Tuesday , 28 February 2017
The future of education

The future of education

A lecture by professor of educational technology, Newcastle University, UK, Sugata Mitra on the topic ‘The future of learning’ was held on the third day of the DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas. Sugata in his lecture spoke about his contribution in improving the education system across the world with the help of internet and new technology
The third day of the DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas witnessed a lecture on a topic of relevance titled – ‘The future of learning’ by professor of educational technology, Newcastle University, UK, Sugata Mitra. Speaking about the topic of his lecture he said: “Education is for our future but this talk is about the future of learning.” Having a background in theoretical physics he was accidentally pulled into the academic field. He initially felt like he was not meant to be in education until he realised that his subject of specialisation is correlated. Sugata started off by speaking about his experiment taken up in 1999 named ‘The Hole in the Wall’. He said: “It started with an experiment and led from one thing to the other. The outcome was strange but for me it was rather unexpected.”
The idea sprouted in Sugata’s mind as he was working in a computer firm in New Delhi close to a slum dwelling. He could see the slum from the window and the children who would not be idling away their time. The sight rather disturbed him with the thought that they were losing on talents that lie among the children in this slum. “We were losing on people having talent but due to reasons like not having adequate utility space in the slums a school could not be built,” said Sugata. With an intention of shaping young talents he decided to have a common computer in the slums. “There was a compound wall that separated our office from the slums. I decided to use this wall for the children to have an access to the computer. A rectangle hole was made in the wall and the computer screen was put in allowing the children to see it from their side,” he said.
Soon after installation of the computer a group of children gathered around the computer and were inquisitive to know about it but since Sugata was standing at a distance the children were afraid to touch the computer. “When I left, there was a buzz among the children who were curious to know about a device they had never seen or rather heard of. After a while when I came back I saw that these children were successful in using the computer.” This incident left him confused on how these children learnt to use the computer. To know more, he conducted similar experiments in some of the remote areas including Raebareli, UP with similar results. “Through this experiment he learnt that if children are given access to the internet in groups they can learn anything by themselves,” said Sugata.
This encouraged him to undertake another experiment in 2007 tilted SOLE- Self Organised Learning Environments. When children are introduced to new technology they are able to answer questions that are way ahead of time. “This experiment encouraged the children to learn by themselves given access to internet and by sitting in groups,” he said. Sugata opines that children in groups have an understanding that is greater than that of each individual. Giving an example of the bee hive he said that it is owing to the collective efforts and teamwork that bees can complete the beehive. “A SOLE consists of a chaotic situation caused by a few internet connections, about a quarter of the number of children present,” said Sugata. This medium of education has been implemented in various schools in the nation as well as in the world. As the world in progressing, Goa too has the Paradise School at Aldona which is a full-fledged school that uses the SOLE method of learning.
As the lecture progressed he compared the teaching pattern that parents and teachers follow – a pattern based on discipline – while grandparents make you understand the concept better. “Our grandparents use admiration to build a learning spiral within us. They do not teach, instead they compare their lives with our present lives.” This led to the evolution of the Granny Cloud in 2009 which had an ideology not to teach but to build a conversation. He then combined SOLE and Granny Cloud to form School in Cloud. Speaking about it he said: “It improves the reading, comprehension and communication skills, besides it also helps in improving upon the internet searching skills and building confidence.”
Examining the outdated system of assessment that academics follow he said: “Our present examination system follows the system of the 1920’s clerk examination system where you are failed for being creative and promotes mugging and studying instead of increasing knowledge through understanding.” Sugata further said that the use of internet should be allowed during examination. Highlighting that schools should enable people to live happy, healthy and productive lives he said: “We need a curriculum of questions not facts, a pedagogy that encourages collaboration and use of the internet and an assessment system that looks for productivity over process and method.”

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