OLPC banned in many Ethiopia classrooms for being toylike

While this is more a sociological issue than a technological one, it’s still interesting. Pilot programs in Ethiopia with the OLPC XO laptop have hit a major roadblock: teachers resent the device and consider it a toy. The reasons for this are complicated, but in essence it’s the nature of the educational system there. Imagine a school here in the US where the kids are learning design, coding, and a bunch of other interesting stuff but fare poorly on the SATs. It’s a lot like that, except more so; the Ethiopian schools are very much about memorization and basic scholastic functions, while the OLPC is all about exploration and individual learning.

It’s not like the whole project has been scrapped, far from it, it just exposes the trouble of introducing something as radical as the XO laptop into a school system that isn’t prepared to handle it. Until the teachers consider exploratory learning as legitimate and are equipped to take advantage of the device, the project is doomed to failure. It’s the classic horse/water problem. So the new strategy simply has to include those considerations and work harder on the top-down learning model they have there — something proposed a long time ago but not really implemented. Here’s a talk discussing this and other things in more detail.

I wonder what the risk is of someone considering the XO-2 a toy. They’d probably be hard-pressed to categorize at all.

Update: Commenter Edward notes that this problem is not new, and that it has in fact been encountered and surmounted before. Glad to hear it.

[via Reddit, photo credit: CNET, it’s in Nigeria]