Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Morning Keynote

Morning keynote: Professor Sugata Mitra, Newcastle University

The Future of Learning (or A future of learning)

Everywhere on Earth, there are places where, for various reasons, good teachers do not want to, or cannot, go.

We have the above problem even in this country.

How would poor children get to work with computers?

The Hole in the Wall.

Can’t get teachers to go into slums (India) and teach children. you can’t in principle have a good computing teacher at the primary level.

Sugata wanted to know what would happeen if you put a computer in a slum, and see what the children do. Where to put it? Where to put a computer outdoors, let alone in a slum?

Built a computer into a wall, glass screen over front, bricked in securely, like an ATM. Then asked a colleague to walk around, keep an eye on it, and see what happens. Video of 8 hours later shows kids excitedly playing with it: 8 yr old boy teaching a 6 yr old girl how to browse the internet, even though the boy didn’t know himself. Assumption was a passing adult must have shown the boy to start with.

What would happen if it was put in a place where no-one could pass by and provide that initial teaching. So another hole in the wall in a small north indian village.

Adults showed no interest, men walked past, women kept eye on the children. Video shows excited children again. 10 yr old boy and 12 yr old girl, and they ask him 9when he returns a few months later) for faster processor and better mouse. Asked how they know this, and girl says, you gave us a machine that works only in english, so we had to teach ourselves english to use it. Adult response in same situation would be “can’t understand language, so can’t use the machine”. When do the 2 positives of childhood turn into the 2 negatives of adult hood? Who is responsible? teachers? Our processes reinforce that learners need teachers.

Groups of children can learn to use computers and the internet on their own – irrespective of and and where they are.

Graphed child IT literacy from his holes in wall, and from a posh Delhi school, and results were the same. Worrying from a teacher’s perspective.

Putting hole in wall in a public space,, with large screen visible to community, and computer use/misuse is controlled without any controlling software needed.

Between 200-300 children can share 1 computer and become computer literate in 3 months.

hole in wall process:

bullies take over, can’t work things out, and then leave it.

then 8 yr old hackers take over and play

eventually 12yr old girls invest organisation and administration to provide order and fair use for all (e.g. getting taller boys to hold up smaller kids to use machines)

Costs approx 3 US cents per child per day.

Design of ‘new’ hole in the wall such that uncomfortable for adults, and comfortable for children.

Groups of children, given the appropriate digital resources, can attain educational objectives, on their own.

Gave children computer with speech-to-text software.

Pre-trained the software with accent neutral british accents, then disabled training feature. Gave to children and it wrote gibberish when they spoke. he left them to it, and told them to make themselves understood. When asked how, he said “I don’t know”. He left them, isn’t sure what they did.

Video of girl speaking english before and after. barely understandable before, much  more understandable afterwards.

During the time he was away they downloaded some examples (speaking oxford dictionary), and then grouped up testing and correcting each other.

Around same time, Pascal Monteil (French) did experiment with new media art. Sugata took him to his children who didnn;t even know where france was. He spoke to the kids aand they understood nothing. He send pascal to the hole in the wall, showed kids stuff, and they copied him.

Can groups of children complete their schooling on their own? (phase 2 research)

He proposed experiment: let’s show the sorts of things that children can not teach themselves. Can Tamil speaking children learn Biotechnology in English – on their own?

Downloaded biotech material from internet, and loaded it into the hole in the wall computers.

Two months later, asked them what they understood, and they said nothing.

Asked how often they looked at it, they said, everyday.

He asked how they can look at it every day and no understand.

One girl said, well apart from improper replication of dna can cause genetic mutation, we learned nothing.

In 2 months test scores went from 5% to ~30%.

Still 30% is a fail. So what would it take to make them pass? he extended experiment and got a local NGO person to teach them more biotechnology by hanging around as they learn and admire them while they self teach. 2 months later their scores were up to 50%.

No longer ‘just’ computer literacy, but proper real hard science.

Next The Gateshead Experiment, Feb 2008.

Rule: make groups of 4, only 1 computer per group, can look over the shoulders of other groups – see what they are doing – and claim it as your own work. The gave the 10 year olds 6 GCSE questions. Then took teacher away for a cup of tea and left kids to it. Took 20-45mins to get all questions right.

SOLE – Self Organised Learning Environments (cyber cafes for children working in groups of 4)

Self organisation gets kids to 30%, but getting to a pass takes friendly mediation.

Remote presence by retired people with broadband. Beams in his Granny cloud wherever they are needed.

The Future of Learning

  • Need subsidised broadband and electricity in developing world.
  • SOLE as part of timetable.
  • Clouds of mediators.
  • Change curriculum, make it based on questions.
  • Change assessment structures.

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