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‘Hole in the Wall’ Initiative Receives TED Award

‘Hole in the Wall’ Initiative Receives TED Award

Educational researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra received TED's annual prize of $ One million that gives an exceptional individual the chance to conceive and launch a high-impact project.

TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Dr. Mitra, a Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK, launched the Hole in the Wall initiative in 1999. He developed the concept of the Cloud in which he carved a hole from his research center, about three feet high, into an adjoining Delhi slum. He placed a freely accessible computer in this hole and within hours, children had gathered around and asked Mitra questions about what this thing was.

He responded “I don’t know,” and walked away. He found that groups of street children, with no prior experience or knowledge of English, could teach themselves how to use the computer.

Dr. Mitra repeated the experiment 300 miles away, where computers were even less familiar. He installed a mysterious computer on the side of a road. A few months later, he returned and found kids playing games on it. Remembers Dr. Mitra, “They said, ‘We want a faster processor and a better mouse.’”

Another thing these kids said that was music to his ears: “You’ve given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English.”

The educationist says, “It was the first time I heard the words ‘teach ourselves’ said so casually.”

For the next ten years, he 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.

Accepting the TED award he said, "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”.

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