Feeds

African kids learn to read, hack Android on OLPC fondleslab

Why your next sysadmin could be Ethiopian

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Chipmaker FTDI bricking counterfeit kit
USB-serial imitators whacked by driver update
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
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?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.