Antonine de Saint Exupéry, in his 1931 classic Night Flight, had a wonderful line about early airmail service in Patagonia, South America:
“When you are crossing the Andes and your engine falls out, well, there’s nothing to do but throw in your hand.”
I had reason to think about this quote recently, as I was attending a conference in Santiago, Chile, the presumed destination of the doomed pilot. The conference focused on evidence-based reform in education.
Three of the papers described large scale, randomized evaluations of technology applications in Latin America, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Two of them documented disappointing outcomes of large-scale, traditional uses of technology. One described a totally different application.
One of the studies, reported by Santiago Cueto (Cristia et al., 2017), randomly assigned 318 high-poverty, mostly rural primary schools in Peru to receive sturdy, low-cost, practical computers, or to serve as a…
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