To make India a technology oriented educational hub and see the literacy rate 100% pan India, Professor Sugata Mitra from New Castle University embrace cloud facility for the students to learn the technology know how and interact with the experts in different domains from world over.
Spearheading the movement to eradicate illiteracy and make Indians learned, professor Mitra invented a whole new way of learning while launching India’s first school in the cloud facility. The Government Girls School in Kalkaji has been fortunate enough to have this facility started recently. The school is a stone’s throw from where professor Mitra first tested the idea of unsupervised learning using computers by carving a ‘hole in the wall’ that separated his office from the adjoining slum.
Now, it is to become India’s first link into the school in the cloud, a learning lab where children can explore and learn from each other by tapping into online resources. TED Prize winner professor Mitra was Chief Scientist at NIIT when he set up the first ‘hole in the wall’ 15 years ago. The freely accessible computer was an instant hit with groups of Indian street children, who learn to use the computer and internet by themselves.
His experiments in more remote locations helped to define a new way of learning minimally invasive education as well as inspiring the film Slumdog Millionaire. This idea has gathered pace evolving into dozens of self organized learning environments (SOLEs) where children search for answers to big questions. It has also inspired Self Organised Mediation Environments (SOMEs)- better known as the Granny cloud where children interact with Online Grannies to engage in a wide range of informal activities.
Explaining his idea for the school in the cloud professor Mitra shares it would bring together all of the research to date, liking the SOLEs and the Granny cloud to create something that was a bit different from both of these components. “We already know that reading comprehension is likely to improve in the children taking part in these activities but we do not know what else might happen in the process,” he explains. “What we do know is that order emerges out of this creative chaos.”
Professor Mitra informs that In India, they will be looking at two things – whether the children can learn to read and also search the Internet accurately by themselves. If they can do this, then it’s the end of schooling as we know it.
“The Kalkaji facility, which is being officially opened on 4 February 2014, is the first of five new SOLES to open in India and has been described as ‘undoubtedly a doorway to 21st century learning skills which should be introduced in all school in the near future’, says staff at the school.
There has been a small-scale experimental SOLE operating on this site for the past few years, set up thanks to a donation from London-based entrepreneur Richard Alberg, who heard Prof Mitra speak at the Stone Club in 2011 and was inspired to help fund his research.
Spanning from the hub near Calcutta to the remotest site five hours away in West Bengal, what all the new SOLE locations share is a lack of educational opportunities for the children living there, coupled with a drive and determination from those communities to turn that around.
The primary aim is to improve children’s reading comprehension and search skills and develop their confidence. “Working in small groups, children can competently search for answers to ‘big questions’, drawing rational, logical conclusions,” explains Dr Suneeta Kulkarni, research director for the School in the Cloud project. This is far ahead of what is expected of them in their school curriculum and a kind of learning activated by questions, not answers.
“It’s wonderful to be at this point where so many people believe in this project and we finally have the capacity and resources to take it forward on a larger scale,” she adds.
The new SOLEs which are already set up in India are Gocharan, West Bengal, Korakati, West Bengal, Chandrakona, West Bengal, Kalkaji, New Delhi and Phaltan, Maharashtra. Professor Mitra is encouraging schools, teachers and parents to create their own local Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) by downloading a SOLE toolkit for use in their homes and classrooms.