I will like to contribute to the discussion on 1:1 computing now that a decade has elapsed since the first prototype XO computer was presented by Nicholas Negroponte and Kofi Anan. Millions of such devices, both from OLPC and several others are now in children’s hands and many issues have been debated, not always without biases y towards or against different approaches. My first consideration is regarding how to consider 1:1; is it something for the wealthy and, if so, will it contribute to deepen the digital divide among the have’s and the have not’s of the world? The second options is to see 1:1 as a way to reach the poorest and isolated children in an attempt to reduce the lack or total absence of education which will, eventually, be brought to them by the “quasi-magical” action of a connected computer. I don’t think the two options exclude one another but each of them is something totally different and much of the turmoil and heatedness of the debate has come from confusing both approaches, or mixing them. It comes to my mind how the state of Maine initiative was presented as an example to third world countries where the yearly expenses per child were, back in the late 90’s much less than the cost of one laptop. In this first posting I want to focus on the second approach; which happens to be the one I am more familiar with and was responsible for implementing in Peru. Una Laptop por Niño (One Laptop per Child) was for some time the world’s largest 1:1 initiative reaching, in its first stage, 220,000 one-teacher school students and their teachers all around Peru, targeting the most remote and isolated villages in the Andes and the Amazon. In order to get an idea of the big picture, let me explain the “teaching landscape” of Peru: In January, 2007 a census evaluation applied to 180,000 Peruvian teachers showed 62% of them not reaching reading comprehension levels compatible with elementary school, 27% performed at level 0 or less. 92% of the teachers evaluated did not reach acceptable (6th grade level) performance in Math. After 200 hours remedial education in reading comprehension still about 15% stayed at level 0. Many people blamed teachers for the situation, others the government and still others the lack of commitment of society in general. I have been blamed of hating teachers for saying this. I cannot hate teachers since my grandfather, my parents, my wife and my sister are teachers, and I really love and respect them. It is not teachers’ fault they have not been properly prepared, nor the lack of enthusiasm for the teaching profession that plagues many of our countries. Usually teachers are among the most committed practitioners on any profession but the hard numbers were those we found and solving the quality problem will probably take much more than a few years, even with political commitment. The 200,000 students and 20,000 teachers who were our target for the first stage attend “one-teacher or multi-grade primary (grades 1-6) schools” where one or two teachers have to teach first to sixth graders in one or two classrooms. When we decided to begin with those schools we thought of them as non-consumers of education. By this I mean children who receive an education of such a poor quality it has little difference with no education at all. Their schools: • Were located in the poorest and most remote areas, many of them over 12,000 ft. above sea level or several days away by canoe from the closest town in the Amazonia. They were, of course, the most difficult to serve and therefore usually left for the last stages of any ICT project, which seldom really happened. • Were rarely connected to the Internet (less than 2%) and even when they were the connection was not reliable or continuous. • Had poor or little electricity available and in some cases had no electricity at all. In the above described situation, we saw technology as a disruptive innovation, in the sense described by Clayton Christensen. I remember hearing Clay tell his story about transistor radios and how he and his brother were able to enjoy the poor reception and bad sound because it gave them the independence to sit by a lake and listen to sports broadcasts, something they were not allowed to do at the house radio, reserved for classical music and world news. It was not the high fidelity they were looking for but the freedom to choose the station. In the same sense, we did not think about the fastest processor or the largest hard disk but low energy consumption, weather and shock proof and a display that could be used under direct sunlight with software oriented to ignite creativity and self-development. Many people criticized the Sugar interphase because parents are not able to help their children with the device. Of course this might be true in New York or Lima where parents and children share the same interphase in their smart phones or tablets but not in Purus, seven days away from Lima where the only people with access to any kind of ICT were children with their XO’s. Our goal was therefore to reduce the gap between the poorest and the less poor by allowing children to experience the aspects of technology that may impact their cognitive development. We wanted children to overcome the hopelessness of extreme poverty. We did not expect access to technology to be a panacea but we hoped it would contribute to help children feel empowered and we felt confident about their natural trend to learn how to use technology. One first question, after investing 160 million dollars in 800,000 computers distributed countrywide was: what was the impact of the intervention? One of the most serious efforts to answer the question was the impact study made by the Inter-American Development Bank over 15 months. Having participated directly in the study I regret having accepted to include measures in standardized math and language tests (they were not part of the project goals and it was not sensible to expect any results) because the expected lack of results in these two variables was highly publicized by the ones who wanted to oppose the project. The report wisely pointed out, the effect is neither magic nor fast. What is surprising is how many apparently sensible people expect magic fast results and are ready to criticize the effort made after such a short time. Anyway, it was found the machines did not break down much (13%, of which 50% were repaired using the project defined maintenance strategy), children learned how to use the computers and their software for basic tasks like composing documents, playing games and record their voices, pictures or video. To me the most important finding was a 4 to 6 month advantage in cognitive skills development by treatment group vs. control group. An educational system in such poor shape as the Peruvian will take, in my opinion 10-15 years, just to improve the quality of its teachers. Something needs to be done in the meantime. We thought giving children access to a technology designed as a tool to learn with, was a step in the right direction. I don’t think time is wasted with technology; however it is not measuring how much more Math or History have children learned in the traditional way the way we will see the impact. After the study was published almost every reader took, as we say in Spanish “agua para su Molino” (water to their mill) and chose to highlight what most favored their point of view. Probably the saying “those who have a hammer see everything as a nail” is a proper way to describe the ways many evaluations are done or, even worse, looked at. In the case of the IADB study, having participated in the design and first stages I can assure the study was very well thought. I had the opportunity to discuss the way the study was designed with professor Michael Wesch of Kansas University during his visit to Lima in 2012 and one important consideration we agreed on is that ICT may alter the way children perceive traditional education and therefore, the fact children are less interested in doing senseless homework may actually be a good thing, in spite of being school work. It’s been just over 5 years since the first XO arrived to the hands of children in the Andean village of Arahuay and most of them are still working which happens to be a remarkable fact. It is hard to think of better spent forty dollars per child (about $200 per computer divided by 5 years). One non-trivial problem is the vicious tradition among politicians to stop everything done by their predecessors and trying to begin everything anew. The Peruvian ICT4E strategy has been reasonably safe of such plague. We tried to resist the tradition and maintained most of what we found: Una Laptop por Niño was built on the foundation set by Huascarán project. The Educational Resource Center concept evolved from the Pedagogy Innovation Classrooms and the Robotics in elementary school program was designed to capitalize on the original ideas proposed by the MoE team back in 1996. I am hopeful the connectivity project by the new administration will continue building, as well as the teacher training programs that seem to be the priority nowadays. One pitfall when evaluating initiatives is that people “believe” things about the concept evaluated and once beliefs enter the discussion, it becomes a matter of faith or like Heisenberg is quoted to have said “the problem with profound truths is that the opposite of one profound truth is another profound truth” and it leads to intolerance. I would like to say Education will improve if we spent more in Education but, it is a pity spending more alone will not may any effort better. One reader of an article I wrote mentioned “ICT produce a sense of belonging, of being included, even of success, that is not detected by any quantitative measure. But, at the same time, this sense of inclusion seems to affect other aspects of people´s life.” This, to me, is the most important impact we expect when doing 1:1 as a way to reduce the digital divide. I would love to hear other readers’ opinion and comments about this approach.