Tablets in Ethiopia: Flipping without a Classroom

I just read a fascinating article in the June issue of WIRED magazine by Eric Steuer. Nicholas Negroponte (founder of the One Laptop Per Child project) in conjunction with Tufts University and the MIT Media Lab have launched a potentially groundbreaking research initiative focusing on the ability of children to learn without any schools, teachers or books.

The research team arranged for solar powered Tablets (courtesy of master designer Yves Behar) to be dropped off in an Ethiopian village without electricity and a literacy rate of 0%. The children in the test groups, aged 4 through 12, were given NO instruction in regards to even the basic workings of the Tablet. Negroponte shared the startling results:

  • within 15 minutes the first child figured out how to turn it on
  • within 3 more minutes ALL children had it turned on
  • after a week 47 of the loaded apps had been used
  • two weeks later the children were reciting the alphabet

The researchers hope to find out if this mastery of basic skills can lead to an intuitive development of critical reading comprehension skills.

The potential for this project is amazing. As tablet technology becomes more common place and thus cheaper, equity concerns in regards to Ed Tech start to evaporate. This study also shows the innate power of children to learn. This is further evidence that our job as educators is to facilitate and not dominate the education of our children.

Talk about the speed of innovation – Flipping the classroom, before the classroom even exists!