Learning from a hole in the wall

Check out the video below about the TED hole in the wall educational experiment (forward to 7:15 min).  It’s the work of  Dr. Sugata Mitra, of India.

His office butted up against a slum and one day he punched a hole in his wall and stuck a computer in it.  A computer that faced out, into the slum.

Then he watched.

He learned a lot about self-organizing and alternative education …. from children.

  • It took a 13 year old merely 8 minutes to teach himself how to browse the net
  • He saw an 8 year old teach a 6 year old how to browse the web … despite not knowing English
  • Non-English speaking kids found websites ….. to teach themselves the English alphabet
  • Often younger children were found teaching older kids

Dr. Mitra watched the power of group learning, watching as kids would gather.  One operated the computer with 3 advisers helping out, surrounded by 16 more advisers.  Counter to popular thought where kinesthetic learning (learning by doing) is critical for learning a task that requires physical manipulation (e.g. touching a keyboard), the kids were learning as much by watching as by doing.

In the end Dr. Mitra found:

  • Education can happen by self-organizing
    • Lessons for learning & development specialists: learning doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be  top down
  • Values are acquired.  Doctrine & dogma are imposed.
    • Lessons for learning & development specialists: values based learning is possible, in fact it’s critical.  Think social responsibility and employee engagement.
  • Children can self-organize
    • Lessons for learning & development specialists: so can (and should) adult learners self-organize
  • Learning is a self-organizing system
    • Lessons for learning & development specialists: adult learning is dynamic, evolving, complicated, often messy and always intriguing.  Self-organizing helps with issues of access and inclusion.

Dr. Mitra’s final wrap up in the video below? “Educational technology & pedagogy that is digital, automatic, fault-tolerant, minimally invasive, connected and self-organized addresses remoteness, violence, & values.”

There’s a lot packed into that statement.  Much to chew on and digest.  I’m off to find a cookie to help with my digestion while I ruminate.  And you?

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2 Responses to “Learning from a hole in the wall”

  1. Leigh Says:
    August 29th, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    really interesting, especially for a girl who live and works in cambodia! off to track down the video on ted. thanks for sharing!

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    August 30th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Hi Leigh
    So glad it resonated with you. Looked at your blog and love this post about making your way in the world with purpose. You might be interested in a post I wrote that was inspired by a fantastic woman named Sam who I met online.

    Thanks for commenting. Pls let me know what you think of the TED video if you’re so inclined.

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