Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Kids Teach Themselves
tablet computers with preloaded programs
preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs
Goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves
Motorola Xoom tablets—used together with a solar charging system
Results: After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”
The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.
Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”
Elaborating later on Negroponte’s hacking comment, Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, said that the kids had gotten around OLPC’s effort to freeze desktop settings. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” McNierney said. “And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”
"If they can learn to read, then they can read to learn."
Around 100 million first-grade-aged children lack access to schools. A foundation is testing whether poor children who are given computers and learning software can teach themselves.
What you really want to measure is curiosity, imagination, passion, creativity, and the ability to see things from multiple points of view. – goals of education
They contain modestly curated games, books, cartoons, movies—just to see what the kids will play with and whether they can figure out how to use them
children can learn a great deal by themselves
Curiosity is natural, and all kids have it unless it is whipped out of them, often by school. Making things, discovering things, and sharing things are keys
building a world in which ideas are shaped, discovered, and reinvented in the name of learning by doing and discovery