Monday, April 30, 2007

Update to Hole in The Wall Story

For anyone interested in following the story of Dr. Sugata Mitra's Hole-in-the-Wall experiment and subsequent research on how children learn, here is a 26 minute film of him delivering a Powerpoint presentation to a February 2007, LIFT Conference in Geneva. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Mitra's work, he is an inventor of computer technology, and Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, England. He is researching and building an argument for primary education, using minimally invasive methodology to teach computers to young children. His 'hole in the wall' experiment has since been successfully repeated in many undeveloped parts of the world, such as South Africa and Cambodia.

One remarkable aspect of the experiment in India is that in the remotest part of Northern India, where they had never seen a computer and had no speakers of English, he set up a Computer Kiosk, giving no instructions (and no instructor), and within three weeks, the children had not only figured out what the computer was and how to use it, they had found a website and taught themselves enough English to use the computer.

And in fact he found that it was the younger children working in groups, who learned first, then taught the older children, and in short order. He also discovered other interesting aspects of group dynamics among the children.

Probably the most remarkable lesson to come out of this study, is that in six months all 300 children in the village, working with no instruction, and in fact with no adult supervision whatever, learned how to browse, type, email, watch movies, download programs and games and use them - in English. The adults who were for the most part illiterate, had no idea what the children were doing.

The story does make me wonder at the methods used in the US.