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OLPC says Motorola Xooms could help educate illiterate children

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The modified Android tablet entices illiterate children to tinker, toy, and learn

Nicholas Negroponte
Nicholas Negroponte

The OLPC program exists to provide affordable computing devices to developing nations in an effort to spur education, but the foundation’s latest endeavour is taking a slightly different approach. According to the MIT Technology Review, the OLPC organization dropped off crates full of Motorola Xoom tablets to two villages close to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While the tablets were issued with solar chargers, no instructions on how to use the devices were provided to the villages: the experiment was designed to see if illiterate children would be able to teach themselves how to read when exposed to the various apps, games, and books preloaded on the customized Xooms.

The founder of the OLPC program, Nicholas Negroponte, detailed the early results, saying that one child had opened the box and powered up a tablet "within four minutes." Over the next five days, children were said to be using "47 apps ... per day," and within two weeks, alphabet songs were being sung in the village. The children even "hacked Android" after five months by circumventing the locked down desktop settings. Negroponte says the results are "promising," but that further study would need to take place over a longer period of time before the scientific community would embrace the methodology.