Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Educational researcher Sugata Mitra is the winner of the 2013 TED Prize. His wish: Build a School in the Cloud, where children can explore and learn from one another. Sugata Mitra believes (and has documented) that when children are given access to technology—no matter where they are in the world—they will figure out how to use it.

His “Hole in the Wall” experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they’re motivated by curiosity and peer interest.

In 1999, Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area).

What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

He also sees that as a global society, we have focused too much on preparing humans to serve as replacement parts for the vast computer built in the 19th century.

“The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a [schooling] system that was so robust that it's still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”

However, unlike our ancestors a millenium ago, he feels that educators have forgotten the secret of asking “wondrous questions”. Questions like: What happens with the air we breath? When did the earth begin? What are stars exactly? How can you tell if a speeding asteroid is going to hit Earth?

“It took nature 100 million years to make the ape stand up and become Homo sapiens. It took us only 10,000 to make knowing obsolete.”

When asked such wondrous, open-ended questions, children go on an intellectual adventure, one that is self-motivated and self-organized.

“It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken — it's not broken, it's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated.”

Mitra has an inspiring vision for Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), in which the main ingredients are broadband, collaboration and encouragement.

This school would be managed by one granny (for health and safety) but everything in managed, sourced, beamed in, managed and moderated in the cloud.

The main operating principle? Let learning happen. This school would be driven by a curriculum of big questions.

The teacher, in the SOLE sets learning in motion and steps back to watch it happen.

Thanks to the TED community, it looks like Mr. Mitra may get his wish.

RESOURCES: — Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) Toolkit >>Sugata Mitra's 2013 TED TalkTED Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education — Learn more about the TED Prize