CAPE TOWN – The media reports that South Africa is again looking at a massive rollout of tablets for education should be welcomed. The idea of a One Device Per Child was first championed by Nicholas Negroponte from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). One of the pilot programmes was conducted in the rural parts of Ethiopia.
It was introduced by dropping ruggedized tablets from the air as part of a research study. The targeted audience was illiterate children and at the time the outcome of this process was unclear. How could illiterate kids use digital devices? How would kids who had never used tablets begin a process of using this foreign object? Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them.
The results were amazing, as the kids had figured out on their own how to use these tools. Some of them learnt how to write. In one media report, it was indicated that one boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion"
Will they work in South Africa?
As South Africa is beginning a process of rolling out digital devices, it is important that it takes lessons from the programme that was undertaken by Negroponte.