Minimally Invasive Education

Scoble has taken time out from his busy angst-baiting (only joking, Robert!) to blog about LIFT and some of the cool research and tech being shown there.  So far getting his "best worth the entrance fee" award has been Sugata Mitra's five-year Hole In The Wall Experiment, examining the success of Minimally Invasive Education in India.

Mitra surreptitiously built a computer into a wall in a remote Indian village and retired to watch the confusion.  Only what he observed was not bemused locals, but a self-taught group of young people learning within eight hours how to use the machine and helping each other to surf the net.  From that start, the project grew to several machines in different sites, young people learning to use the computer for browsing, chatting, e-mail, painting, games, educational material, music downloads and playing video.

He found that small groups of 6-13 year olds were teaching each other and finding their way, often through trial & error, through the intricacies of the PC.  Rather than language being a barrier, instead they ended up learning English words from their time on the machine.

It's exciting, because teaching in remote areas has inevitably suffered due to the lack of teachers, those they do have being poorly trained, and the increasing numbers of young people.  Mitra's ongoing research has shown that given the opportunity and facilities, children are capable of "learning to learn", and doing so collaboratively in groups.

"For experts, like Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, Hole-in-the-Wall is a 'Shared Blackboard' which children in underprivileged communities can collectively own and access, to express themselves, to learn, to explore together, and at some stage to even brainstorm and come up with exciting ideas.

For villagers, it is more like a village Well, where children assemble to draw knowledge and, in the process, engage in meaningful conversation and immersive learning activities that broaden their horizons.

And finally for children, it is an extension of their playground where they can play together, teach each other new things, and more importantly, just be themselves"

Hole-in-the-Wall [via Scobleizer and Climb to the Stars]