| December 10, 2010

What About Theft? The Worldreader Pledge


Students performing the “drop test” with their e-readers in their cases

One question friends often ask us is: what happens if the students lose their e-reader, or they get stolen? Of course, it’s a real issue, and we have several strategies we use to deal with this.  (We won’t talk about all of them here.) But so far, we haven’t found it to be a problem.  These students know how to take care of valuable property: many have access to a cell phone, for instance, and take very good care of it.

Of course, stuff does happen to electronic devices, which is why we also distribute cases to protect against damage, donated by our very generous partners M-Edge. When we do so, it’s a big moment: the students get to personalize their e-readers and truly make them their own.

We also ask each student to take a pledge to take responsibility for his or her e-reader.  Here is a bit of video that gives you a sense of how that works.  The classroom teacher leads the pledge… in this case, she improvised a bit at the end, which is why you’ll hear religious language, but frankly it does feel a bit like a religious experience!

Finally, we ask the entire community to pledge to support this project.  We’ll write more about that soon.

Worldreader also works with e-reader manufacturers to be able to disable e-readers remotely, to reduce their perceived value.  And to be clear, Joseph and five volunteers spent an entire night keeping vigil over the initial shipment of e-readers– it’s naive to think that a large quantity of merchandise won’t attract attention.  But our early experience, both in our early trial in Ayenyah, Ghana, as well as this iREAD Pilot, has been that once these are in the community, theft hasn’t been a big issue.  In fact, here is the FAQ on this issue, which we wrote a few months ago, and still believe.

One of our students has said it like this: “Thieves don’t steal education.”  We’re finding that so far, he’s right.