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Web-Surfing Indian Slum Kids Ask: "What's a Computer"

chrisd posted more than 12 years ago | from the teach-a-man-to-fish dept.

Education 430

chaoticset writes "An experiment in minimally directed self-learning has been going fairly well, from the article: To test his ideas, Sugata Mitra launched something 13 months ago he calls "the hole in the wall experiment." He took a PC connected to a high-speed data connection and imbedded it in a concrete wall next to NIIT's headquarters in the south end of New Delhi. The wall separates the company's grounds from a garbage-strewn empty lot used by the poor as a public bathroom. Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it...he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net." Update: 04/17 22:23 GMT by M : Mitra has a website about his experiments.

cancel ×

430 comments

Giddy up! (-1, Offtopic)

Pr0n K1ng (160688) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363077)

Get it in you! I got the fp baybee!

Not first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363081)

I'm posting from an Indian slum, so the chances of a first post are pretty low.

Forcing the issue? (2, Interesting)

KT4313 (566574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363082)

Reminds me oddly of the book version of 2001... Forcing a bit of odd westernization-evolution on the kids...

Re:Forcing the issue? (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363188)

What an intriguing analogy...will we remove our obelisk when they begin to eat meat and kill one another? In other words, does the internet act as a homogenizing influence and does the internet act as a corrupting influence?

What a great topic for an essay. Too bad I'm not in college anymore. This sounds like a great way to waste 7-10 pages.

draw on it? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363085)

Like with photoshop? Or with a can of spray paint?

Re:draw on it? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363095)

Mod this up!!!

With Microsoft Paint (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363167)

Like with photoshop? Or with a can of spray paint?

Closer to the former. Read the article [greenstar.org] : "And they would use [Microsoft] Paint. It's very, very popular with all of them."

Yeah... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363196)

That did seem kind of strange.

The children were sorely disappointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363087)

when the machine wouldn't acknowledge their parent-induced handicaps such as missing limbs and blindness. They proceeded to recite curses at which point Windows crashed.

Those Hindu gods are some tough bastards.

Blindness is a handicap, but being a weeble isn't (2, Insightful)

yerricde (125198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363139)

The children were sorely disappointed when the machine wouldn't acknowledge their parent-induced handicaps such as missing limbs and blindness.

When it comes to the Internet, blindness is a handicap (now that much of the web is moving to Flash and that Flash MX's accessibility features have not come into wide use), but not having legs [rose-hulman.edu] isn't nearly as much of a handicap, especially when you can prop yourself up [everything2.com] and use the computer that way.

License (4, Funny)

QuodEratDemonstratum (569501) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363090)

It's running Windows [niitholeinthewall.com] . I hope that slum has a license.

Re:License (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363115)

How right you are. he should have used a Linux distro. That way, they'd be developing their very first computer skills on a system whose UI is so tedious, they'd go back to eating rotten garbage and end their existence, and their burden on this fragile world, all the much quicker. I applaud your foresight, sir.

Oh look its here (-1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363159)

The obligatory anti-ms post which is required in any slashdot article even when the article does not mention anything to do with software.

And you all wonder why this site is the laughing stock of every other weblog and disucssion site on the planet?

Re:Oh look its here (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363187)

Go home Bill, it's 8:30pm in Redmond.

Re:Oh look its here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363198)

And here is the obligatory insult against ACs --- fuck off you wanker

ahh come on (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363092)

stop /.'ing the site ... i'm trying to read it. some some damn courtesy

after all ... isn't high speed internet in india using birds to transmit packets?

That's pretty interesting... (3, Informative)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363094)

That people are learning so quickly on computers. Perhaps it's the missing link in quick education, we could probably educate the "ghetto" areas very quickly then.
I'd be interested in seeing a learning curve for teachers vs. computers, and in self-learning vs. independant.
Perhaps practical education is MUCH better than being taught, which would show that our education system is very unefficient...

whoa (2, Funny)

AnimeFreak (223792) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363097)

Shouldn't you call them "Natives" instead of "Indians?"

Political correctness. :)

Re:whoa (0)

Bocere (536240) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363121)

Well, they are Natives. Of India. Which is where New Dehli is. And Natives of India are Indians. Go fig.

Re:whoa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363142)

Am I the only one here who finds life meaningless?
Please respond.

Re:whoa (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363300)

Hmmm... Well, where we would call Indians "Native Americans", does that make the denizens of the country south of Everest "Native Asians"?
-russ

Plz FOAD (-1)

Fuck You Faggot (560952) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363098)

I hate you.

WTF (2, Funny)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363099)

now i have to move to new delhi for a high speed uncapped connection...grrr

This is incredible (3, Insightful)

qslack (239825) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363100)

You know, I felt discouraged with all of the dot-com bombs. It seemed as if the promise of the Internet was over.

It's these things that remind me what the Internet is all about: learning and communication. It's not about making money (although that might work for some people). It's just about making the world a better place, one page at a time. :)

This is seriously cool. Nobel Internet Peace Prize anyone? :)

Here we go again... (2, Insightful)

metalhed77 (250273) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363250)

actually its about keeping government agencies and universities connected (DARPA Net).

it's nice to bring your ideas to the table, but the net is all about 3 things.

1. Commerce - self explanatory
2. Self Glorification - Personal web page? yeah like you weren't trying to show off (unless its just a resume which is practical) (btw, i don't mind showing off).
3. Communication - Communicating between different groups for BAD OR GOOD, whether world peace ensues is not the net's concern

Re:This is incredible (0, Offtopic)

dan_the_heretic (260226) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363261)

The only thing Microsoft could make that woudn't suck would be a vacumn cleaner

If a vacumn contains nothing, how can you clean it?

Re:This is incredible (4, Insightful)

ender81b (520454) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363284)

I totally agree. This is remarkable and quite fascinating - the kids just invent words/metaphors for what the computer does and learn it. It is like in the old days when I learned DOS. I had no idea what stuff was called or how anything worked i just figured it out (to get games to work). This is the same type of thing only waayyyy cooler. Man is it just.. I dunno - neat. I say we give these kids an "honorary geek award" from slashdot =). THe only thing that troubled me about the article (and I mean only thing.. man is this cool) is this:

A: There is one experiment that scares me. These children don't know what e-mail is. If I gave them e-mail, I don't know what would happen. I'll probably try it anyway. But remember the stories one used to hear about people finding lost tribes and introducing them to Coca-Cola? I'm really seriously scared about what would happen if suddenly the whole wide world had access to these kids. I don't know who would talk to them for what purpose.

It is kindof sad in todays world that he would be afraid of what somebody would do to these kids but I understand. With all the perverts in the world... well. It just seems sad though that they are missing on a fundamental aspect of the internet because of the (literal) danger it poses to them. Plus, they would probably get spammed to death.

The only other thing I wanted to add is just how interesting it was that they could use the web (Disney's site even!) without really knowing English. I mean, think about it. Go to some Chinese/Japanese/French/Whatever site and try using it. Almost impossible (without the fish) but here these kids have figured out how. And to think we bitch when sites use flash...

He has my vote for some sort of award.

Know what they're NOT asking? (-1)

Voyager Sucks Ass (570844) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363102)

Notice they're not asking what the fuck this "Star Trek: Voyager" piece of shit show is. Why? Because they don't fucking get it on TV there.

America could learn somethig from the Indian slums. Sure, you might die of fucking cholera, or ebola, or whatever fucked-up diseases those fucking savages have over there, but you don't have to put up with that dyke Janeway every night at 10/9 central.

I can see it now (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363103)

I'm picturing a ghetto kid, shoeless, standing in front of this magical screen embedded in a dingy concrete wall, and saying:
Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these...

Re:I can see it now (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363123)

This is definetly one of the best Beowulf posts i've seen

Sigh. (5, Funny)

flacco (324089) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363104)

he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net.

Yet our organization still has full-grown, western-educated employees who hold the fucking mouse upside-down.

Re:Sigh. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363119)

more like

'what is this thing they speak of ... the slashdot effect?'

Mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363137)


You mean the foot pedal?

Re:Sigh. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363151)

Dude, it's called a trackball.

Re:Sigh. (2)

56ker (566853) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363193)

brings a whole new meaning to that advertising slogan:

"so easy a child could do it"... and the adult couldn't

So, what's wrong with that? (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363225)

It reverses the direction of the x and y axes. It's like moving the cursor around on a lever.

All extremists should be shot (1)

cliveholloway (132299) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363240)

"All extremists should be shot."

I agree, but feel your viewpoint is a little extreme :)

cLive ;-)

not anymore.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363107)

--
Mitra has a website about his experiments.
--

Not anymore he doesn't...

------

The computers used for the kiosks are all Pentium PCs with color monitors and multimedia support. The operating system is Windows(TM) (9x/NT) and the Internet browser is MS Internet Explorer(TM).

As you might imagine, deploying Internet kiosks in economically backward parts of India is not quite simple. Besides the lack of infrastructure, the other challenges include providing a low-cost solution that can withstand harsh conditions like dust and extreme temperatures, and a kiosk that can be remotely administered. These and other similar requirements have led to the design for a Cognitive Kiosk for Rural, Outdoor, Tropical Environment (patent pending).

An early prototype of the Hole-In-The-Wall kiosk

Listed below are some of the typical problems encountered while deploying the Hole-In-the-Wall kiosk:
Internet Connectivity
Input Device
Administration
Heat and Dust
Security

Internet Connectivity

Internet connectivity to the kiosks has been provided using various methods including leased lines, ISDN lines and Dial-up connections. Internet access in India is at a nascent stage due to inadequate telecommunications infrastructure. Some kiosk installations have been at places that don't even have phone lines. In such cases, the computers use cached web content to simulate web access. Besides this, a host of edutainment software is installed that has actually proved to be quite popular. Future design includes experimenting with remote connectivity with Wireless LAN and Wireless Telephone Line Extender.

Back

Input Device

Keyboard
There is no keyboard available to the users. This is due to the concern of vandalism. Also, it is anticipated that there would be high level of wear and tear of keys as the device is susceptible to dust, especially as the dust particles have an abrasive quality here. All this meant that the cost of maintenance of a keyboard were unacceptably high. Trials are on to see if virtual keyboards can be used.

Pointing Device
Touch pads were used as the pointing device during the early experiments. The touch pads were found to be wearing out quite fast or being accidentally broken by the kids. On an average the life of a touch pad was approximately 1 month. To avoid this frequent replacement of touch pads, a JoyStick Mouse was devised at CRCS. This device has a joystick control for the movement of the cursor, and a button each for left and right click. This JoyStick Mouse is quite a sturdy pointing device that is low-cost. Moreover, it requires little maintenance as compared to the touch pads.

Back

Administration

Though remote administration software tools have been used in some cases, by and large, the task of administering the kiosk is accomplished manually at this point in time. But work has already begun on a Central Control Website through which it will be possible remotely administer all the kiosks that are online. The plan envisages kiosks that have embedded controllers connected to the computer giving details of the ambient variants such as temperature and humidity. The kiosks will also record the status of UPS/batteries. These records will be put on the Central Control Website, where the central observer can take actions according to the requirements. The idea of a kiosk reporting it's own "health problems", is what drives this effort.

Back

Heat and Dust

To cope with the high summer temperatures, the computers are housed in a brick enclosure with thicker-than-normal walls. The enclosure that has dust filters, also minimises the dust from the dry winds. Initial experiments tried air-conditioning for tackling the heat but that turned out to be too expensive an option. It has been observed that the computers' performance is affected only marginally by the high temperatures. Therefore, for the moment, only ventillating fans have been used to maintain ambient temperature. The ventillating fans also serve to maintain positive air pressure inside the kiosk. Blowing air with high pressure checks the entry of dust particles in case of minor cracks or holes in the kiosk.

Back

Security

The kiosks are unmanned and, therefore, require means for the safe-keeping of all the expensive hardware. The Hole-In-The-Wall kiosks have in-built security system the details of which cannot be divulged for obvious reasons.

Back

Sociology (2, Insightful)

Kargan (250092) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363113)

Seems to me like more of a sociology experiment than anything...

I wonder if any prominent sociological societies or groups are aware of this project and its collected data?

Camera behind the screen... (0, Redundant)

marko123 (131635) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363114)

Re:Camera behind the screen... (2, Funny)

rob-fu (564277) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363180)

they're all lined up waiting to write some java.

what type of pr0n do they prefer? (-1, Troll)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363116)

I wish they could give us a direct chat link..like icq or something......we can pick up ghetto girls, and like fly them to the us and stuff :)

But seriously...

a) lesbian
b) cow
c) lesbian

Mirror. (-1, Offtopic)

bleckywelcky (518520) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363117)


Here is a mirror [ustreas.gov] .

Re:Mirror. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363155)

That used to be funny.

institutional review board (5, Insightful)

tcyun (80828) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363120)

While the experiment sounds interesting, I have this weird feeling that the IRBs might have a few issues with this type of experiment if they were run in the United States (and by experiment, I mean controlled study run through a university). Now, the weird feeling stems from the fact that one would potentially have to answer a few questions about using human beings as unaware subjects.

I am not saying that there are a not great deal of potential positives form this type of "experiment" as well. I just want to point out that there might be some ethical issues. I am sure there are some simple arguements that can point out the cost to implement the hole in the wall system vs. the cost to feed/educate/clothe a number of children. (The counter arguement states that if a single child is able to rise out of poverty due to the exposure to technology, the purely economic analysis states that the experiment was a win...)

The groaning aside, it is again amazing that kids will figure out how to use stuff. It does not seem to matter who the kids are or what the stuff is, they seem to figure out how to use it.

Before anyone gets too excited... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363125)

This company (NIIT) is well known as one of the farms for H1-Bs - (e.g. Learn HTML in 21 days and go to America). No joke - if you visit India, you see advertisements like this. They're obviously trying to get an aura of semi-legitimacy by publishing this pseudo-scientific study. Their marketing is well known, their courses - dubious at best. For example, my cousing was offered one of their courses as part of their SWIFT Start program (check out http://www.rediff.com/computer/1999/sep/04niit.htm ) a few years ago. Would go because he thought it was a useless bunch of crap.

Would be like IIT here coming out with a "study" based on putting a computer kiosk in South Central. Wait a minute, I'd like to see that....

internet connection (0, Troll)

drink85cent (558029) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363128)

So what's their connection at?
I bet its the good old fashiond 65 baud tin can and string.

Dial-up and ISDN (3, Informative)

yerricde (125198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363189)

So what's their connection at? I bet its the good old fashiond 65 baud tin can and string.

Hardly an acoustic coupler. From the article [niitholeinthewall.com] :

Internet connectivity to the kiosks has been provided using various methods including leased lines, ISDN lines and Dial-up connections. Internet access in India is at a nascent stage due to inadequate telecommunications infrastructure.

The following was more interesting:

Some kiosk installations have been at places that don't even have phone lines. In such cases, the computers use cached web content to simulate web access.

That must be a pretty d*ng big cache. How many clicks is it from the average US site to WinMX.com or Kazaa.com? (WinMX and Kazaa are two popular P2P file-sharing apps for Windows.)

Re:Dial-up and ISDN (1)

QuaZar666 (164830) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363291)

Doesn't have to be too Large. Maybe 500 megs at best. Without a keyboard you might only have a select amount of web sites you can view such as CNN, MSNBC, theregister, etc. Every few days you might come around and upload the new cache and to some people they wont notice that they are viewing cache only.

Qua

Can you imagine? (5, Funny)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363129)

Imagine a Bhagavad-Gita cluster of these!

Good idea (1)

Highlordexecutioner (203297) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363130)

I wonder if there is any hope for the clueless nimrods I have to support? Nah, since no one that calls me has any desire to learn.

MIE = Unschooling (5, Interesting)

Telent (567982) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363133)

From the article:

Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) is a pedagogic method and derives its name partly from the medical term minimally invasive surgery. MIE believes that in the absence of any directed input, any learning environment that provides adequate level of curiosity can cause learning.

This is not a new theory, ./'ers. People have been teaching themselves all along - indeed, our school system is the newcomer to the scene. Read, oh, "A People's History of the United States"... but I'm drifting off my topic...

An education system such as this already exists in the States. It's called "unschooling". Give the child materials to learn with, help learning when they need it, and said child will actually teach themselves.

Children are supposedly "lazy" and "not wanting to learn" because they've been forced into it by repetitive cookie-cutter education. This study just gives an old technique a new and more politically-correct name - "unschooling" pisses off the NEA.

Re:MIE = Unschooling (2)

drDugan (219551) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363247)

In my opinion, schooling in its current form .. (at least in the US) does almost as much harm as it does good.

The MOST profound effect of our school system is to very effectivly prevent almost all people under the age of 18 from being a part of the force force. Imagine what would happen if tomorrow we said "OK, after age 13, school is optional. Take it now, or come back and get it later."

Our economy would be crushed by a 300% jump in unemployment.

Re:MIE = Unschooling (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363312)

In my opinion, schooling in its current form .. (at least in the US) does almost as much harm as it does good.

So why are we communicating in the native language of the US over a medium invented, developed, and funded by the US on a website that resides in the US?

Public School = Culture Indoctrination (2)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363297)

I wonder if public school ever was supposed to be actually educational. But from my experience, at the time I thought of it like day camp. A place to put the kids while the parents worked.

Now I see it as a camp for the indoctrination of culture. The public education system is pretty much the same from here to Alaska (skipping Canada). They have similar course structures, similar standards, etc...

The point is to make the students all have a commonality. More than just living in the same town, state, or country, because those types of bonds aren't strong. Instead, because we share the same educational structure, we learn the same history, take the same tests, and generally learn to approach life the same way. Public School itself is another bond. No matter what state you go to, you can always find people to b*tch about the crappy public school system with.

But looking outside the mandated structures, the school itself is a tool to be accessed by the students (like the terminal from the article). There is a wealth of possibility, not from the courses, but from the things that are ancillary to your report card. The opportunity to contribute to a newspaper, to perform in a play, sing in a chorus, or compete in a sporting event. All these things are available through the school system. The kids who benefit the most from Public School are those that approach it with curiosity.

Sweat

Funny... (5, Funny)

KingJawa (65904) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363141)

We're amazed that a bunch of kids in India can use the web, but have no trouble believing that a survivor of war-torn Afghanistan can (a) get a Commodore on the 'net and (b) emails Jon Katz when he does.

Re:Funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363209)

no, we're amazed that an old commodore can download media files with it.

Hmm.... (0)

segfault7375 (135849) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363144)


So.. um, how do you say "slashdotted" in Hindu? :)

Re:Hmm.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363184)

You stupid dumbass - Hindu is a person who follows Hinduism - the language is Hindi.

LessIdiotic

Re:Hmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363243)

Bottom line: People who need religion are week and need to be shot into the sun. It would solve most of the world's probelms.

Re:Hmm.... (0, Flamebait)

amanb (197498) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363207)

Well, how do you say slashdotted in Christian? or Jew?

Re:Hmm.... (3, Funny)

Macrobat (318224) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363269)

Well, how do you say slashdotted in Christian? or Jew?
I'm not sure how you say it in Hebrew, but I believe the KJV has a passage about "my bandwidth floweth over."

messed up title (5, Funny)

cosyne (324176) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363156)

Did anyone else read the title on this and think they'd accidentally gone to The Onion [theonion.com] instead of slashdot?

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363177)

No.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363273)

Really? I like cheese.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363290)

I like cheese too. Cheese and onion sandwichs. Mmmmm. The headline still didn't remind me of The Onion though.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363201)

Not me.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363206)

Nor me.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363218)

Me neither.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363224)

yes, no kidding.. its got "The onion" written all over it.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363226)

Nope ... like the Indian children I can use the internet and know what site I am at.

Re:messed up title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363259)

nope. Not many things get me to thing about the Onion.

What a fantastic idea (3, Interesting)

bigWebb (465683) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363157)

What amused me the most was the comment about the kids doing things that adults couldn't understand. Children learn at a faster rate than adults, especially it seems where technology is concerned. This can be seen by looking at the case of programming a video. In most households it is the children who are most able to use technology to its fullest.

I would be interested to know whether a childs ability to learn how to use computers (or other technology) is to do with their natural inquisitiveness and readiness to try new things(as opposed to the technophobia that many older people show), or whether there is some sort of 'critical period' (such as for syntax) after which it becomes more difficult to learn such things. This study would seem to suggest that it is not only the increasing contact with computers that makes children more skilled in their use, since these are kids who have never seen (or heard of) computers before.

Re:What a fantastic idea (5, Insightful)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363302)

The key seperating characteristic of Adults and Children is simple, Fear of Breaking Shit. Children do not have this crippling learning disability, they do not Fear to Break Shit. Adults do. So Adults will not try anything that they aren't sure will not Break Shit. Since an Adult who has never used a computer does not know what will Break Shit and what won't, they prefer to do nothing with the computer. A child doesn't care whether what he does to the computer Breaks Shit or not, he just wants to know what it will do. So every time a child does something and it doesn't Break Shit, he or she adds that act to the list of actions that Don't Break Shit and moves on. The same if the action Does Break Shit. Hopefully the child will try to fix it after he Breaks Shit, and thereby learn how to UnBreak Shit. I have formulated this theory after MANY MANY hours watching customer service reps who use the computer on a daily basis panic when they click on a different icon accidentally and a new window comes up. They call support (me) to 'Fix' their computer because it's 'Broke' by which they mean they aren't sure what actions Won't Break Shit in this situation. Amazing isn't it?

Kintanon

Unanswered questions... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363160)

The computers used for the kiosks are all Pentium PCs with color monitors and multimedia support. The operating system is Windows(TM) (9x/NT) and the Internet browser is MS Internet Explorer(TM).

"...he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net."

How long did it take them to learn how to install the Critical Update of the Day?

How long to learn how to h4x0r an unpatched IIS server they came across while surfing?

How long to discover and start trolling on /.?

How long to discover Usenet and make their first "Me too!" post?

Re:Unanswered questions... (2)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363170)

He should have put Office on those PCs too, to see how long it took the little urchins to begin hating Clippy!

Re:Unanswered questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363258)

There IS MS office on them! Look @
http://www.niitholeinthewall.com/Images/OnScreen1. jpg

Hello? (5, Funny)

anotherone (132088) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363161)

Hello?


I am pooosting from a box in a wall.


Have you seen this "All your base are belong to us" movie?

Some deeper thought (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363162)

I find it very outstanding that someone would take the time and effort to do a project like this. Now, if they implemented something that made them do a math question before they could draw on the screen, or surf the web. Say every 10 minutes, what is 4 + 2 ? or 2 x 2 ? So not only are they learning how to draw and surf the web, they are learning simple mathmatics that they normally wouldn't in such an environment. I think this is a great idea, and if they presue this that it might actually give a kid that is say 12 or 13, the interest to want to do better, have a higher self-esteem, and WANT to goto school. I am sure that in such an environment that they probably don't goto school and have no reason to want to.

All I have to say is keep up the good work, that is an excellent idea, with true feelings put into the project. I have read a few other posts regarding this matter, I think most people fail to see why it was done and what they are trying to accomplish. It's a pity some just can't look at the bigger picture.

Net? Food? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363164)

Sigh. I have to think the kids would have been better off with the equivalent monetary expenditure for food and housing than with high speed Internet access.

Junis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363169)

I here this is what Junis [slashdot.org] first started out on.

Re:Junis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363220)

hear even...

I wonder how long... (4, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363174)

before they are writing Outlook Express viruses and hacking into bank accounts??

Day 386, I came in and found a dozen chocolate roses with a note for me from the kids, paid for with some poor American slob's credit card.

is it that hard to believe? (3, Insightful)

papasui (567265) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363178)

Children have the most curiosity, and the littlest fear. They will try things that people who have experienced negative results previously may not. For example: my 2 year old son can play Halo better than I can, not because I'm bad at video games but because I cannot adapt to the controls and controller the way he can. I'm still stuck in the quake mouse + keyboard point of mind.

India sucks (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363185)

Time for the Pakis to really nuke the shit out of it.

My favourite part of this experiment (5, Interesting)

ntk (974) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363195)


"Perhaps the greatest feat came from the group at one kiosk who discovered and disabled the piece of software that Dr Mitra had installed on the machine so as to monitor their activity and relay it back to him. They sent him a message (in Hindi) that read: 'We have found and closed the thing you watch us with.'"


That was my .sig for a while.

Re:My favourite part of this experiment (5, Funny)

drDugan (219551) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363271)

I wish there was an easy way to send that message to companies every time I delete my cookies.

If non-english speaking slum kids can do it.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363204)

On one hand there is the tech industry making jokes about how stupid users are and on the other hand you have this, proving that the tech industry is often full of themselves.

Computers don't need to be made difficult to make use of, but the tech industry needs them to be more complicated than what is needed to get the job done.

How else can those in the tech industry make themselves feel.....impotent...

Before moding this down, consider your gandmother usings Windows.....for the first time.

Mysterious skills of httpd administration (2)

Shiny Metal S. (544229) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363208)

Web-Surfing Indian Slum Kids Ask: "What's a Computer"

I heard that they are great in ASF HTTP Server [apache.org] administration. I wonder why.

(Or are they Indians from Indies? Damn you Cristoforo Colombo!)

Don't believe a word they say. (1)

SmoothOperator (300942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363211)

It is not an experiment. It is only Micro$oft running a successful ad campaign in a market that has 1.3 billion potential customers. And we're all impressed.

Wonderful Effects! The Medium is truly the Message (5, Insightful)

McLuhanesque (176628) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363213)

There are some wonderful observations for educators and those providing government funding for educational infrastructure from the Hole-In-the-Wall experiment.

Perhaps one of the most important observations made by Dr. Mitra was, "The terminology is not as important as the metaphor."

Metaphors, by their nature are transformational. As Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media, "All media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms."

(By "medium," McLuhan means anything that we conceive or create - tangible or intangible, everything from tables to televisions to televangelists. The "message" of a medium is the set of effects or changes that the medium will induce in us, our society or culture.)

In this case, the Indian children used metaphors to which they could relate to effect changes in, and transform, the way they experienced common-place life: Indian music, letters, Shiva's drum and so forth. In doing so, they will tend to view the rest of the world through changed eyes, and will undoubtedly "demand" (even tacitly through imagination) these new experiences. They will likely be dissatisfied with the conventional approach to instruction, perhaps preferring more self-guided, exploration and discovery-based education. What effects might this have on the educational system in India? What effects will this have on educators in North America and Europe who will be forced to confront massive investments in seemingly unnecessary "computer literacy" programs. How can approaches to adult education take advantage of child-like curiosity and discovery?

In the graduate-level course I teach, the majority of the course is discovery and exploration. Where we end up at the end of each seminar is largely irrelevant. If we reach a point of being able to ask a profound question as a "conclusion," the seminar is a resounding success. As seen with these Indian children and Dr. Mitra's brilliant experiment, "The teacher's job is very simple. It's to help the children ask the right questions." To which I would add, adult learners, too.

human subjects (3, Interesting)

drDugan (219551) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363219)

its interesting...

One could never do this experiement (as
presented) in the United States (and
probably other. more controlled societies
as well) because you couldn't get Human
Subjects Approval with out informed
consent.

It would be interesting to get some sort of
grip the real long term effects on the
kids will be.

I imbedded a computer... (1)

not_cub (133206) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363221)

... in a porcelain wall in the local pub, used by the drunk as a public bathroom.

And it got peed on.

not_cub

something simliar (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363237)

in that "Hackers" book by Stephen Levy .. but i dont remember the exact idea ... something in San Francisco and a terminal in the wall -- maybe someone else could elaborate

this has been done before (1)

Essron (231281) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363251)

Maybe it was the same guy, but i read about this experiment years ago. I think it happened in St. Louis, by accident. It was mentioned in a book by Jonothan Kozol, "Savage Inequalities". The point the author stressed is that they kept asking Yahoo about Disney. Creepy. But children with no exposure to technology figured out how to use a computer, even if they were just looking for disney info.....it was only their beginning.

Imagine... (0, Redundant)

realdpk (116490) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363282)

What they'd do with a Beowulf cluster!

(go ahead, mod me, i'm at the cap)

In the internet age, information itself... (2)

gnovos (447128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363287)

...is irrelevant. *What* information is what is important. I can find anything and everything I need to on the net, what I can't find is WHAT to look for. Don't teach kinds facts and figures, teach kinds how to know what facts and figures they should be looking for!

RE: Linux version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3363295)

No, there won't be a linux version. The engine is heavily reliant on windows. Trust me.

UT was better than Quake 3. We got Q3. Did we get UT? No, we got shafted.

No, wait. I mean... YOU got shafted. I run windows xp! Ha! FAGS!

Also I dual boot FreeBSD for kicks. That, and I had your sister last night. In the pooper, no less!

Happens elsewhere (2, Interesting)

raymondlowe (257081) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363304)

I happen to live in a small town where a lot of the population are what we call "fisher people"; meaning that one (or less) generations ago they lived on fishing boats, which are their livelyhood, and had little education.

Today the kids do go to school, and have TV and everything but life is still pretty simple for them and your typical fisher family would not have access to a PC. (though dad probably has some fancy sonar and radar on the boat)

Well our public post offices now have free Internet Kiosks as part of a "internet for all" program; which is great.

The other day I saw a fisher girl of about 6 in front of the terminal. I was rather surprised and had a sneaking peek over her shoulder to see what was going on.

She had just gone to some web site which for some reason had crashed the browser. So not hesitating she brought up the task manager, killed the hung task, and loaded the browser again to continue.

I have desktop support people who work for me in the office who are not as comfortable doing things like that!

R.

edu.? (0)

Sideswiped (259402) | more than 12 years ago | (#3363306)

I wonder if more studies like this could in a way greatly effect todays educational system. maybe one that promotes learning through experimentation where teachers become in a way guides and not prison guards force feeding children information whipping them into emotionless drones (yeah there are exceptions but for the most part I'm sure many ppl can relate to this).

))Sideswiped))
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