We don’t remember hearing about the One Laptop Per Child initiative distributing tablet computers but apparently a couple of shipments were distributed to rural communities in Ethiopia. The problem one might think of in this scenario is that the literacy rate in the two test villages was basically zero. But that’s exactly the population targeted with thr technology. The tablets were loaded with a software package called Nell. It was designed to guide a child in self learning by telling them engaging stories that include teachable moments. If you check out the white paper (PDF) you’ll find it’s pretty much the exact same teaching technique that [Neal Stephenson] wrote about in his book The Diamond Age. But keep reading that paper and you’ll see that this is because the researchers took their inspiration from that very novel.
Well the results are in and apparently [Neal] knows exactly what he is talking about. Not only did the children learn from the software, but within five months they were hacking the device (which runs Android) to get the disabled camera working.
[Thanks Alexander via Dvice]