Have you ever wondered what will happen if you provide computer access to curious children? That was what Dr. Sugata Mitra was interested in back in the early 1980’s.
Humans have the innate ability to adapt. You may think that over the centuries, we have become soft and unable to fend for ourselves to survive. We have lost the initiative to explore our potential because we allowed our physical bodies to be pampered by the convenience brought about by technology.
Well that is where you are wrong. The Hole-In-The-Wall initiative of Dr. Sugata Mitra proved a lot of things – one of them is our ability to teach ourselves and the role of technology in making it happen.
The Hole-in-the-Wall Education Limited (HiWEL) was established in 2001 as a joint venture between NIIT Limited and International Finance Corporation. The idea was to implement the learning methods conceived by Dr Mitra – who is the Chief Scientist at NIIT.
In 1982, Dr. Mitra thought about the possibility of unsupervised learning – especially when it comes to computers. In the late 1990s, he tested his idea by carving a ‘hole in the wall” that served as the barrier between the NIIT premises and the adjoining Kalkaji slums. This gave children from the other side access to a computer set up in NIIT. Without any prior education or background, the children learned how to use the computer.
This experiment proved the theory that basic computer skills can be achieved by any child through incidental learning. As long as students are provided with an adequate computing facility and content that will keep them interested and engaged, they can learn. Minimal guidance may be needed at some point but it does not have to be done by a human.
The Hole in the Wall project was done across several communities and the results are the same. When left with computer access, uneducated children can learn how to operate it on their own.
This project gave us insight on the capabilities of humans, specifically children, when it comes to self education. Children can pick up skills and perform tasks without prompting as long as they have control over their learning environment. At the very least, they should find the learning structure to their liking.
In a recent post, we mentioned how schools can possibly kill the creativity of a child. This no longer is the case. At least, if we convert the learning system to be integrating and interesting to students, we can nurture their creativity.
What learning institutions should do is not to teach students how to do things. It is more important for them to be presented with the problem and guided as they try to learn for themselves. This is how they will be more suited to keep up with the advancements of technology. Gone are the days of simply following procedures. The changes are much too fast for students to learn each and every one of them.
The key to modern learning is to equip them with the skills that will help them deal with the increasingly complex transformations in our society. We already have the two important ingredients: the natural curiosity of a child and the power of technology. We just have to implement this collaboration correctly.
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