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Handing Out Laptops in School Isn't Enough—Teachers Need Training, Too

New research shows a laptop program in Peru hasn't improved test scores.


Computer literacy is a necessity in the 21st century, so schools and governments around the globe have been eager to participate in the One Laptop Per Child program, a nonprofit initiative that provides inexpensive laptops for students. For the poorest kids, laptops provided by their school provide the only opportunity to access the internet or learn to use technology. That alone is valuable, but because the laptops represent such a significant financial investment, governments want to know whether access to technology boosts math and literacy achievement. Initial results aren't promising.

Researchers from the Inter-American Development Bank analyzed 15 months of data collected from 319 schools in Peru that provided a laptop for every student. Despite a $225 million government investment in the technology, the researchers found that laptops didn't improve math and literacy test scores or motivate students to want to learn.

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The Case for Hard-Bound Reference Books in a Digital Age

Even though hardback encyclopedias are out of date the moment they're printed, schools aren't ready to switch to digital versions.


About 10 years ago, I helped acquire a full set of encyclopedias for the Los Angeles school where I taught. It was the first complete set the school library had in years, and the principal and teachers were thrilled to have reference books for students. But those hardback texts are woefully out of date today—Osama bin Laden was still alive and President Obama wasn’t even on the national radar, to name just two examples.

In a fast-changing information age, even the 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica has axed its print edition, and many believe schools should follow suit. After all, schools can provide digital access to Britannica for about $1 per student. But for budget-crunched districts, providing the computer hardware and internet access students need to use online encyclopedias is still a challenge. Schools simply aren't ready to make the digital switch.

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Why South Korea Is Putting the Brakes on the Switch to Digital Textbooks

The reversal is surprising given that South Korea, like the United States, tends to view technology adoption as a sign of successful schools.

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South Korea's Making the Switch to Digital Textbooks

No more heavy backpacks. South Korea is investing $2 billion to develop digital textbooks for all schools by 2015.

When it comes to digital textbook adoption, it looks like Florida's turning into a global trendsetter. This spring the state passed a law mandating that schools make the switch to digital textbooks by 2015. Now South Korea's Education Ministry has announced that it's making a $2.4 billion investment that will enable all of that nation's schools to go digital by 2015.

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