Sugata Mitra : Education and Empire

How the minds of generations were won

Famed for his “Hole in the Wall” experiments with children and computers in slum districts in India, winner of the $1 million TED Prize, proponent of emergent learning theory and advocate of self organising learning environments (SOLE), Sugata Mitra has successfully challenged what many of us think we know about learning and technology. Not for him, the suggestion that we use technology to simply reinforce the teaching practices of the last century nor should it be used to simply replace the teaching profession. Mitra seeks a complete rebooting of our educational systems to reflect the information infrastructure that todays children are born into.

On the day of the launch of the Learning {Re}imagined book I wanted to share this excerpt from my interview with him where in 5 minutes he succinctly describes how we arrived at where we are and why we need nothing less than a total transformation in the way we approach learning, teaching and assessment.

He tells me:

Coming back to technology. Now paper becomes cheap, pencils become really cheap, so now you can have all that in the hands of children. Books become really cheap. You can give them to children. The teacher’s role starts to change. Then comes technology and to my surprise, technology was allowed inside the examination hall. You were allowed to use paper. You were allowed to use pencils. You were allowed to use rulers, straight edge, set squares, protractors, compass. Everything that the last generation used for solving real world problems were available to the person being examined.
Somewhere along the line, we seemed to have lost sight of it. We have come to this ridiculous situation of saying, only the past technology is allowed still, but nothing more than that. We went up to the point where we said, logarithm tables and slide rules are allowed, but then we stopped. We stopped at the calculator most of the time and when it came to the Internet, we said, not at all. I wonder sometimes if I were to go back a hundred years to the Victorians and show them our world, what if those same Victorians were to say, well why on earth aren’t you allowing all this inside the examination hall? How are you going to test them for their real world skills?”

Graham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live.

His book, Learning {Re}imagined is published by Bloomsbury on Oct 1st 2014. Available from Amazon and all good book stores (ISBN 9781474222730)

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