I had an opportunity to meet TED 2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra who not only spoke on the main TED stage when receiving and acknowledging his prize, but then trekked to Palm Springs from Long Beach to address an eager TedActive crowd who were full of questions about his mission to change how we think about education and educatING.
Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.
Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.
His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs).
He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
He said in a chat with a dozen or so of us, he said, “if children are not engaged or motivated in the learning process, you have to ask yourself what are you doing to make them disengaged, not what’s wrong with them?”
Sugata added, “to motivate them to do something, whenever you’re trying something with them, tell the children that they’re trying something new and say I don’t think anyone in the world knows the answer.” He laughed as he pondered this share, clear that he has tried this with success dozens of times.
Aside from advice, he and attendees spoke about the importance of asking a lot of smart questions. For example, how tall is the Eiffel Tower is a bad question since it doesn’t provoke learning or imagination – it’s simple to look that up on Google or elsewhere. Asking, “why would someone be inspired to build something so tall in that exact location in Paris at that time in history” is a much better question since it involves deep exploration, research and thinking.
First photo credit: TED Blog, second one I shot on the lawn at La Quinta Resort, third shot is from TED Blog.