The hole in the wall

I learnt to use paint, calculator, see various places through the Internet, solve puzzles, play games, listen interesting sounds and songs. (T.R. Ravi, age 12, Kalludevanahalli kiosk, Karnataka, India)

Back at the dawn of time (well, 1993) Seymour Papert* named the computer the “children’s machine”. India’s “hole in the wall” experiment goes a long way toward showing just how easily children understand how to use computers.

Read here about the extraordinary experiment taking place all over India. Hundreds of impoverished children are able to go on-line every day at computer kiosks installed in slums and rural areas. Who takes up the opportunity, what they choose to do, and how they figure it out, makes this a fascinating social experiment.

The typical user is described as:

Poor, going to school but not interested. Does not attend school regularly. Is like an urchin, with torn clothes, no slippers, out of the house most of the time. Interested in playing cricket, marbles and more cricket. Totally indifferent to what is happening around him or her; lives each day as it comes.

Nevertheless, they take to the computer intuitively and crowd around the kiosks to:

read news headlines, befriend cartoon figures, draw with digital paintbrushes and explore the possibilities of cyberspace.

As they explore, they invent names for the new images they see.

For more on this story go to PBS Frontline

Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer

by Seymour Papert, 1993

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