From Slumdog to IT Surfer

The Guardian newspaper yesterday wrote a brilliant article in its education supplement about Professor Sugata Mitra. It was a follow-up on to an article written last year on Mitra’s Hole In The Wall learning project. The project itself was about installing computers with internet connection in Delhi slums for local children to discover. The project discovered that the children began to teach themselves English, computing and maths. This was all in a month after installing the computers. It was from this that inspired Vikus Swarup to write Q&A, the book that became the film Slumdog Millionaire.

The project was a success and over five hundred computers can be found in walls across India and Africa. Mitra is now a professor at Newcastle University and is working on a new project in the UK, where is helping youngsters use computers to carry out ‘self-activated learning’ in the classroom.

According to Mitra, ‘having watched hundreds of Indian children learning without teachers at the Hole In The Wall computers…children can work by themselves, if they want to.’

‘Most British children grow up with the internet and the means to learn what they want in minutes, and this challenges the traditional idea of school being about learning things that will come in handy in the future. They become disengaged.’

‘If you encourage individual learning, and give children interesting questions to look independently, the learning process is sparked by curiosity.’

Mitra is currently working with some schools in Tyneside where is challenging primary school children with GCSE questions. The children are able to choose which question they would like to research and they are able to use computers freely within the room. The results are very impressive according to the teachers at the schools concerned. Three months after the project the pupil’s knowledge and learning had improved from the tests given. 

It is a very interesting and thought-provoking article and I recommend all teachers to read it. The link to the article can be found hereMitra has plans to develop autonomous learning within all schools. It is a fantastic project that could improve a pupils’ learning and knowledge and possibly make learning fun for all! Perhaps the developed world can learn new ways of teaching from developing countries. As Henry Ford once said, ‘all of us are smarter than one of us’.

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