The One Laptop Per Child organization has taken on an interesting experiment in two remote Ethiopian villages: Earlier this year, the organization dropped off closed boxes that contained tablet computers. These tablets have preloaded educational programs. The goal behind the experiment is to see if illiterate kids who have no experience with written words can teach themselves to read using the tablet and its preloaded applications.
OLPC is using Motorola Xoom tablets and solar chargers. Someone from the OLPC organization visits the villages each week to swap memory cards in the tablets that contain information on how the tablets are used.
According to Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC’s founder, early observations are encouraging. Just five days after receiving the tablets, the kids in the villages were using 47 apps per child per day. Two weeks after receiving the tablets, kids were singing ABC songs. When the tablets arrived at the villages, the camera was disabled and OLPC had taken measures to freeze desktop settings. Within five months, the kids had hacked Android to re-enable the camera and customize the desktop.
If kids in these villages can learn to read on their own, Negroponte is hoping they can use their ability to read in order to learn more about the world around them. Although the early results of this experiment are encouraging, it will take more time to know if children could teach themselves to read using tablets.
Image Credit: Matt Keller / Technology Review