The Digital Divide and Social Inclusion MARK WARSCHAUER
pay for the program and other initiatives, a one-cent increase in the city sales tax was imposed and business license fees were doubled.
Setting out the program’s vision, Langford declared, “If
we give them these XOs and get out of their way, they’ll
be teaching us about the world.” 16
Despite little buy-in from the school district, Langford persuaded district officials to give out XOs to all of
its first- through fifth-grade children after offering only
a less-than-six-week pilot program in a single school. No
funds were provided to expand Internet access in classrooms, most of which lacked it; nor were funds made
available for laptop repair. Only two hours of paid training were offered to teachers.
Surveys conducted by University of Alabama’s Shelia
Cotten of students before and after they received the laptops found that within the first 18 months of implementation, large numbers of laptops were broken or other wise
unusable and the computers were little-used in school. 17
The study also revealed that students reported spending
less time using computers for homework or research after they got they XOs than before.
After both the mayor and city council president were
imprisoned in 2010 on unrelated corruption charges, the
city council eliminated further funding for the program.
In contrast, small OLPC programs led by non-govern-mental organizations in Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and
Australia have gone to great efforts to develop broader
educational interventions incorporating the XO laptops. 18 In each of these countries, substantial effort has
gone into curriculum development, technical support,
teacher training, and community engagement. In both
Paraguay and Australia, changes to the overall approach
followed less than satisfactory results in earlier stages of
implementation, and were based on an explicit recognition that a more holistic approach to laptop integration
in schools was required.
Evaluation of educational outcomes are not available
in these countries, but reports from Paraguay noted that
laptop use in the classroom increased significantly fol-
lowing expansion of pedagogical and technical assistance.
Students in well-to-do communities
benefited from school technology use;
those in poor communities did not.
134 Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012