The initiative One Laptop Per Child, which has distributed until now 3 million laptops to kids in 40 different countries worldwide, has undertaken a very encouraging experience.
A few months ago they gave tablets to kids in two remote Ethiopian villages. Closed boxes full of tablets had been dropped, with no instructions and with preloaded programs. The objective was to see how far the children would get. These kids were illiterate and had had no previous exposure to written words. 5 days after the tablets were dropped, OLPC workers observed how kids had customized their desktops, were using more than 47 different apps and some of them had even hacked the videocamera, which was predisabled in the tablets. A few months later, workers noticed kids singing the alphabet and some of them even writing words. Does it sound familiar? Yes, Sugata Mitra is an important part of the experiment.
The curiosity and abilities of these kids have impressed Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop Per Child initiative. Even if they can still not prove that a kid can learn to read and write this way, they are very optimist: “If it gets funded, it would need to continue for another year and a half or two to come to a conclusion that the scientific community would accept”.