Dvice reported on a One Laptop Per Child experiment to deliver devices direct to kids, rather than via schools. OLPC dropped 1,000 Motorola Xoom tablets, sealed in boxes, to two remote villages in Ethiopia where the literacy rate is close to zero. In other words, the exact opposite of conventional wisdom, which says you deliver them via schools to areas where kids already read and write English.
“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”
While the report probably exaggerates some issues, claiming, for example, that the kids would not have been exposed to written language at all, and the camera ‘hack’ was likely just a setting change, it’s both an impressive and inspiring result. At 9to5Google, we declare it Officially Cool.
And it isn’t just those kids who will benefit: previous OLPC studies have shown that kids who learn or improve their literacy with the help of a cheap laptop or tablet pass on that learning to their parents.