Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nicholas Negroponte: Teach kids how to learn with OLPC

Nicholas Negroponte is the founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).  He has been working on OLPC project for the past 7 years.  Just as the name suggest the idea of OLPC is to give one laptop to each child.  His audacious goal is to get the child to learn from the PC who does not get to school.

Negroponte described his vision at Solve for X forum last February 2012.

Since then he has been collecting data from his experiments of whether kids can pick up how to learn from PC without any instruction.  Kids in Ethiopia received boxes of Motorola Xoom tablets without any instruction.  They were left to figure out for themselves what to do with the tablets.

The results have been amazing.  Here's how Negroponte described what he saw from the Ethiopian kids:

"We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He'd never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] 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 it had a camera, and they hacked Android."

It's a very neat experiment.  If we can in fact prove that child in a remote villages can learn to read and write autonomously from programs running on OLPC device, it will be a great thing.  Just imagine unlocking all the creativity out of every child on the Earth.  It would be not just great equalizer for under privileged kids, but the entire economy will benefit from growing number of productive and contributing members of society.

I am optimistic that Negroponte and his team will be able to pull this off.  Having seen my 3-year-old boy navigating iPad and Kindle, I think there is a good chance that children can learn from trial and error, and imitating the successful ones in the bunch.  I will look forward to Negroponte's realizing his dream of getting OLPC devices to all 100 million kids without access to school.

No comments:

Post a Comment