Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

One Tablet Per Child

With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages—simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs.

That’s kind of a sobering thought. For a sense of scale, there are about 40 million kids in Grades K-8 in America. Let’s just go with about 5 million first graders in America. There are 20 times that many first graders without access to schooling around the world. Just in first grade! But there are good people trying to help these kids learn outside the classroom. The MIT Technology Review has a piece reprinted at Mashable.com about what happened when these kids got their hands on these tablets:

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.”

That’s kind of adorable. The whole thing is tugging at my nerdstrings as hard as it possibly can.