Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher in England, has won the $1 million TED Prize for social entrepreneurship for his plan to build an online learning lab for kids in India called School in the Cloud.
Mitra discussed his plan today at the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, Calif., where a wide range of people with big ideas, from Internet co-creator Vint Cerf to a yo-yo champion who goes by the name of Black, share their visionary thinking and accomplishments. Past TED Prize winners have included President Bill Clinton and U2 singer Bono.
Mitra’s School in the Cloud concept is an outgrowth of his Hole in the Wall experiments, in which Mitra and his colleagues in 1999 “dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other,” according to his TED bio.
Mitra also said the School in the Cloud concept has evolved from teaching systems as old as those promoted by the British Empire, which were based on word of mouth. The School in the Cloud would be a way of going beyond obsolete notions common in many of today’s schools, Mitra says.
At TED, Mitra provided a link to a Self-Organized Learning Environment toolkit that anyone can download for bringing child-driven learning to their community. Broadband connections, collaboration among the learners and some “grannies in the cloud” – adults connected by Skype – and encouragement are among the keys to making the system work, Mitra says.