Laptops for Learning in Latin America

October 22, 2014 | By: Yotam Kramer

It’s been almost ten years since the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) K12 educational technology initiative was started by Nicholas Negroponte, author of Being Digital. The nonprofit was created to bring digital education to some of the world’s poorest children by supplying them with a $100 learning platform – the “XO” laptop (or tablet). 2.5 million children and 42 countries later, OLPC has showed the world the potential of one-on-one (1:1) e-learning and how you don’t need to be rich to get a digital education. OLPC is so successful that it has been copied in many Latin American countries, where OLPC is focused.

Argentina (Population: 42 million)
The Argentinean Ministry of Education started the “Conectar Igualdad” e-learning program in 2010. This massive program supplies “Classmate” laptops to every public secondary school student and teacher, but students only get to own them once they graduate. By the end of2013, over 3.6 million Classmate learning platforms had been distributed. Students can use open source educational software and various forms of digital content, while the program features adaptive learning.

Brazil (Population: ~200 million)
In 2007, Brazil’s Ministry of Education launched the “Um Computador por Aluno” (“One Computer per Student”) educational technology initiative, which is supported by both private and public funds. By 2011, the program was available throughout the country and had distributed over 4 million laptops. Um Computador por Aluno uses a 1:1 learning platform classroom setup.

Colombia (Population: 48 million)
In 2008, Columbia’s Ministry of National Education launched a project to improve writing and math skills by offering free digital education technology to second and third grade children displaced by guerilla warfare. Today, more than 300,000 learning platforms are available.

Mexico (Population: 120 million)
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made educational technology a priority. The objective is to supply laptops and digital content to all fifth and sixth graders by 2017. By 2012, the government had distributed 240,000 Classmate laptops, and has since purchased nearly 800,000 e-learning tablets. The government is also investing in various learning platforms that include projectors, servers, and WiFi infrastructure. Another notable digital education project is the Carlos Slim Foundation, which purchased 50,000 XO laptops and 50,000 Classmates.

Peru (Population: 30 million)
Peru’s Ministry of Education launched” Una Laptop Por Niño” (“One Laptop per Child”) for educational technology in 2008. The goal of the program is to improve the quality of public primary education, especially for poor children in remote locations. Students and teachers receive an XO laptop with digital content displayed using open source desktop software. Today, more than 1 million e-learning devices are in circulation. In terms of various private initiatives, the InterCorp conglomerate sponsors the Innova Schools network and supplies it with learning platforms in a 1:1 setting.

Venezuela (Population: 30 million)
Venezuela’s “Proyecto Canaima Educativo” started in 2008 to provide every first grade student with a Linux-based Classmate learning platform. To date, more than 3 million e-learning devices have been distributed.

Uruguay (Population: 3 million)
Uruguay’s “Plan Ceibal” is the first government initiative to achieve ubiquitous 1:1 educational technology computing in all primary schools, and is considered the largest e-learning program in the world in proportion to the population. In addition, 95% of all schools have Internet connectivity and public outdoor WiFi hotspots to distribute digital content.

Programs like the ones described above demonstrate the power of a 1:1 digital education. Even though many of these countries lack funding, they can see how e-learning pays off in the long run. Regardless of budget, all educational institutions need to choose the right system supplier for their needs and implement an educational technology program in order to maximize their students’ chance of success.

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