Rural Ethiopian Youngsters Become Self-Teachers

Rural Ethiopian Youngsters Become Self-Teachers

HAVE CHANCE, WILL LEARN: Amazing preliminary results reported by One Laptop Per Child around a bold experiment happening in rural Ethiopia. Several months after dropping off solar-powered Motorola Xoom tablets, 20 first grade-age children have managed their way from finding the on/off switch to hacking the preventative software installed by OLPC. No instructions. No guidelines. No teachers. Just a single technician to retrieve data from the devices each week. "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," reported OLPC’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte at the recent EmTech Conference. Results are hardly conclusive, but the development raises interesting questions around how and why we plan learning objectives (teacher control group anyone?). The story reminds us, too, of Sugata Mitra's experiment of giving village children in India access to a computer via a hole in the wall. For now we'll simply smile about the new learning opportunities enabled by technology. Hat tip to the MIT Technology Review which also hosted the Emtech Conference.

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