One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), a non-profit that seeks to provide every child on earth with an inexpensive laptop to use as a learning tool, just announced they’ll soon be air-dropping laptops into remote villages to help children in those villages teach themselves to read. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, explained that his idea is based on a minimally invasive education experiment done in India that shows children have an overwhelming capacity to navigate and learn — without instruction — from technology. Negroponte and his team will approach local leaders about the program in advance, and once agreed to, they’ll air-drop the laptops from helicopters and then return one year later to see if the children have made progress.

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Negroponte announced the plans at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco. The experiment this new venture was based on was conducted in a slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi in India by Professor Sugata Mitra. In the experiment, a computer with internet access was placed in a hole in a wall without explanation, and in under a half an hour a group of illiterate children had gathered around it, figured out how to access the internet and were navigating through multiple web pages.

The OLPC program has been hugely successful around the world, distributing laptops with the help of local governments to children in communities from Paraguay to Madagascar to Nepal. In most cases, with simple initial instruction, children are left to use the laptops for learning and when checked in on at later times have advanced significantly without OLPC interference.

Additionally, it has been found by OLPC that children and their families cherish the laptops and take extreme care to keep them safe. In Ethiopia alone, OLPC distributed 5,000 laptops, and one year later returned to find that only two had been damaged or lost. With this new air-drop scheme OLPC plans to help reduce the gap in education between hard to reach developing communities and the rest of the world by giving even the poorest and most remote groups children a chance to educate themselves.

The organization argues that with responsibility and education we can help build a new generation that is more peaceful and capable of problem solving. “Education is the long term solution to every problem,” Negroponte said. “I don’t know of any solutions that aren’t achievable without some form of education. Primary education is the most important – if you mess that up it’s a lot of work to change things for the better.”


Via The Register