Wednesday, April 25, 2007

the india hole in the wall experiment

What can we learn from the india hole in the wall experiment, conducted by Sugata Mitra?

That children, aged 6 to 12, including poor children with little education, can quickly teach themselves the basics of computer literacy, without any adult help whatsoever

What basic computer literacy did they learn?
  • Ability to use the mouse, to point, to drag to drop
  • How to draw, eg. with MS Paint
  • How to browse the Internet, to find things of interest to them
The key thing for this to work is that teachers and other adults get out of the way. "Minimally invasive education". Curious kids can train themselves to operate a computer at a basic level

Therefore if we can provide computer access to these kids then to teach them these basic skills is a waste of teacher time and money. They can do it themselves!

Then teacher time can be freed up for more important things, such as Alan Kay's list of non universals:
  • reading and writing
  • deductive abstract mathematics
  • model based science
  • equal rights
  • democracy
  • perspective drawing
  • theory of harmony (?)
  • similarities over differences (?)
  • slow deep thinking
  • agriculture
  • legal systems
Children will learn the computer basics in this way. But not adults.

Doesn't this show that Negroponte's OLPC idea of levering the children to speed things up in developing countries is a good idea, that up to a point it will speed things up:
It's about levering the children themselves. Children are extraordinary - we don't give children enough credit for what they can do. I mean, we all know when your cell phone breaks you give it to a 12 year old, when you don't know how to use your laptop you ask your kid. We all know that! And yet we sort of think that they have to, after the age of 6, stop learning by doing and learn by being told.

And, in the best of situations, a child in the developing world is in a classroom 2 1/2 hours a day, five days a week, which averages a lot less than 2 hours a day over the week. So, even if you make that experience better, you're only dealing with a small part of the problem. So what we did, we said to ourselves: "How can we actually leverage the child for a lot bigger part of the day, and do something particularly for the poor children in remote parts of the developing world?" And we set to do what we call the "$100 Laptop"
- Negroponte: "levering the children"


Bill Kerr said...

great video about the hole in the wall experiment

Anonymous said...

Aren't there several significant differences between hole-in-the-wall (HITW) and OLPC?

HITW - collaboration means several children using one terminal and talking to each other
OLPC - collaboration means children at their own laptops emailing each other

HITW - program is independent of school system and government
OLPC - program is purchased by the government and distributed through the school system. Children use the laptops in class.

HITW - requires a small number of computers. OS is irrelevant.
OLPC - requires a lot of laptops running Sugar interface.

from the point of view of the government, buying a few OLPC machines and using them like HITW might be a good way to go.

Anonymous said...

My last point:

HITW was developed in India, by Indians for Indians.
OLPC was developed in America, by MIT for developing nations.

See this review comparing OLPC to the Tata Nano