Cooperazione Italiana Etiopia finds “Tablets but No Teachers”

From their YouTube Channel:

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.

Last week we went to Wonchi, one of the two villages where the experiment is taking place. This is what we saw.

“If kids can learn to read, then they can read to learn” Nicholas Negroponte – Tablets Reading Project in Ethiopia

MIT Technology Review’s annual EmTech is the premier conference focused on emerging technologies and their impact. Each year, this unique event brings together key players from the technology, engineering, academic and management communities to discuss the technological innovations that are changing the face of business and driving the global economy.

During the last conference, Nicholas Negroponte presented the latest information about the Reading Project, an experiment/research, conducted with kids in Ethiopia to see what can happen without a teacher, because these kids have none.

During September, MIT Technology review posted the article “Another Way to Think about Learning” describing some of what was going on. Recently, a new article explains more on the latest findings; “Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

Learn more about the Reading Project explained by Nicholas Negroponte in the following video (min 57:53):

Watch live streaming video from emtech2012 at livestream.com

Nicholas is back to the stage on a Panel: minute 2:19:20

“Why I hope kids in Ethiopia can teach us something profound about education.” by Nicholas Negroponte

I believe that we get into trouble when knowing becomes a surrogate for learning. We know that a vast recall of facts about something is in no way a measure of understanding them. At best, it is necessary but not sufficient. And yet we subject our kids to memorizing. We seem to believe that rote learning is akin to physical exercise, good for their minds. And, quite conveniently, we can test whether the facts stuck, like spaghetti to a wall. In some cases knowledge is so drilled in that you know and hate a subject at the same time.

The closest I have ever come to thinking about thinking is writing computer programs. This involves teasing apart a process into constituent parts, step-by-step functions, and conditional statements. What is so important about computer programs is that they (almost) never work the first time. Since they do something (versus nothing), just not what you wanted, you can look at the (mis)behavior to debug and change your code. This iterative process, so common in computer programming, is similar to learning.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a non-profit association that I founded, launched the so-called XO Laptop in 2005 with built-in programming languages. There are 2.5 million XOs in the hand of kids today in 40 countries, with 25 languages in use. In Uruguay, where all 400,000 kids have an XO laptop, knowing how to program is required in schools. Estonia just did the same. In Ethiopia, 5,000 kids are writing computer programs in the language Squeak.

OLPC represents about $1 billion in sales and deployment worldwide since 2005—it’s bigger than most people think. What have we learned? We learned that kids learn a great deal by themselves. The question is, how much?

 To answer that question, we have now turned our attention to the 100 million kids worldwide who do not go to first grade. Most of them do not go because there is no school, there are no literate adults in their village, and there is little promise of that changing soon. My colleagues and I have started an experiment in two such villages, asking a simple question: Can children learn how to read on their own?
If you want to learn more about this research, read the original post here.

 

Learning to read with One Tablet per Child

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”

Tablets and the future of knowledge-sharing

From a recent letter to the editor at Education Week:

Tablet PC learning can provide basic knowledge needed by everyone—English, math, basic physics, and science, hygiene, “How Stuff Works,” and “Rules of Considerate Conduct.” A memory stick instead of a textbook for each K-12 subject would provide continuity. It also would allow students to learn any time in any place on any path at any pace. A memory stick can hold an entire K-12 course, including embedded and practical test questions.

The One Laptop Per Child project has provided more than 1 million laptop computers worldwide. Soon the project will make a tablet PC available… Tablet PCs are already available… this approach to learning is not new. This is the future of schooling.