Check out this REALLY interesting article by Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED Prize winner. TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, and Design" and is the brainchild of the private non-profit Sapling Foundation. It is a set of conferences formed to espouse "ideas worth spreading."
Sugata Mitra is originally from Calcutta, and is a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University. He is also amazeballs. His "Hole in the Wall" experiments in children's learning are likewise amazeballs, and have resulted in fascinating new curricula and pedagogy that rely on children's innate curiosity and cooperation to self-teach.
I have taken the liberty of highlighting some of Mitra's most salient points. IMO, a Hole in the Wall could really work well with Tanzanian kids....if only electricity and network were a sure thing!
The Sole Of A Student
From Plato to Aurobindo, from Vygotsky to Montessori, centuries of
educational thinking have vigorously debated a central pedagogical
question: How do we spark creativity, curiosity, and wonder in children? But those who philosophized pre-Google were prevented from wondering
just how the Internet might influence the contemporary answer to this
age-old question. Today, we can and must; a generation that has not
known a world without vast global and online connectivity demands it of
But first, a bit of history: to keep the world's military-industrial
machine running at the zenith of the British Empire, Victorians
assembled an education system to mass-produce workers with identical
skills. Plucked from the classroom and plugged instantly into the
system, citizens were churned through an educational factory engineered
for maximum productivity.
Like most things designed by the Victorians, it was a robust system. It worked. Schools, in a sense, manufactured generations of workers for
an industrial age.
But what got us here, won't get us there. Schools today are the
product of an expired age; standardized curricula, outdated pedagogy,
and cookie cutter assessments are relics of an earlier time. Schools
still operate as if all knowledge is contained in books, and as if the
salient points in books must be stored in each human brain -- to be used
when needed. The political and financial powers controlling schools
decide what these salient points are. Schools ensure their storage and
retrieval. Students are rewarded for memorization, not imagination or
Today we're seeing institutions -- banking, the stock exchange,
entertainment, newspapers, even health care -- capture and share
knowledge through strings of zeros and ones inside the evolving
Internet... "the cloud." While some fields are already far advanced in
understanding how the Internet age is transforming their structure and
substance, we're just beginning to understand the breadth and depth of
its implications on the future of education.
Unlocking the power of new technologies for self-guided education is
one of the 21st century superhighways that need to be paved. Profound
changes to how children access vast information is yielding new forms of
peer-to-peer and individual-guided learning. The cloud is already
omnipresent and indestructible, democratizing and ever changing; now we
need to use it to spark the imaginations and build the mental muscles of
This journey, for me, began back in 1999, when I conducted an
experiment called the "hole in the wall." By installing
Internet-equipped computers in poor Indian villages and then watching
how children interacted with them, unmediated, I first glimpsed the
power of the cloud. Groups of street children learned to use computers
and the Internet by themselves, with little or no knowledge of English
and never having seen a computer before. Then they started instinctually
teaching one another. In the next five years, through many experiments,
I learned just how powerful adults can be when they give small groups
of children the tools and the agency to guide their own learning and
then get out of the way.
It's not just poor kids that can benefit from access to the Internet
and the space and time to wonder and wander. Today, teachers around the
world are using what I call "SOLEs," "self organized learning
environments," where children group around Internet-equipped computers
to discuss big questions. The teacher merges into the background and
observes as learning happens.
I once asked a group of 10-year-olds in the little town of Villa Mercedes in Argentina: Why do we have five fingers and toes on each limb? What's so special about five? Their answer may surprise you.
The children arrived at their answer by investigating both theology
and evolution, discovering the five bones holding the web on the first
amphibians' fins, and studying geometry. Their investigation resulted in
this final answer: The strongest web that can be stretched the widest
must have five supports.
Today, I launch my SOLE toolkit -- designed to empower teacher and
parents to create their own spaces for sparking children's curiosity and
agency. My team and I are excited to see more educators trying this
future-oriented pedagogical tool on for size and then sharing their
learnings are insights so we can all benefit from the hive mind.
Meanwhile, with my newly bestowed TED Prize, my team and I will 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. Technology, architecture, creative,
and educational partners will help us design and build it. Kids will
help us explore a range of cloud-based, scalable approaches to
self-directed learning. A global network of educators and retired
teachers will support and engage the children through the web.
We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children
can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and
an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and
focused on the magic of children's innate quest for information and
In the networked age, we need schools, not structured like factories, but like clouds. Join us up there.