Sugata Mitra is interviewed at the STEM Summit 2012.
Sugata Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University in the UK and previously a Visiting Professor at MIT in the U.S. He was recently described by The Times as a "Global Education Superstar." Sugata has worked in the areas of Cognitive Science, Information Science, Educational Technology, Physics, and Energy for more than 30 years. He holds a PhD in theoretical Solid State Physics.
In 1999, Sugata dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What he saw were kids from the slum playing around with the computer, learning how to use it, discovering how to go online, and then teaching one another.
In the following years, he achieved similar results when he replicated the experiment in other parts of India – both urban and rural – subsequently challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The "Hole in the Wall" project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge.
Through additional experimentation, Sugata believes children can achieve educational objectives by themselves, show self-organizing behavior in “minimally invasive” environments, and understand content years ahead of their time. He is currently organizing retired teachers (sometimes referred to as the “Granny Cloud” or as eMediators) to connect with children remotely, using peer-to-peer video communication such as Skype. Sugata has shown that if all of these results are put together, it is easy to create a case for unsupervised environments for children who do not have access to high-quality instruction.
Sugata is also building a stand-alone “Self-Organized Learning Environment” where children can learn without physical teachers, in an environment that maintains and runs itself with technology. His current research is leading toward an alternative primary education using self-organized learning, mediation, and assessment environments.
Sugata's work inspired the book Slumdog Millionaire that went on to become the Oscar-winning film of 2009. He has received numerous international awards for his achievements toward closing the digital educational divide.