Are Teachers Keeping Students from Learning in the Digital Age?

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“In nine months, a group of children left alone with a computer in any language will reach the same standard as an office secretary in the West.” ~ Dr. Sugata Mitra

One fine day on 26 January 1999, the Chief scientist at NIIT and his team plan to dig a hole in their office wall adjacent to the Delhi Slum Area. They install a freely accessible computer and observe the rest. This computer created instant ripples and the inferences were revolutionary. The slum children not only learn basic computer skills but teach other children as well. This experiment known as the Hole in the Wall is the discovery of Professor Sugata Mitra. He also coined the concept of Minimally Invasive Education; a pedagogy under which children driven by curiosity and peer support teach themselves and others.

hole in the wall , Sugata Mitra
Professor Sugata Mitra had always been fascinated with the idea of unsupervised learning and computers and when finally he put it into practice, it won him another award. On Tuesday, February 26. Dr. Mitra was given the TED Award 2013 which grants him $1 million to set up his own learning laboratory based on this concept.

Dr. Mitra plans to set up learning spaces that would be totally automated and controlled from the Cloud. The supervisor will not be a teacher or a computer expert but only a safety and health supervisor. Probably set up in India, these learning spaces would take the Hole in the Wall Experiment to the implementation stage.

Dr. Mitra has been the Chief Scientist at NIIT and is currently Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, UK. Dr. Mitra is a winner of “Man of Peace Award” from Together for Peace Foundation, USA, and “Social Innovation Award” from Institute of Social Inventions, UK. He has also been given the “Dewang Mehta Award” by the Government of India in recognition for his work related to Hole-in-the-Wall.

According to Dr.Mitra, the learners of the new age need two things. A broadband connection and a teacher to stand back. He says, “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.”

We were fortunate enough to have Prof. Mitra with us in one of the WizIQ Conversations. You can revisit his works and words anytime. Professor Mitra was self-taught and has a firm belief that others can do the same through technology and the Internet.

Finally I leave you with a reiteration of the topic:

Are teachers really keeping students from learning in the digital age?

Engineer by education, writer by choice. I believe when you write for a cause, you become the cause. Few years from now, I see myself changing the world, one child at a time.

3 Comments

  • Reply March 5, 2013

    Vikas Anand

    The way you are expressing the things in your post have created a new way of learning which people are getting addicted to it. I have seen many Ted videos regarding technology but this Future Learning Technique is really commendable.

    • Reply March 5, 2013

      Navleen Kaur

      “Hole in the Wall” is an incredible discovery of the capabilities of young minds while working in a free learning space. I fell in love with the concept. But thanks for the encouragement as always Vikas! :)

  • Reply March 5, 2013

    Jason R Levine

    My vision of Mitra’s MIE is that soon there will be two types of teachers: The Creators and the Facilitators. The Creators will create content for the classroom or magic in their lessons-or both. They will reach hundreds of millions of learners through their counterparts, the Facilitators, who will integrate and deliver this content via digital media. This will take place in both virtual and traditional classrooms. The traditional classroom will be transformed into a multi-sensory space for learners to experience the work of multiple creators. Learners, Facilitators, and Creators will communicate actively and fluidly with one another around the world through social platforms. The best in education will be available to all. Uninspired teaching will be a thing of the past. Inferior teaching will cease to exist. The pertinent question will no longer be “How could online learning replace the classroom experience?” but rather “How could people have ever been satisfied learning from one teacher with one group of students in one room with the door closed to the rest of the world?”

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