The last few months I have written a lot about technology and the lack of diversity in the academic and professional world. I was irked by Rap Genius. I was saddened by the visual poetry of Alan Spearman and inspired to cut up a short video about electronic music and urban dance. As an artist, a designer and an educator I’ve been desperate for examples of cultural expressions of technology or technology culture and one that is great enough to rise above a niche-like feeling.
You can imagine then how excited I was when I read that within five months a group of first grade Ethiopian students who had never seen a computer before taught themselves how to make modifications to Android. This discovery was a part of MIT’s Media Lab program called One Laptop Per Child.
“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 is what I call awesome! At best, it says a lot about how technology can be used to educate people all over the world (for the record I am an advocate for using technology as a tool and not a replacement). At worst, it could be a sign of how brilliant young Ethiopian kids are when you put them in front of a computer. What kinds of technological advancements do you think these little guys can make over the next 25 years? Now, there’s an exciting thought.
Check out the link to the article for more details. This program/experiment is something worth keeping an eye on.