| December 5, 2010

400 Very Inspiring People


Reading Ghanaian literature

Worldreader is back from our iRead launch in Ghana and yesterday I shared the incredible events in Kade’s Purple Church.  Now it’s logical to wonder, “How did the kids react to the e-readers?”  On Monday and Tuesday, we were in classrooms delivering 440 e-readers holding tens of thousands of pre-downloaded books (with the capacity of 1,760,000 books).  That’s pretty impressive when you remember we are a team of just 7 people—something that only technology makes possible.

I can describe the students in just a single word: inspiring.  After playing around with the buttons a bit, they quickly understood the e-reader’s functionalities.  They were disciplined and eager to learn.  It was especially fascinating listening to the kids read local stories—which shows us how the publishing work we’ve done of local textbooks and story books is critical.  It was wonderful to witness the students personalize their e-reader cases, which were generously donated by our friends at M-Edge.  This was a huge deal: suddenly the e-reader moved from being “someone else’s” to “mine.”

The students understood that e-readers can change their life.  It wasn’t a shiny gadget that has market value and can be traded for other goods.  11 year-old Deborah, whose little brother also got an e-reader in Primary, took Elizabeth and me into her home after school where her mother told me: “Deborah dreams of becoming a doctor when she’s older, and now she can read all about how to do that.”  Deborah told me that she had a lot of time after school, and now she would read.  Suddenly her dream seemed wholly attainable.  Other students told us: “This is going to help me become a doctor / barrister / nurse/ lawyer/ journalist.”  One boy told me that he wants to be a football player in Europe and by improving his English, he might have a better chance.

Another quality I loved (and something that would like to better transmit to my own kids) was how the children collectively embrace a culture of sharing.  Actually it has me wondering about the effect on our impact evaluation studies: specifically the control group.  These are the kids without e-readers that we are testing to contrast changes in grammar and reading comprehension.  I wonder if it’s going to be hard to measure because these kids share with everyone in their community. I know I am not alone in saying that in one concentrated week, these children inspired me and stole a piece of my heart (once I get the video, I will share a song they wrote that gave the entire Worldreader team goose bumps).  Of course, without a crop of incredible teachers, this wouldn’t happen at all.

Next, David (who was voted best Professor at U. Washington MBA) will share his thoughts on the teachers.  Stay tuned!