Can tablets make a difference to a child learning to read for the first time, without a teacher or traditional classroom structure? That’s the question we are exploring with our reading project, currently underway in Ethiopia.
A few dozen children in two rural villages have been given tablets which they are using for a few months. They are interested in learning to read English, and understand this is something they can learn with the tablets; which also come with hundreds of children’s apps.
They are equipped with software that logs all interactions, building up a clear picture of how each tablet is being used. Data from the tablets is gathered each week and sent back to the research team, which also rolls out new updates to the tablets week by week.
Richard is in Ethiopia this week, to get better first-hand knowledge of how the tablets and other infrastructure are holding up, and a visual sense of how they are being used.
“if a child can learn to read, they can read to learn”
Tamin-Lee Connolly plans to travel from South-to-North across Africa, ending in the middle-east, visiting schools and helping to deploy laptops along the way. She may even bring some of her own. Today she begins her travel by flying back to her native South Africa from Dubai, where she has been working, launching a year-long journey by land rover to visit 39 countries. She plans to volunteer for OLPC and perhaps other educational groups along the way, and has been talking to grassroots XO deployments to find those that would benefit from a visit – starting with the amazing team in Kliptown!
If you’re working in Africa, drop her a line on her travel blog, everything except the horn – perhaps you can meet up during her trek.
The African Union [AU] and One Laptop per Child today signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which they commit to provide laptops to primary school students throughout Africa. Â Matthew Keller, OLPC’s Vice President of Global Advocacy, and Lidet Tilahun, Vice President of International Outreach, were presentÂ for the signing at AU’s Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The AU has committed itself to work with OLPC in developing large-scale laptop projects, and to work with OLPC on seeking funding from prospective donors as well as recipient countries for these projects. OLPC and the AU will work together to leverage the advantages of the XO laptop and its award-winning Sugaroperating system in transforming primary school education, and to promote strategies for better access to laptops and connectivity.
“OLPCâ€™s partnership with the African Union represents another significant step toward a world in which every child has access to a world-class education, to the world’s body of knowledge, and to each other,â€ said Keller. â€œThe African Union is dedicating itself not simply to One Laptop per Child, but to a world in which the children become agents of change â€“ making things, teaching each other and their families and affecting the social development of their community.â€
Commissioner Jean-Pierre Ezin, the AU Commissioner for Science and Technology, said, â€œGetting connected laptops filled with dynamic educational content into the hands of children throughout Africa will change the way this generation of children thinks and learns. The AU is eager to realize what could be a profound development as a result of advanced technology in the way learning happens both in and out of school, the way that books are read, and the way that education happens inside a classroom. This is a very ambitious project for which we will have to partner with various people and institutions to mobilize and find the resources required to meet the objective of educational transformation.â€
This is the second year that OLPC has had a booth at the annual soccer tournament hosted by the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA).Â This is one of the big events of the region’s Ethiopian diaspora each year, and we have been working togetherÂ to bring laptops to children in Ethiopia as we strive to focus attention on children’s education.
This year the OLPC booth drew a lot of children to the booth, and provided a very different kind of activity for children who were present at the stadium!Â We had non-stop traffic from 2:00pm â€“ 9:00pm every day of the tournament.
Three children who came on the first day, ended up volunteering for the duration of the tournament giving demos, and showing others how the XO works. The XO machines setup at the booth drew children to the booth, and many people came up and asked on how they could get one for their child or get involved with OLPC-Ethiopia.
We hope you share our excitement for what the future holds for Ethiopian children and join our efforts in putting laptops in the hands of more children in Ethiopia.
If you have any questions, or would like to join the OLPC Ethiopia community, please email us at Ethio@laptop.org .
When Matt Keller was in Ethiopia recently while travelling through East Africa, he met a young student who was making phone calls between a pair of XOs.Â Here he is preparing one of the laptops:
This is both simpler and more homegrown than the work Stephen Thorne and Pia did In Australia last winter, where a school ran regular Video Chat sessions with students on a small island who were using their XOs for the first time.
If you’ve had your own telephony and videoconferencing experiences, please share them (better yet, post videos:).