One More Victory for Laptops in Education

How valuable can a laptop be for a child’s education?  Well, in Ethiopia maybe valuable enough to replace a teacher.  The One Laptop Per Child organization recently dropped off a bunch of Xoom tablets in two remote Ethiopian villages where children did not have access to schools.  Without being given any instruction on how to use the devices, 1st grade aged children managed to accomplish some pretty impressive feats.  OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte reported the results of the experiment at an MIT technology conference.

“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. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

While it’s still too early to tell exactly how much could be accomplished with the program, illiterate children who had never been exposed to written language were able to learn the alphabet song, spell words, write a word in a drawing program, and customize their tablets all without any help.

Once again I’m very excited to think about the potential technology in education has (and more than a little worried about my own job security.)

Also, how awesome would that have been to watch those kids?  And how hard would it have been not to try to help them?

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