Dr Sugata Mitra, NRI education pioneer, wins $1 mn TED prize for 'hole-in-the-wall' experiment

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Feb 27 2013, 18:02pm hrs
An NRI education pioneer Dr Sugata Mitra, known for his innovative 'hole-in-the-wall' experiment to give computer education to slum children, has been awarded with the prestigious USD 1 million TED prize.

Dr Sugata Mitra, a Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK, accepted the award - TED's annual prize of USD one million that gives an exceptional individual the chance to conceive and launch a high-impact project.

After receiving the award, Mitra said he will use prize to launch global initiative for self-directed learning releases toolkit for schools and families to create self-organised learning environments.

'My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online,' Mitra said.

Mitra developed the concept of the Cloud from his 1999 'hole in the wall' experiment, in which he carved a hole from his research center into an adjoining Delhi slum.

He placed a freely accessible computer in this hole, and found that groups of street children, with no prior experience or knowledge of English, could teach themselves how to use the computer.

For the next ten years, Mitra expanded on his findings and created a 'granny cloud' - online moderators of retired teachers - who could Skype into learning centers and encourage children with questions and assignments.

As a leading proponent of self-directed learning, Mitra developed the concept of SOLEs (Self Organised Learning Environments).

The SOLE approach embraces a process where educators ask the kids big questions, leading them on intellectual journeys rather than asking them to just memorize facts.

With the TED Prize, Mitra will build on his work to create the School in the Cloud: a learning environment that is overseen entirely by a global network of mediators - retired teachers who Skype in through the Cloud.

The school - a lab to be built in India - will serve as both an education and research center to further explore approaches to self-directed learning.

The school will be self-sustaining and managed by cloud technology, with an adult supervisor always on-site. Once complete, the design will become a blue print and available for anyone to duplicate, TED said in a statement. Mitra also released a toolkit for anyone - parents, educators, teachers - interested in trying self-directed learning: How to Bring Self-Organised Learning Environments to Your Community.

It is an online resource designed to help educators and parents support kids (8-12 years old) as they tap into their innate sense of wonder and engage in child-driven learning.

'The TED Prize is a forward-looking prize, and we award it to individuals who have demonstrated significant achievement that the prize wish can build on,' said Lara Stein, Director of the TED Prize.

'Sugata has not only created a remarkable body of research around self-directed learning, but he has support from teachers around the world who are tapping into his methodology with great success.

'We are thrilled to support his wish, and are excited for him to delve deeper, build his lab in India, and provide platform for educators and parents around the world who wish to explore this model,' Stein said.