Sugata Mitra's Self-Teaching Experiments

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Sugata Mitra is an Indian Professor at Newcastle University in England. He is famous for both his "Hole in the Wall" experiments and the subsequent application to theories of learning for the future. The "Hole in the Wall" experiments consisted of creating a structure with a computer inside and leaving it in slums for several months. Children were permitted to use the computer freely. When Mitra returned months later, he found that the children had taught themselves not only to use the computer, but they even altered their accents so the computer's voice-to-text feature could understand them. Mitra's efforts have changed how scientists view education and learning. Education is capable of being a self-sustaining and self-organizing system where, according to Mitra, learning becomes the emergent phenomenon.

The content of Mitra's presentation was very compelling. In addition to personal anecdotes, he included video footage of the Indian children using the computers. Watching them adapt and respond to a machine interface they had never experienced before was inspiring; when the cameras panned to the audience faces, the effect was evident. However, his introduction could have been more direct and concise. It would have been very helpful to American audiences if he had included a thesis-like sentence somewhere in the beginning of his speech instead of diving into stories. His explanation of the issue that shaped his research is appropriately included but misleading. If I had not read the title of the video, I would have thought the presentation was about why low education correlates with troubled environments instead of phenomena in self-teaching.

Mitra's delivery was very engaging and delivered in a Western style. He made the audience laugh on several occasions, and sometimes even at his own expense. His expressions were cheerful and animated and his hand gestures were natural and fairly large. Overall, he was very easy to listen to because he was not just spitting research statistics at his listeners. Rather, he was telling a series of stories compiled from the observations from his research. In this regard, he was similar to Dan Pink's speech content, who turned each experiment into a story and delivered his information in an informative but entertaining fashion. 

See his TED talk here:

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This page contains a single entry by hauge581 published on March 31, 2013 7:33 PM.

A Review of Arunachalam Muruganatham's TED Talk "How I started a sanitary napkin revolution" was the previous entry in this blog.

Rajesh Rao: A Rosetta Stone for the Indus Script is the next entry in this blog.

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