Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months late

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madd0ct0r
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Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months late

Postby madd0ct0r » 2012-11-01 03:06pm

http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php

What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they'll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa.

The One Laptop Per Child project started as a way of delivering technology and resources to schools in countries with little or no education infrastructure, using inexpensive computers to improve traditional curricula. What the OLPC Project has realized over the last five or six years, though, is that teaching kids stuff is really not that valuable. Yes, knowing all your state capitols how to spell "neighborhood" properly and whatnot isn't a bad thing, but memorizing facts and procedures isn't going to inspire kids to go out and learn by teaching themselves, which is the key to a good education. Instead, OLPC is trying to figure out a way to teach kids to learn, which is what this experiment is all about.

Rather than give out laptops (they're actually Motorola Zoom tablets plus solar chargers running custom software) to kids in schools with teachers, the OLPC Project decided to try something completely different: it delivered some boxes of tablets to two villages in Ethiopia, taped shut, with no instructions whatsoever. Just like, "hey kids, here's this box, you can open it if you want, see ya!"

Just to give you a sense of what these villages in Ethiopia are like, the kids (and most of the adults) there have never seen a word. No books, no newspapers, no street signs, no labels on packaged foods or goods. Nothing. And these villages aren't unique in that respect; there are many of them in Africa where the literacy rate is close to zero. So you might think that if you're going to give out fancy tablet computers, it would be helpful to have someone along to show these people how to use them, right?

But that's not what OLPC did. They just left the boxes there, sealed up, containing one tablet for every kid in each of the villages (nearly a thousand tablets in total), pre-loaded with a custom English-language operating system and SD cards with tracking software on them to record how the tablets were used. Here's how it went down, as related by OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte at MIT Technology Review's EmTech conference last week:


"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."
This experiment began earlier this year, and what OLPC really want to see is whether these kids can learn to read and write in English. Around the world, there are something like 100,000,000 kids who don't even make it to first grade, simply because there are not only no schools, but very few literate adults, and if it turns out that for the cost of a tablet all of these kids can simply teach themselves, it has huge implications for education. And it goes beyond the kids, too, since previous OLPC studies have shown that kids will use their computers to teach their parents to read and write as well, which is incredibly amazing and awesome.


I've got mixed feelings about this. Best comment summing them up is below:

'd like to see the Ethiopian Chief go to the MIT lab and drop 1000 snakes there. Then write observations:
"The first day, 5 people got killed by the snakes. The second day, people realized they should run away... etc etc"
Who gives us the right to use kids as lab rats? If education is what you are looking for, send a professor and 2 assistants there!
Who'll be responsible if these kids, instead of learning the survival skills they need out there, hang out all day playing Angry Birds? Who'll be responsible for the long term effects?
The world has gone crazy.... this is not civilization, this is playing God.
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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Sephirius » 2012-11-01 03:53pm

madd0ct0r wrote:This experiment began earlier this year, and what OLPC really want to see is whether these kids can learn to read and write in English. Around the world, there are something like 100,000,000 kids who don't even make it to first grade, simply because there are not only no schools, but very few literate adults, and if it turns out that for the cost of a tablet all of these kids can simply teach themselves, it has huge implications for education. And it goes beyond the kids, too, since previous OLPC studies have shown that kids will use their computers to teach their parents to read and write as well, which is incredibly amazing and awesome.


Emphasis mine.

Surely this would outweigh any sort of minor moral/ethical concerns with this- your example is a bad one, as this is not something that is intended nor really capable of harm.
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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Stark » 2012-11-01 04:31pm

Without a control it demonstrates nothing beyond what everyone already knew: touch interfaces are intuitive and accessible for children. If the intent was to create a value for education, I'm not sure how this is a big step.

Well, maybe for people who never had a toddler steal a tablet. :v

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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Havok » 2012-11-01 04:46pm

I think the teaching themselves to read and speak English part is pretty boss. It's not that surprising though as kids are sponges and can process and pick up new ideas way faster than people usually give them credit for.

Oh man... what if they discover the Star Wars vs Star Trek debate? :lol:
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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Stark » 2012-11-01 04:50pm

For a certain value of 'teach'. They can sing songs; I can sing Korean songs. I don't know any Korean. They can use a GUI; this doesn't need any understanding of language.

Seriously, give a tablet to a toddler. The difference between bullshit mouse and keyboard and touch is amazing, because the tablet is just like a regular object that responds to the way people naturally interact with things. Jumping from this to 'kids teach themselves lol' is a pretty big stretch.

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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Terralthra » 2012-11-01 04:57pm

Also, these aren't just store-bought tablets. They're OLPC-modified Xooms, with custom software specifically designed for young learners. That makes a difference.

More important, perhaps, might be the distinction between teaching children information and teaching them to be learners (to have learning and acquisition skills). The balance in the public school system may currently be more biased toward the former at the expense of teaching independent learning skills, but that doesn't mean that what kids and adolescents learn isn't important.

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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Stark » 2012-11-01 04:58pm

Yeah, kids learning how to use a tablet to make the cool song or the sweet game is one thing: applying that learning to anything else is what you should be concerned about.

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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby madd0ct0r » 2012-11-01 05:01pm

Sephirius wrote:
Surely this would outweigh any sort of minor moral/ethical concerns with this- your example is a bad one, as this is not something that is intended nor really capable of harm.


The point was was that the ability to use a tablet is not necessarily a great boon to survival in an illiterate african village, and might actually be harmful if it distracts from more important things.

It's a weak argument because i don't think those key survival skills necessarily require full time learning, so there's a certain amount of time free for goofing off with angry birds. I'd love to know what they mean by 'hacking' because if it involves understanding code, or even wading through textual menus that's good evidence of learning. I taught myself DOS and BASIC aged 10 so it's easily possible.

I suppose there's a limiting factor because the devices are solar charged, so you physically can't waste too much time on them.
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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Questor » 2012-11-01 11:40pm

And where is OLPC publishing these results? Right next to their $99 tablet from 2005?

I'm skeptical, to say the least, of this. OLPC has a sketchy track record, and has always seemed more about "changing the face of education" than their professed goal of getting one:one computing going in education.

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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby Lord Zentei » 2012-11-14 11:15pm

I've got mixed feelings about this. Best comment summing them up is below:

'd like to see the Ethiopian Chief go to the MIT lab and drop 1000 snakes there. Then write observations:
"The first day, 5 people got killed by the snakes. The second day, people realized they should run away... etc etc"
Who gives us the right to use kids as lab rats? If education is what you are looking for, send a professor and 2 assistants there!
Who'll be responsible if these kids, instead of learning the survival skills they need out there, hang out all day playing Angry Birds? Who'll be responsible for the long term effects?
The world has gone crazy.... this is not civilization, this is playing God.

Really? As far as I'm concerned, it strikes me as the most pathetic, sanctimonious thing I've seen in several days.

An "Ethiopian Chief" dumping snakes, good fucking grief. :roll:

I could do a take-down of each sentence in that comment and find something objectionable about it, but seriously...

In any case, good on those kids. It just shows that given opportunity, people can achieve great things.
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Re: Laptops sent to african viallge. first hacking 5 months

Postby ryacko » 2012-11-15 01:15am

Personally I think bringing telephones, electricity, and agricultural education to Africa is more important, but this is quite interesting.

How to the tablets communicate? Satellite internet? I'm wondering how the OPLC spyware works.
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