Without adult supervision, children can teach each other to use computers to learn, Professor Sugata Mitra told the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference. From the BBC:
In 1999, Mitra embedded a computer a computer in the wall of a Delhi building facing a slum. The poorly educated children, who didn’t know English, quickly learned how to access the Internet.
“I repeated the experiment across India and noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.”
In Cambodia, he left a computer loaded with a simple math game.
“No child would play with it inside the classroom. If you leave it on the pavement and all the adults go away then they will show off to one another about what they can do,” said Prof Mitra, who now works at Newcastle University in the UK.
He gave computers loaded with biotechnology information (in English) to 26 Tamil-speaking 12-year-olds in south India. Two months later, children said they hadn’t learned anything, despite using the computers every day.
“Then a 12-year-old girl raised her hand and said ‘apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA contributes to genetic disease — we’ve understood nothing else’.”
Mitra has designed SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments), which consist of a computer with a bench big enough to let four children sit around the screen. “It doesn’t work if you give them each a computer individually,” he said. He also created a “granny cloud” — 200 volunteers who will video chat with students.
SOLE is being tested in Britain and Italy.