Sugata Mitra: Inspiring the Future of Learning
Professor Sugata Mitra is no doubt changing the culture of the classrooms and is inspiring thousands of educationalists all over the world. His Hole in the Wall (HIW) experiment, which started as an initial experiment in children’s learning is being adapted by teachers and institutions across the world and is proving that children could be easily taught by computers without much supervision even if they are completely new to computers.
Termed as Minimally Invasive Education the experiment has been repeated in India over and over and is also being introduced slowly to other parts of the world.
Sugata Mitra conducted his first HIW experiment in 1999 in a slum area in Delhi by placing a computer in a kiosk built into a wall and was connected to Internet and the children living in the slums were allowed to use it freely. The results proved that these children could be easily taught by computers without any formal training and without knowing English.
The experiment was such a huge success that it even inspired Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup to pen down his first novel Q & A which became the film Slumdog Millionaire. Even a number of teachers experimented with his methods and reported miraculous results. In 2005, Mitra was even awarded the prestigious Dewang Mehta Award for his contribution.
In 2013, Mitra’s TED Talk ‘Build a School in the Cloud’ was featured in TED Radio hour on ‘Unstoppable Learning’ where he discussed about his HIW experiment and revealed how children in slums could learn to teach themselves everything from basics to advanced topics without any assistance from adults or teachers. He won the $ 1 million TED Prize for his talk and he used the prize money to use community resources to expand his work further.
His concept of self-organised learning environments (SOLE) which has helped slum children learn different subjects from English to programming has even inspired world universities and is changing the culture of classrooms.
Today, Mitra’s research is becoming a global phenomenon and is adapted in 27 countries across five continents in the world. He has even created a SOLE toolkit for learners and educators which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and, all over the world, more and more such toolkits are taking place every day.
Mitra has also launched a series of School in the Cloud learning labs which aim at testing how small groups of children can learn on their own if they have an access to a computer and prompted by the right question. In America, the eighth School in the Cloud lab has opened in a school in Harlem and aims to build on the success of such labs that are already running in India and UK.