There is a very interesting experiment going on for the past few years in New Delhi, India called Hole in the Wall. Free-to-use [Windows-powered] computer kiosks with Internet connections are placed in and around a number of slums. The PC’s are designed to be industrial-strength with plexi-glass on the front and plastic covered keyboard and a touchpad for a mouse function. They have built in battery backup (for the frequent power outages) and are connected to a satellite receiver on the roof of the building to provide broadband Internet connections. These are public access computers.
The research project (and now NGO) is named so because the first of these kiosks was literally put in a hole in the wall near the office of physicist Sugata Mitra who heads research efforts at New Delhi’s NIIT, a fast-growing software and education company. Mitra setup the first kiosk just outside his office and then watched through a webcam as local illiterate children started investigating this new contraption.
What he discovered:
- Children figured out how to use the computer without any assistance … completely driven out of curiosity
- Children figured out their own “sharing rules” for the computer usage
- Children increased their proficiency in reading (English) and math
Mitra’s provocative conclusion/opinion … that education improves when there are fewer teachers! He contends that children have the innate drive to learn and just need tools (like access to computers) to help them explore and exploit their curiosities.
Here are some additional articles on this research experiment:
- Pulling Themselves Up By Their Keyboards, Ode Magazine
- A “hole in the wall” helps educate India, Christian Science Monitor
- Interview with Sugata Mitra, GreenStar.org
- Some videos, from PBS/Frontline
What do you think?