Sugata Mitra and India's New "Schools in the Cloud"
People use the cloud for a lot of different things, storing music, editing documents, and sharing photos. $1 Million Ted Prize Winner Sugata Mitra aims to change education in India. After giving his talk last year at a Ted Conference (the video is embedded below), he won $1 million dollars which he is using to build “schools in the cloud.”
The whole thing started when he placed a computer in a New Delhi Slum, and left it there. He expected the computer to be taken apart and sold for parts, but instead, children used it to surf the web! He repeated this experiment multiple times, and every time, students with no knowledge of the English language or computers began to learn both. He went on to call this experiment the “Hole in the Wall.”
After the success of this experiment, he decided to expand his project using the Ted Prize money. He has opened the first of many “schools in the cloud” in the UK and plans on opening a total of five in India. The goal of this project is to use a method of education which he calls SOLE, or Self-Organized Learning Environment. The students are supposed to learn with minimum outside invasion and collaborate together through these “schools in the cloud.” The system has a function for retired teachers to assist struggling students, not as instructors, but as mentors. The students are expected to do a majority of the learning on their own by asking and answering questions.
Although it has not been proven that this system could replace traditional classrooms, it is certainly a step forward in increasing educational opportunities for Indian children. Will this system prepare students to attend high-level universities? Probably not. But, it will help children master two key skill sets for 21st century survivability, reading and computers. It will be interesting to see what Mitra’s “schools in the cloud” bring to the discussion on education in the developing world!