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Uruguay's Schools Give Each Kid a Laptop, While America Twiddles Its Thumbs Uruguay's Schools Give Each Kid a Laptop, While America Twiddles Its Thumbs

Uruguay's Schools Give Each Kid a Laptop, While America Twiddles Its Thumbs

by Liz Dwyer
June 15, 2011

We spend a lot of time here in America debating the merit of providing a laptop to every student. Maine is still the only state to have a one-to-one laptop program for middle and high school students. In contrast, many of our global peers see the writing on the wall and know that computer literacy and learning with technology can't be optional in the 21st century. In particular, Uruguay's been rolling out one-to-one laptops at schools since 2009 through their Plan Ceibal program. Now that almost all students have access to computers, the South American nation is thinking about how to take the use of them to the next level. 

Uruguay's efforts have received plenty of attention at international education conferences, and the World Bank EduTech Blog reports that Uruguayan officials are seeing the second phase of Plan Ceibal as an opportunity to maintain, improve and enhance the technology in the classroom and "ensure that it is used effectively to support a variety of new and improved teaching and learning practices that will help Uruguayan students developed the knowledge, skills and attitudes to succeed in increasingly globalized, knowledge economies."

On top of making sure what they have is actually being used effectively, Uruguay's also planning to pilot a new robotics curriculum and online math contest. They're also considering how they can convert secondary and technical school "science labs into 'digital labs'," which will use "sensors and other 'probeware' devices." They're looking for volunteers to translate and subtitle videos from U.S.-based online education resource, the Khan Academy.

So what would it take to move the United States to the point where investing in one-to-one laptop programs for all students is seen not as a privilege but as a necessity? There would have to be a national understanding that we're going to fall further behind our international peers unless we give our students easy access to information and opportunities for skill and concept remediation. You can watch the positive impact of Plan Ceibal on students in the video above. It wouldn't hurt us to learn to prioritize technology from our neighbors down south.

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