Minimally-invasive education is a new term for me, although we’ve been familiar with its practice and its main proponent for a number of years. Sugata Mitra’s experiments demonstrated how children can learn technology for themselves in unsupervised environments led us to give our girls their kipis without any introduction, instruction or assistance. We just handed the devices to them and said, “Figure it out.” And they did.

Our Year of the Kipi (iPad), Sparkling Adventures

Anyone who has experienced a child’s ability to learn technological devices won’t be surprised to learn that our girls very rapidly worked out how to operate the apps that interested them, change the settings and attempt to download new games. Although David and I were approachable for questions, many times we didn’t know how to address the problems and would try to figure out the kipi’s settings alongside the girls.

Aisha on the iPad, April 2012
Until late in the night, Aisha experiments on the iPad, learning what the icons do and how to make the programs work.

Our girls aren’t the only children who can figure out tablets by themselves. Boxes of Android tablets were left in an Ethiopian village by an NGO, and within five months, the children had taught themselves English, worked out the games and programs and had hacked into the system to activate the camera that had been disabled by an error within the operating system.

I know others can share stories of how their young children have demonstrated remarkable prowess with technology. There’s no doubt that the world we already inhabit is saturated with electronic devices, and the future will probably contain even more. Technology is something we ought to share with our children, for it will probably be the foundation for their future careers, enterprise and socialisation.

Children — left to themselves — can and will pursue the knowledge that empowers them. Our ongoing challenge is to give our children the opportunity to teach themselves without interfering in the process.