Feeds

African kids learn to read, hack Android on OLPC fondleslab

Why your next sysadmin could be Ethiopian

Remote control for virtualized desktops

One Laptop Per Child founder Nicholas Negroponte has said children are not only teaching themselves to read without teachers by using fondleslabs he provided, but they are learning how to hack Android as well.

In an experiment, the OLPC dropped off Motorola Xoom tablets with solar chargers in two Ethiopian villages and trained the local adult population how to charge them up. Children were also given sealed boxes containing fondleslabs that were preloaded with educational software and a memory card that tracks how the kids got on with the new technology.

"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," Negroponte told MIT Review. "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."

Learning to read by computer is nothing new. Professor Sugata Mitra's research into machine teaching in Indian slums has shown illiteracy is no bar to using computers, and the same proved to be true here, with children weeks later learning their alphabet and how to spell the names of some animals.

But what shocked the OLPC team was just how good the kids proved at understanding and changing the tablet's operating system.

"The kids had completely customized the desktop - so every kid's tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that," said Ed McNierney, OLPC's CTO. "And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning."

It wasn't just the desktop that the children learned to subvert. The cameras on the tablet had been disabled by an OLPC worker, but the children managed to get around that and turn them back on again with no instruction.

Last year Negroponte told The Register about plans to use fondleslabs for teaching children to read without human intervention, and the first phase of the project appears to have worked better than expected. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Nexus 7 fandroids tell of salty taste after sucking on Google's Lollipop
Web giant looking into why version 5.0 of Android is crippling older slabs
All aboard the Poo Bus! Ding ding, route Number Two departing
Only another three days of pooing and I can have a ride!
Heyyy! NICE e-bracelet you've got there ... SHAME if someone were to SUBPOENA it
Court pops open cans of worms and whup-ass in Fitbit case
Official: European members prefer to fondle Apple iPads
Only 7 of 50 parliamentarians plump for Samsung Galaxy S
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Space Commanders rebel as Elite:Dangerous kills offline mode
Frontier cops an epic kicking in its own forums ahead of December revival
The IT Crowd's internet in a box gets $240k of crowdcash for a cause
'Outernet' project proposes satellite-fuelled 'Lantern' WiFi library for remote areas
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.