions about what learning is being achieved through existing instructionist methods. In this case the way of joining but tweaking the existing culture was to provide interactive digital textbooks, rather than paper textbooks. The interactive features began to be used and appreciated by students and teachers

Melepo, an interactive book reader developed by Eduvision ( was added to the OLPCs and for the older classes seems to have been the main software used (younger kids used games too). I think this software is commercial so, in that sense, it is difficult to generalise too much from this study.

Also, the school was atypical in a sense (page 11, "the prestigious nature of the schools served to attract unusually experienced and dedicated teachers") - the above average teacher quality would have contributed significantly to the success

Duration of the project seems to have been fairly short --> 3 weeks (page 7)

The authors of the report are cautious about their claims:
"There was great willingness to please amongst the teachers and the students. This resulted in difficulties obtaining honest and accurate feedback. Whilst methods were devised to overcome this constraint it remained a constant factor through the trial ..." (page 12)
"it would be premature to draw summative conclusions concerning the overall efficacy of the programme at this stage ... " (page 13)
Some good discussion by Mokurai about this paper on the OLPC wiki:
The reported test results mostly concerned Eduvision's Melopo activities, rather than Sugar Activities. Since Melopo is also somewhat collaborative, the results should transfer.

The most important observation is that teaching with the laptops, even under the constraints of the prevailing system, changed teacher behavior toward more effective methods. Instead of reciting instructions without a chance to try them out, students began to be encouraged to work on the computers, following instructions as they are given.

Teachers began to use structured group activities and competitions, and to ask students to present material to the class. The structured techniques that the teachers put into their XO lesson plans then spilled over into their non-computer classes. Where before any question from a student was seen as an insult to the teacher, teachers began to offer individual instruction while other students were occupied on the computers. Students were encouraged to work in small groups, and began to help each other. After a time, teachers began to allow questions generally, and to set aside time for them.

Student motivation was observed to be higher because they could mark up their electronic texts with notes and highlighting. This is a critical software function. Document readers alone are not sufficient. Eduvision recommends adding hyperlinks and some software functions to electronic texts. (I recommend adding way more software functions.)

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