The Gods Must Be Crazy: A Recap of 2012’s “Tablets Without Teachers” Experiment

In the fall of 2012, the internet started buzzing about a daring new experiment by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). In “two remote Ethiopian villages” where the local children not only had never seen a computer but were illiterate as well, OLPC dropped a box full of their new XO tablets in the middle of the village and recorded the results via the tablets’ memory chips.  The Ethiopian experiment proved to be quite interesting indeed.

The boxes were taped shut and came without any instructions.  Within four minutes, one child got the box open, pulled out a tablet, and turned it on.  After five days, the average number of daily apps used by each child was 47.  In two weeks time, these illiterate children were singing their ABCs.  In one village, after five months, one tablet was hacked and running Android.  Best of all, the cameras were disabled in the XO software natively; however, by using Android, this particualrly motivated child got his camera to activate–then quickly hacked the other childrens’ tablets to do the same.  Every tablet was customized–even though software prevented them from originally doing this.  The kids took the tablets and made them their own.

Still not impressed?

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

The gods must be crazy.


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