Sugata Mitra’s "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…

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Education for All in Developing Countries

Providing "Education for All" generalising a governmental controlled education system proved to be utopian. Several experiments and models of alternative education show that is it possible to learn without schools and without teachers. There are new promising learning perspectives for poor kids in remote areas as tested by Prof. Sugata Mitra and Prof. Prof. James Tooley of the School of Education,Communication and Language Sciences of Newcastle University (UK). The UNESCO and World Bank failure of the worldwide programme "Education for ALL" demonstrates the limits of the schooling model implemented by states since the XIX century. This model is dying and a new schooling strategy based upon new educational technologies opens the doors to self-organising education systems in primary and secondary education. The Hole in the Wall are experiments with unprivileged children, usually from slums or small villages, who were given a possibility and access to a computer and the Internet. What made a real difference with these experiments was that there was no instruction planned nor supervision by adults or experts.

The Hole in the Wall

The project is sponsored by the Orient Global Foundation. Project Leader(s): James Tooley and Sugata Mitra Contact: Sugata Mitra From November 2007 to November 2010

- The original experiments (1999-2005) had showed that groups of children can learn to use a playground computer connected to the Internet on their own – irrespective of who or where they are. The fact that children in remote areas, who do not understand English and have little schooling can learn to do this was considered a discovery of sorts. The results were published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology in 2005 in a paper that was later awarded as the “best open access paper of 2005”.
- It was later noticed that the children who use these computers seem to be scoring higher in English and mathematics. It was also established that they could pass a government examination in computer science on their own. The results were published.

- In an experiment conducted in 2006, we observed that the quality of education in remote areas decreases with remoteness. Remoteness, in this context, can be geographical or also social, economic, religious etc. as in ghettos or slums in cities.

- We remark that there will always be areas in the world where, due to whatever reason, good schools and good teachers will not exist. Hence, in such areas, alternative forms of education will be needed. No such alternative exists for primary education today. The hole in the wall could be a possible indicator of such an alternative.

- In a recent experiment conducted in village Kalikuppam in Southern India, we were able to show that Tamil speaking children could learn the basics on biotechnology, in English, on their own.

- We notice that new educational technology is always piloted in the affluent schools of cities where good students and good teachers are present. As a result the educational gains from such technology are marginal and educational technology is considered over-hyped and under-performing. We propose that the highest technology should be developed for and piloted in the remotest areas first.

- We also notice that educational technology is seldom developed for that purpose. It is usually technology developed for industry or defence and borrowed by educators. For example, PowerPoint and LCD projectors were developed for corporate boardrooms and not for teachers.

- We propose to create a lab that will create and test educational technology for use in remote areas.

- We propose to create educational facilities in remote areas of India where groups of children can self organise their learning to pass the government high school examinations (eg GCSE) on their own.

- The results of these experiments are likely to be important for all countries, since a shortage of and lack of quality in primary education is a worldwide phenomenon.

- In the UK, in addition to the usual problem of quality education in remote areas, there is also a problem of aspiration – children are reluctant to study science, engineering, mathematics etc. for two reasons. One, that subjects such as banking can make them rich more easily. Two, that they can get a good standard of living anyway, even without any skills.

- These aspirational problems need to be addressed immediately and technology can be a powerful way to do so.

Talks Sugata Mitra: Can kids teach themselves?

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

Click and you can download 2 MP4 files:

- Download Video to iTunes (MP4) (66 Mo) (Too big for my server. Sorry!)
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Hole in the wall, i.e. self-organising systems in primary education. Audio from Dr. Mitra March 17, 2008 -

Comments by Riina Vuorikari

I remember around 2000 when I first read about the "hole in the wall" experiments in India. These were experiments with unprivileged children, usually from slums or small villages, who were given a possibility and access to a computer and the Internet. What made a real difference with these experiments was that there was no instruction planned nor supervision by adults or experts.

What happened next was that children, usually from 8 to 13-years-old, would gather around these"holes in the wall" and start exploring the computer and the Internet. During the first experiment, Dr. Mitra who ran this research, explained that within the 8 min from installing the computer, a 13-year-old boy who first discovered the "hole", was surfing on the Web. By the end of that night, he had called 70 of his friends who were all learning from one another on how to surf the Web for the first time in their lives. This was "the Shivpuri experiment".

In another experiment (Madantusi experiment) in a small village, where Dr. Mirta had installed a"hole in the wall" computer, when he came back after 3 months, the kids asked him for a better mouse and a faster processor. This was rather unexpected, as the village was so poor and remote that they did not even have an English teacher. However, by familiarising themselves with the computer and Internet, the research team evaluated that the group of kids had acquired an average vocabulary of 400 English words, that they spoke in an American accent learned from the games and other material that was pre-installed on the computer.

Dr. Sugata Mitra ran 23 variations of these experiments all over India to find the same thing: children would self-organise themselves around a computer to teach one another how to browse the Internet, explore games that were installed on these computers, teach themselves new languages and even in one of the experiments, teach themselves biotechnology.

Sugata Mitra’s message for a hall full of about 400 European teachers was "if you let them and if they want to" kids can learn anything. The key is in arranging that kind of an environment. Computers, for example, should be given to groups of kids, not for individuals, as learning mostly takes place through the communication in the group. Computers should also be placed in public areas, as kids would right from the beginning get suspicious if they had to learn in a school environment. Also, Sugata Mitra’s team had observed that kids older than 13 would act differently in a self-organised learning situation; they would ask who was the teachers and what was the schedule, etc., as they already were so used to being instructed. Dr. Mitra received an awesome ovation from eTwinning teachers, who so well knew what he was talking about, but who too often would forget his message. I’m glad to share this audio recording from the keynote speech given by Sugata Mitra in an eTwinning event in Bucharest, Romania, onMarch 14. Enjoy it!

The AUDIO file is too big for my server. Click here for having it.