Sugata Mitra: The Future of Learning

Conference Operator: Ladies and gentlemen,
I give you the professor of educational technology at New Castle University, UK and previously
a visiting professor at MIT, Professor Sugata Mitra. Sugata Mitra: Gosh! This is scary. In England, our idea of a very large conference
is 125 people. So, nobody’s going to believe this. Well, I have a challenge here today, I’d
just tell you. Since I came in yesterday, I met several of
you, all of whom said we’ve seen all your talks. And I thought to myself, oh my God, thank
you. What am I going to do tomorrow? So, that’s challenge number one. Challenge number two is that as professors
get older, they tend to ramble on and on and on and finally their time runs out and they
haven’t actually made their main point. So, I have to make sure that that doesn’t
happen. And what should the message be, was something
that I was thinking about all the way from Calcutta to California. I thought this one way to put it. I started out on all of this way back in the
1980’s really, the whole world happened in 1999 and I continued with that work until
today and I saw the world change from being a computer using educator to a world where
computers use educators. Not one computer, not two computers, not a
dozen, five billion interconnected computers. We would see them and we call them the cloud
but this is the story of the cloud using education. Let’s see if I get there. I have my last challenge which is that there
is a first part of the story and there’s a second part of the story. For you, I think the second part of the story
is more important today because up until now, I used to say here are the experiments, this
is what they’re doing. I stopped that, I didn’t say so what, so
what should you as a teacher do. I’m getting to the beginnings of being able
to say that, just the beginnings. And it’s kind of an exciting message thereof
what should you do. I’ll see if I can get that point across. I also do an exercise every year which is
that I take some of the mainline published articles on the Internet, the ones that have
been viewed the most and that sort of thing and I put them all together into a single
document and then put the whole lot into word and see what it brings. Well, this year, this is what it did. Okay, as you might expect, children and big
letters, groups, learning, Internet, self-organization but there was unfortunately and strangely
one word missing, the word teacher. What happened? Where did we all go? I kept staring at that thing and said my God,
I don’t believe this. I mean it’s possible that I didn’t select
all the right articles or whatever but I do this every year and the word teacher generally
appears somewhere or the other, it wasn’t. So, where did we go? So, the first bit of the story, I’m going
to go through this as quickly as I can. The story of obsolescence and you’ve heard
this one before but this is how it goes, that we just transited from a different age. And if you think about it, it’s only in
the last 100 years or so that we’ve been experimenting with social systems of governance
that are different from empires. And I say experimenting and not even particularly
successfully I think so far. So, before that, for 5,000 years, we had a
system and that system didn’t have computers and didn’t have anything. It didn’t have telephones. It didn’t have airplanes, nothing at all. What it did have and needed in large numbers
are these people. What were these people like? They must be identical to each other. They must obey orders as soon as an order
is issued. They must not ask questions. These people who used to do all the computing
for us, they needed to know how to read and write to understand one person’s handwriting. One person should be able to understand another
person’s handwriting, so cursive writing with good style. Look at instructions, follow them, understand
them and follow them, comprehension. Don’t ask questions and for heaven’s sake,
don’t be creative. You don’t want a creative clerk, do you? And then these people stand at the same place,
do the same thing over and over again for eight hours, ten hours every day, understand
instructions, follow them, don’t ask questions and this time around, strictly do not be creative. Can you imagine a creative assembly line worker? And we needed the millions and millions and
millions for thousands and thousands of years and we produced a superbly constructed engine
to do that. There you go, our engine. Well, somebody has to say that. The second thing that happened in recent times
is dematerialization. That’s a strange word. It used to happen in fairytales that you shake
your magic wand at something and just poof, disappears but it happens very regularly. Let me give you some examples. You remember that? It disappeared. Where did it go? Into the mobile phone. Do you remember that? And maybe there are one or two still floating
around but it disappeared in the mobile phone. This one, well, I’m glad somebody laughed
because I was giving a talk in Boulder, Colorado last year to students, 20, 22 or something
like that and I brought up this picture and they’re silenced. So I said guys, and then somebody from the
back said what’s that? So that’s a slide drill. It disappeared in to the mobile phone. Remember that one? They cherished objects, it vanished. I won’t even tell you where it went. Remember that? Go back, file for bankruptcy I think last
year. She disappeared into your pocket. Remember those sheaves of them inside the
glove compartment? They disappeared. Guess where? So, what’s all this? What’s going on? Why things are disappearing and what is happening
to them? They all exist, I mean music exists and arithmetic
exists and maps exist, except that they’re all 1’s and 0’s, clouds and clouds of
1’s and 0’s, utterly nonhuman. If I gave you those piles of 1’s and 0’s
on a piece of paper, you’d just stare at it. I once did a study of that. I took Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, digitized
it, made an mp3 out of it, took the string of 1’s and 0’s and apply the simple statistical
rule on it to say is there anything meaningful in this? Statistics said it’s random. It’s a random string of 1’s and 0’s,
50 percent 1’s 50 percent 0’s. Beethoven, well I won’t tell you the whole
story but I did find finally where the meaning was. It was in a very strange place but not in
those 1’s and 0’s. But I’m going to tell you about an example
of something that changed relatively recently, transportation. This was how people moved from one point to
another for thousands and thousands of years. Horse drawn carriages, you got into the back
and you told the driver I want to go to so and so place and the coachman he sort of took
you along. All that changed when somebody invented the
internal combustion engine. So, then we said well, that’s cool. I mean, those horses, we don’t need them
anymore. Poor things, they have done their bit. Now we’re going to replace them with internal
combustion engines. I think in those days people thought that
instead of those two horses, there’ll be two internal combustion engines and the accelerator
would be tied to two pieces of string and the coachman would go like that but that’s
not what happened. Something utterly unexpected happened. The coachman disappeared. The passengers became the drivers. Now you listen with our subject in mind, education. The passengers became the drivers and when
passengers became the drivers, they did all kinds of – passengers, you and me, when
we become drivers we make some strange discoveries and inventions. For example we invented drunken driving. We invented passing from the wrong side, side
swiping other people, running over other people. So, traffic lights, traffic policemen, roads,
road safety rules, licensing authorities, everything changed. Everything had to change to keep us, the drivers,
to keep us the passengers as drivers but one thing we never did, we never brought the coachman
back. So I thought that this is where my example
would end but it didn’t actually because something stranger is happening and it’s
happening right here in this state, cars that drive themselves. You all know, you’ve all heard about it. These strange things have actually had a ride
in one and they’re extraordinarily safe. The car that drives itself drives like a 90-year-old
with poor eyesight. You couldn’t have it safer. And I love the idea. I love the idea of popping out of a bar, getting
into my driverless car and take me home. But something really strange is going to happen
now. This time around, no one’s going away, we
the passengers are still there. It’s just that we are even more comfortable
than before but something else is going away. Driving is going away. You will have one day grandchildren who will
ask you what does driving mean and you’re going to say there used to be a wheel. You had to hold on to the wheel. There’s a stick. You had to pull on the stick. There were pedals, you had to pump the pedals
and the car would move. And your grandchild would say don’t be silly. So, not just things but strangely enough,
concepts can dematerialize. So that one really gets me because up to this
point I can say okay, teacher, coachman, writing, change the horses, put in internal combustion
engines. The passengers take over as the drivers, the
coachman goes away and then driving goes away. What does that mean? Learning goes away, knowing goes away. I haven’t even started working on what that
means. I want to leave it in your head. The Hole In The Wall is a old story, I won’t
tell you a lot about it but I need to show one little video just because I owe the children,
the very first day. What was the Hole In The Wall? Just a computer stuck in to a wall 1999 with
an Internet connection that I got with some difficulty, no explanation, three feet off
the ground. When you put anything three feet off the ground,
the first people that come there are three feet tall. What did they do? Well, they just started surfing. How? We don’t know. It’s just not supposed to happen. How did they understand the English? How did they understand what the machine was? How did they know what the Internet was? How could they download something? How could they load games? [Audio Clip] There was only one clue staring at me which
I didn’t see, groups and no supervision. As a teacher, it never ever occurred to me
that taking away supervision and restricting the resource would produce learning, will
amplify learning. It went against everything that I knew, so
I didn’t take the clue. It took me 16 years to figure that out. I did experiment after experiment to see what
would happen. Okay, so what? Once they’ve learned how to surf, then what
happens? Well, about four or five months down the line,
they run into search engines. In those days it was AltaVista. And the local teachers started to report in
Delhi, the local slum school teachers saying you know something’s happened to the children,
Professor Mitra. I said what? Their English has become perfect and you know
they’re quoting from some strange places. Strange places like what? You know Harvard Business Review and things. I said I see and then I thought my God, what
have I done? I mean they’re just picking up stuff like
that, copying it off the stream and handing it over back in school. They’re not learning. That was a clue that I had missed completely. How in the ocean of information were they
copying down the right things? I couldn’t figure that out, took me 10 years
to figure it out. Once again, there were these two common things,
no supervision, unstructured groups. As I went on through these experiments basically
asking children to do harder and harder things, math and stuff like that, it became like an
addiction for me. I would go from village to village, put in
the Hole in the Wall computer, call for the children and the way you do it is you put
in some stuff after they’ve learnt how to use the basic machine. So the children – what did you do? What have you put in there? And I said oh, I put in quantum electrodynamics. They barely know any English. What’s that? So, let’s say they’re 12 years old. The way the method works is you say but I
don’t quite know what it is but I know it’s very important and anyway you are never going
to be able to figure it out and then you go away. Try doing that with the ones of 12-year olds
and you see what they do. So, I went from experiment to experiment just
to make sure that it was all right, what I was seeing was not cooked up in my own mind. I started publishing the results into international
peer review publications. Initially with difficulty and then it became
easier and easier as the entire teaching community started to say there’s something really
odd that we’ve missed. We still hadn’t understood the cloud. One thing that helped this whole process was
the existence of a nonthreatening adult. What I found was that when the children do
this kind of thing, milling around and pushing and shoving and playing with the Internet
and looking for something. If there’s someone there who says wow, that’s
fantastic, how did you do that? You know, when I was your age, I could have
done nothing like that and the children will say oh, that’s nothing, let me show you
what else we can do, and they’ll go one step further. I realized that this was the method of the
grandmother. That’s a romantic way of putting it, the
method of the grandparents which is quite different from the method of the parent or
the teacher. The grandparent method if done correctly uses
admiration as the engine. So back in England, I put out an appeal into
a newspaper saying if you are a British grandmother, if you have the Internet and a web camera,
can you give me one hour of your time for free every week. Not much to ask for. In a couple of weeks, I got hundreds. I know more British grandmothers than anyone
in this room. I was just joking. That cloud has grown. It’s called the granny cloud. It’s grown a lot since those days. It’s not just grannies, actually not grannies
at all. I mean, there all kinds of… there are young
men and women, there are all sorts of people, teachers, active teachers, retired teachers. Basically people who are interested in children
and who have an hour to give in a week. There are many from California for example. And what do they do? I beam them in over Skype into places where
good teachers can’t go. It’s as simple as that. And I give them one instruction that I learned
through all these 16 years. Don’t teach. Do whatever else you want, do not teach. So, the granny cloud started out in think
around 2008 or so. It’s basically a wall sized thing. What’s my lesson in there? Don’t put it onto tiny screens, okay, that
doesn’t work. And don’t put in onto a massive screen like
that. Children don’t want a granny that looks
like King Kong talking. Put it at their level and life size, then
it becomes real. And what do they do? Well, they just talk like this. [Audio Clip] So, a general conversation. I will show in a minute what that does but
the presence of this friendly mediator can improve self-organized learning. You should certainly leave it at that but
I would now add an experiment which you might want to try. Take your best math teacher. Put him into a classroom, put him into a self-organized
environment with computers, and not rows and columns of chairs. And tell him that you conduct the session
and he says well, what shall I do today? Should I do video algebra? I said no, no, no, you don’t do that. Today, you’re going to do the history of
still life water colors and then what? You’ll see the power of the method because
he will achieve exactly what the art teacher would have achieved if he does it right. So, all this got put together in England and
called a self-organized learning environment. So what you do to make it? Well, you basically turn the Hole in the Wall
experiment inside out. So you take a classroom, take out all the
furniture, put in comfortable seating, stools for example work quite well. Put in a few computers with big screens. The walls of the classroom should preferably
be glass so that – if you have big screens facing the glass wall, then standing outside
you can see every single screen. Let’s say you put in five, bring in 20 children
and ask them a question. The question is most important. It’s quite an art trying to build the question. Just to give you an example, with seven-year
olds, I did a session like that in London last year. The teacher said Sugata, I’m going to – I
said to the teacher, what were you going to do if I hadn’t come and she said I was going
to do the most boring subject on the planet. So I said what’s that? And she said gum health. So I said gum health. So she said well, gum health, you do that. Okay, so off I ran to the seven-year olds. So I said okay, does anybody have a shaking
tooth? It’s obvious seven-year olds, several of
them. So I said I have a question for you. Why is it if you’re born without teeth usually,
then we grow teeth and they fall off, then they grow back, they stay on for quite a while,
then they drop off again, and the second time around, they never grow back. Now the seven-year olds say yeah, that’s
right. They never grow back the second time. I said yes, that’s my question, why not? Well, to cut the long story short they found
out and it was gum health. So, it’s very, very simple. It’s just an environment which is open. Remember I’m trying to simulate the Hole
in the Wall which was in fields and open spaces, so glass. Restriction of the resource, very fast broadband
but only a few. So then you don’t have the children to make
groups because they obviously have to, but then they make their own self-organizing groups. You don’t make the groups. You don’t say you and you and you work together. Let them do it themselves. At best, you can take one and tell him to
be the supervisor. I generally make a rule saying you can’t
talk to me, I can’t talk to you. This is to simulate the lack of supervision
bit. The only person who is our communication bridge,
in case there’s a chance of bodily injury which happens once in a while, is that little
fellow who is the supervisor. He can talk to me and he can talk to the kids
as well. He has to sort out all problems and then you
let chaos happen. So this is what it looks like. [Audio Clip] There he is, a ferocious group leader. [Audio Clip] This is in Melbourne. [Audio Clip] Those were eleven-year olds talking first
year undergraduate physics, 35 minutes. But then it’s all very fine. It’s so far a very nice story. How do you do it and why should you? The curriculum that you have doesn’t ask
you to do it that way. Yes, Aspen system doesn’t ask you to do
it that way. So you got a challenge. How do you do it in the middle of a system
which believes in exactly the opposite of everything I said? And I can quite understand my teacher friends
all around the world in all the five continents say this to me, why is it like that? And then I see for myself the power of 5,000
years of one system and how hard it is to shake that. So, the SOLE as an idea has spread all around
the world. Many, many teachers, tens of thousands of
them practice it, and they blog about it and they publish it and they do all sort of things. They always report results like the ones that
I told you but what happens next? Well, first of all I must also tell you a
little side story which is that it impacted popular culture. It generated films like Slumdog Millionaire,
the idea of the Hole in the Wall and of self-directed chaotic learning. It took a school in Mexico from the bottom
of the league table in arithmetic to the very top by a teacher whom I don’t even know
and who said, you know, I read this guy’s work, it’s pretty simple, I just applied
it. I don’t know what happened. The class just went up. Sports commentator started to say maybe we
should use Hole in the Wall techniques to do better batting techniques or better bowling
techniques and so on. So, it went all over the place but what didn’t
get solved is the challenge of assessment. This is an office from 1910 or so. It could be Boston or it could be Calcutta
or it could be Vancouver, they all look exactly the same. The roles of clerks, a floor supervisor walking
up and down making sure that you’re not talking, you’re not being creative, you’re
not asking questions, you’re not talking to the other guy et cetera. You’re doing your work which is copying
down things from one thing to another. Remember what we do in school? So, here’s what it looked like, 1910. Here’s what an examination room in India
looks like. Do you see that? You see who we are preparing our children
for? They’re dead, those employers, for their
world is gone. But we’re still preparing our children for
them. So what should we prepare them for? Well, this is what a modern office looks like
most of the time. Doesn’t it remind you of the Hole in the
Wall? Almost exactly, I could superimpose those
two pictures. So if you have to prepare your children for
this world, then shouldn’t the examination system look like this? Thank you, that means a lot. Just recently in Calcutta there was a newspaper
article which said believe it or not, Calcutta police to ensure that devices are not allowed
into examination halls. I said God, what does that mean? What’s going to happen two years down the
line when the device has become so small or implanted that you can’t even tell? What are you going to do? You’re going to put them through an MRI
scanner? So I put that out on my Facebook page and
one of my English friends wrote back a really lovely line which I think applies to any exam. So do realize that that examination day is
the only day in their life that these children will not have their mobile phones with them. So, why not, why not allow the mobile phone
in? Why not allow the Internet in? Why not allow SIRI in for heaven’s sake? What we do to the driverless car? If we manage to do this and I’ve been going
from country to country saying somebody try, please. It will change the whole system. If you’re standing in front of your class
and you know that all these children during their tests or their exams are going to have
access to the Internet, your entire teaching strategy will change. What will you do? You will send them to the Internet room and
you’ll say listen, you must learn how to search properly. The Internet can have different points of
view. You must learn how to determine which is right,
which is wrong. When you talk to your friends, don’t just
waste time. There’s very little time in an exam. Have a pointed conversation and get to the
truth because that’s how they’ll have to live. The guy who is setting the examination question
paper, he has to change completely. There’s not much point in saying how tall
the Eiffel Tower is? How many seconds will that take? It has to be a different question but you
could ask a question like why was the Eiffel Tower built? Well, that’s a good question. It has a story. The Internet has that story but it’s covered
in mist. Try it sometime in your classroom and see
what fun that is. So, in 2013 I got a prize, the TED prize. And it was a big issue no, a million dollars. So, I was obviously quite very happy. I was going to call my bank and say guys get
ready, get ready. No more of those three digit numbers for me. It’s all going to change when TED called
and said we don’t give you the money. We ask you what you’ll do with the money
if you had it. So I made a plan, a three-year plan and I
gave the money to the university. Why? Because when you give money to my university
or to most universities, then they ask you questions like on the 26th of February, you
took a taxi cab and you paid $12.5 for it. According to us, it should have been $9.2. What did you do with the extra dollar? That sort of thing, I wanted that because,
you know, a million dollars can just vanish if you don’t have that kind of fiscal control
over. So I told the university accountant guys just… Well, what I actually said is just chew me. The plan was to build seven schools in the
cloud. Five would be in India, two would be in England
and they would stretch across different socioeconomic and geographic areas. Starting from the really remote where there’s
nothing at all to middle class urban England, they would be identical, the schools. And over a three-year period, we would collect
the data to show where the cloud can take children. I’m halfway through it. So what is the School in the Cloud? Well, you know what the Hole in the Wall is,
unsupervised groups of children, lack of resources or restriction of resource. The granny cloud admiration has the mechanism
for driving, the self-organized learning environment, a safe, publicly visible space, large screens,
comfortable, unsupervised. Well, I finished building that, took about
a year, here’s what they look like. This one’s in a town called Killingworth,
England. Inside I put in an Xbox and my teacher friend
Amy, she said how can you do this? They’re not going to do anything else except
play with that Xbox. So I put down a challenge for the teachers
of Killingworth. I said if you can do something, anything and
show me that the children were not playing with the Xbox, then you’ve beaten the Xbox. If you can’t, then the Xbox has beaten you. You better do something about that. Well, she did. She won that hand. As you can see over here, there’s only one
child on that Xbox and here are the others and there’s Amy in the background biting
her nails and telling me I don’t… and saying I don’t believe this. This is Kalkaji, New Delhi. It’s a government school for girls where
with great difficulty I built a School in the Cloud. The teachers, well the first thing – there
are 50 percent vacancies in teachers. The teachers, they just could not grasp the
concept itself but all they did was they said we can’t understand what you’re trying
to say but you go ahead and do it. I like them for that. They said you do it, we want to see. So, I started the School in the Cloud in there. It’s been about a year and I’m going to
show you one girl. I wish I could do a before and after video
but I don’t want to do that because she’s not a microbe that we study. It’s insulting to do a before and after
video. She knew no English at all. She’s stumbling when we started. Here she is. [Audio Clip] Okay. Thank you, thank you. So, on we went and there are stories after
stories. Here is Newton Aycliffe in England with a
granny on the wall, South American granny. This is what it looks like inside. It’s got Astro turf. It looks like the outdoors. Glass walls separating it from the actual
outdoors. England has beautiful countryside if you are
looking at it from indoors through glass. That’s what they did there and it’s just
beautiful. It’s got park benches and gas lights and
computers. This is Phaltan in Maharashtra, India. It’s on the western coast. A pretty place and a small little school there. This is the inside in Phaltan. You can see over there the granny screen which
is at the level of the children. There is a village called Chandrakona in Bengal. Now, we’re getting to the remoter of the
areas. That’s what it looks like from the outside. That’s what it looks like from the inside. If you can see on your screen the far end,
you’ll see not a granny but a grandpa. He’s a friend of mine. He’s from Australia and I don’t know what
he is going to do to the accents of the children. An inside view. This is my remotest. It’s a village called Korakatti. It’s in an area called the Sundarbans where
the Ganges, if you remember the map of India on the eastern side, the Ganges comes in and
meets the sea forming the biggest river delta in the world. Not only a big river delta but a dynamic one. Dynamic as in if you go to the sharecropping
farmers, they are very poor people. If you go to a farmer and say how much land
do you have, and he sort of scratches his head, maybe one, maybe two acres. So, you say what do you mean maybe one or
maybe two? He says some days I have two acres and on
some days I have one. It’s like that. It’s incredible. It’s like another planet. It’s got no electricity, no healthcare,
no education. As a matter of fact, all it has are crocodiles,
tigers and the hooded cobra. I bet you’ve seen them roaming around, the
children treat them like cats. So, here is Korakatti, took come building. That’s the inside, it looks nice. It’s solar powered but the Internet is very
flaky. When I first went, I couldn’t get the Internet
from anywhere. I tool a receiver and raised it on bamboo
poles at about 45 feet off the ground. I got a 8 mbps 3G signal. That’s the way we get it but then it’s
a very windy place. So if the receiver moves, you lose the Internet. When you lose the Internet, it looks like
that, empty. When you do have the Internet, it’s full. This is the biggest of the lot. It’s in another village in Bengal called
Bocharan. It is a 40 seater. The structure is two concentric hexagons,
so that forms six logical areas. One is admin, five are SOLEs, Self-Organized
Learning Environments. That’s what the inside looks like and all
this got done in 2014. So, where are we now? Well, there is a film maker called Jerry Rothwell
making a documentary on this for Sundance. Ted ordered that and here is Jerry’s very
short report on the schools in the cloud. [Audio Clip] What is the future of learning? Schools as we know them now, they are obsolete. My wish is to build a facility where children
go on intellectual adventures driven by the big questions which the mediators put in. It will be called the School in the Cloud. You make your own groups, you can change your
groups, you can walk around, you can look at other people’s work. It’s anything but a classroom, right? Korakatti may or may not be different from
the schools of England but that’s what we are going to look for. [Audio Clip] It’s seven minutes from zero to the first
game appearing on the screen and I have seen that happen for the last 15 years everywhere
in the world. So I don’t think progress is going to be
a problem. Almost anytime you order, it occurs spontaneously,
always happens at what’s called the edge of chaos and that’s what a SOLE is. You take some children, you get them into
an environment which allows them to be disordered and then you wait for order to come and along
with order comes learning. [Audio Clip] The worst of the possibility is that you come
back here five years later. The rest of the possibility is that if the
assessment is going to change, you will find it’s backed up. It’s not about making learning happen. It’s about letting it happen. Sugata Mitra: So, that’s more or less where
I am right now. The data started coming in. English reading comprehension seems to be
the first point of impact where you see dramatic changes. There are others but I don’t want to talk
about it because with my research stream, I keep telling them do not form an opinion. Let the data speak for itself and one-half
of the data still to come. So, if you call me back 18 months from now,
I can tell you what the data said. So, that’s a School in the Cloud and there
is just one last bit to talk about. How does this happen? Ever since the 1991 when I did the Hole in
the Wall, I’ve had this question thrown at me, but how is it happening? And I still don’t know for a very simple
reason. If you take a group of children who are doing
something marvelous and if I appear there wearing a tie and say what are you doing? The children generally turn around and say
nothing, okay. You cannot find out that way. It’s ethically not right to point the camera
at them. So I’ve tried that by telling them, I said
look, do you mind if there is a camera out here? It doesn’t work. All that they do is spend time making faces
at the camera. So, I don’t know. But I can guess. I don’t have a formal background in education. All my former background is in theoretical
physics, so I had to turn to my old subject for a guess. The guess is this. What we are looking at here is what in physics
we would call emergent phenomenon. Physicists sometimes make romantic names. This time they made a good job of it. We call it the Edge of Chaos. So, if you have a perfectly ordered system,
we would have a completely disordered system, both are quite boring. The perfectly ordered system remains exactly
as it is. The perfectly disordered system is just bouncing
around. If you make them meet, there is a thin edge. It’s the edge of chaos where things happen. Sometimes we call it spontaneous order. I think what we are looking at is spontaneous
order. You saw those two girls, little girls talking
to each other in a hilarious conversation. I had told my research team go there every
two weeks and take your data. And one of the girls brought back this video
and said you’ve got it wrong. They are saying it’s going to take a long
time to learn all this. It’s going to take at least three days. So, the edge of chaos is like that. And we have example after example of that
in nature. This is an orchid from Peru. Does it know what a monkey is? We have no way to find out. Why did it do that over how much period of
time? Emergent phenomenon. These drops of water, the place where we live,
termite cathedrals, do they know civil engineering? How did they learn how to make the foundations
for that huge structure? Emergent. So this is it. This is my guess and I repeat to you, it’s
a guess, it’s a guess, it’s a guess. It may not be right. You have to tell me because I have tried everything
I can. I am not an elementary school teacher. So, I have to go from school to school to
try these things. You are there where the action is. You tell me, does it exist or does it not? Because it’s a very, very important guess. We are letting our children out there into
the cloud with their devices and themselves. What will happen? I think we all have that question in our mind
but I know lots of bad things can happen. But if this is true, then the driverless car
will go where none of us can imagine. And in that, I think will lie the future of
learning. Thank you. Conference Operator: Thank you. You still want to do Q and A? Sugata Mitra: Am I on time? Conference Operator: Yeah, we are good. Thank you, Professor Mitra. Sugata Mitra: Come on guys, sit down. Conference Operator: Well, they are fired
up and I want to thank you for your response on Twitter. I posted out a question during his talk to
let you all know that we are going to be soliciting questions from among the audience, both here
live as well as the overflow rooms and on Twitter. So, if you would like to ask a question to
Professor Mitra, add the #qMitra to your tweet and we’ll look through and we’ll see if
we can flag those and then I’ll ask those questions. We have a couple of them already come in actually. One is mostly just a compliment from Dawn
Haw. She said Professor Mitra just blew my mind. Self-organized learning environment#sole#q15#qmitra. So, that’s just a compliment. We’ll start with the softballs. Sugata Mitra: All right. Conference Operator: Someone asked a question
here, Lance Rand. How do you think SOLE would look if applied
in America? Where do we start? How do we gain trust from current school systems
and administrators? Sugata Mitra: That’s a good question. I didn’t bring that up. What are the problems? The biggest problem that I face right now
is not from the system and definitely not from teachers. It’s from parents. You see, parents don’t understand this and
parents are worried. They are worried. They are scared, but I keep telling them that
the answer is not to go back to the 19th century. You cannot bring the coachman back ever again. The answer lies forward but all of us have
to say this and try to de-stress the system to understand that there is a generation who
will have to do things by themselves. So, anyhow, that was one of my – the second
part, America. Of course, I have done many different sessions. The most memorable one was in Kansas City,
Kansas about two years ago. I went into the school where the principal
said are you sure it’s going to work here? These children are very de-motivated. They don’t seem to be… So, anyway, I met them. There were about 13 years old or so and then
sort of sitting there. So I said well, what are you guys doing? Oh, we are working on a play. I said why? They said they told us. So, I said okay. So I said oh, what’s the play for? What do you mean what is the play for? We just act and… I said no, I have a question for you and you
can use the Internet to answer it and they said that’s not allowed. I said it is for the next one hour. Go ahead, just pull out all your devices or
use the classroom computers, whatever. My question is what is the purpose of theater? And this is inner city Kansas, okay. 35 minutes later, I’ll never forget it,
one of these little girls stands up and she says I would like to speak. So, I said okay, go ahead. In my system, after about 30-40 minutes, you
ask the groups to present and say okay, what have you found? So, she got up. Her first sentence was theater creates its
own meaning, and there was pin drop silence. So, the answer, yes it will work better than
anywhere over here. Just go ahead and do it for heaven’s sake. Conference Operator: Excellent. We have another question from Terra Hunt. She says have you seen success with SOLE and
special education students? Does it allow them more excess and success? Sugata Mitra: I haven’t done as much on
this as I should have. I have done very little. But there is a teacher in England who used
that method with autistic children and she claims, this is her observation, she claims
that it works in a very strange way with autistics. The groups are self-organized, they are made
by themselves. Now, autistic… well done. Conference Operator: Excuse me. Sorry. Sugata Mitra: Do you need an antacid? So, the autistics, some are good at some things
and some are not good at other things. So, the guy who reads well will become the
reader. The guy who understands well becomes the guy
– so they make their groups almost as though they’ve carefully calculated the individual
capabilities and added them together. It’s amazing but again it needs to be tried
more. Conference Operator: We have another question
here. I like this one and it’s what occurred to
me as well. Have you been able to track the long term
outcomes and benefits for the early Hole in the Wall kids? Sugata Mitra: Good one. First of all, not on a statistical basis,
again because it’s really hard. Remember, the original Hole in the Wall environment
is unsupervised, so the children who are users are kind of a floating population. You can’t quite control. And then new children coming in, old children
going away because their parents went away and things like that. So, I only have isolated instances but my
best anecdotal story happened again in this country in Baltimore, Maryland. I was there speaking to a school superintendents
meeting and I was talking about the Hole in the Wall. And in those days, three or four years ago,
I was talking about some of the original experiments. And out of the audience, a young man rose
who I didn’t quite – he was Indian but I didn’t recognize him and he said, after
my talk, he said I am one of those children from Shirgaon, one of these quite remote villages. So I said what are you doing in America? He said when I was very young, we had the
computer in the wall and I was eight and I used to read the New Scientist. That’s what they do at the Hole in the Wall. I used to read this magazine called the New
Scientist and I decided that one day I will study biology. So that’s what I am doing in the US. I said where? He said I’m on a full scholarship on a PhD
program on Evolutionary Biology in Yale. So, the thing is that – I mean if I was
the questioner I would say okay, nice sentimental story but what’s the big numbers? I don’t know the big numbers. But I can tell you one thing. There is another way to think about it. If I take that one young man, was it not worth
the $1 million? Conference Operator: I would say yes. It’s a good way of looking at it. Okay, we only have 200 more questions left. I want to go now to New Gold Disc recipient
Diane Maine’s question. Do you think we can break the escalating cycle
of achievement driven as education that’s based on outdated traditions? Do you think that we can break that escalating
cycle? Sugata Mitra: Just say it again because … Conference Operator: Can we break that escalating
cycle of achievement driven education that’s based on outdated traditions? Sugata Mitra: As I said, the only thing I
can think of is the introduction of the cloud into the examination system, into the assessment
system. I don’t quite know what that will do. I mean, we’ll have to think of new kinds
of assessment but one thing I do know, that why is that there isn’t a school system
that asks a question like what’s the best way to do a search on the Internet? What’s the quickest way to get to the right
answer on the Internet? Aren’t these important things? Aren’t these things more important than
the 17 times tables? So — Conference Operator: Asking the right questions. Sugata Mitra: Yeah, yeah. Conference Operator: Marco Torres, who’s
up stage here, when he spoke at the Q conference, he encourages educators to stay in the question. Is that not right, Marco? If you don’t know, Marco Torres is here. He is a former keynote and he’s with the
All Ask Group but he is shooting photos and making videos. So I think I just heard as you said that. He’s standing right there. I had to bring that up, so thank you for being
here Marco. Another question from Dennis Gryce, I wonder
if children learn better in unsupervised groups. Is one-to-one a disadvantage? Sugata Mitra: It’s not as though – I mean,
we shouldn’t generalize to say it has to be groups, it has to be lack of resources. It works if you do it that way. But does that mean that one is to one doesn’t
work? No, I don’t think so. We should look at the instance where the child
says, and I’ve had these instances where the child says I would like to work on this
by myself. And let him. If he repeats that and over a period of time
you find that he’s never saying that I want to work with a group, then you move. And move as not in a prescriptive way but
move with an experiment and say okay, let’s see. You achieve up to this point alone, let’s
try in a group and see will your achievement drop and if so by how much. We can make it a scientific experiment. Of course, what happens is usually the opposite. So, I have turned around several children
like that but the answer, one is to one if imposed by the system can be a disadvantage
because you are not asking the learner what the learner wants. You are saying his – and usually the school
computer rooms, I don’t know how they are here but there’s just a straight line of
computers with chairs. So, it’s almost impossible to make a group
around the computer first of all. So, we need to break the geometry of the room
and definitely break the one is to one. Conference Operator: Yeah, and change the
learning environment, the spaces and what the students learn. Okay. The last question, I really do appreciate
your generosity in letting the questions come up on stage. In fact, it was Professor Mitra that said
can we do a Q and A? I really love that part of the talk. Here is a potentially interesting question
from Mark Gresaff. What is the role of administration in the
SOLE granny cloud model? Sugata Mitra: Well, the administration needs
to keep – in my case, in the Indian schools in the cloud, the administration has a very
serious and important job to do. Keep the toilets clean. I think you got the point. Conference Operator: Okay. Thank you so much Professor Mitra. Really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.


  1. Madam Vonkook

    August 13, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I admire Dr.Mitra unfortunately there is so much of the Victorian Era Style Education system that props up secondary systems such as political parties ,companies who make text books ,economic systems which employ large percentages of the population,government contracts to companies who provide services and supplies .
    In the USA there is a federal curriculum called Common Core many school systems are adopting this curriculum because the school gets more federal funding as an incentive The curriculum is the polar opposite of   The way Dr.Mitra has demonstrated is a nurturing learning environment where children flourish.The Teachers and parents all hate Common Core but now they are stuck with it because they took the funding funding that was available due to government contracts with corporations like   Coke Cola where they can put their vending machines in the schools many teachers unions are on to this scam cooked up by politicians and corporations who is disturbing when you look in to it how they treat our children like cattle .I hope Dr.Mitras vision for education is realized in the near future!

  2. Shafique Ansari

    August 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you Sir,
    All of your talk this is also a superb one, really your your passion in education and making your learnings available to us by the power of cloud.
    also, an excellent way of asking the right questions which ignites the dormant minds.

  3. Sivuyile Mtshemla

    January 26, 2016 at 9:42 am

    i find his thinking wise he gives opportunities to learners to be active participants by so doing giving them time to be innovative. he arouses their curiosity because he is capable of oppening opportunities to be creative to students.

  4. FinnFun Maths

    January 27, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    There are so many free online resources to use and choose from. It would be silly not to use them! I love flipping and created my own videos for my flipped classroom experiment with little learners in Finland. You'll find the research and videos from my channel. Hope you find them useful!

  5. Daniel Fuller

    February 26, 2016 at 1:07 am

    I think that the major barrier to creating a system of education truly in the best interests of children everywhere is the prejudice against children participating meaningfully in decisions that affect their lives. The exclusion of children's voices from the debate stems from a prejudice comparable to racism, sexism and homophobia in that it denies rights to an entire group—children—based on an unscientific belief in their incompetence which yet paradoxically insists that children should serve adult needs. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl calls this prejudice Childism, and in her book of the same name points out how the American educational system betrays children's developmental needs through seeking to erase the individual identities of students through relentless standardization, indenturing students out to prison-like institutions, and labeling children 'bad' or 'delinquent' for failing to meet unreasonable adult expectations.

  6. Sibusiso Sivikele Mnikathi

    April 19, 2016 at 8:59 am

    amazing lecture

  7. Geometric Allegory

    July 5, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Self-Organized Learning = Lord of the Flies.

  8. Name davor Name danach

    August 26, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I like his attitude. It's on point. Let's give humanity something and then look what it will do with it. If it's amazing, give it more of it. But don't expect anything.

  9. Oladele Odutayo

    September 2, 2016 at 3:43 am

    learning is all about great commitment and great sacriface

  10. Oladele Odutayo

    September 2, 2016 at 3:43 am

    learning is all about great commitment and great sacriface

  11. Moses Damissah

    September 3, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Great teaching with easy learning that brings change in decision making for progress

  12. Hope Ajuzie

    August 23, 2017 at 8:23 am

    This is a great teaching

  13. charlessarfo osei

    January 14, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I thank mmm guider school for introducing me to TED

  14. Uduak Okon

    September 14, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Am overwhelmed by Sugata Mitra's talk on the future of learning. This opens us up to the world of introducing Technology into our school systems and entrenching self dependency, openness to what our pupils and students can do independently making use o their inherent re-searchable minds. although we are so laid back in Arica, am gonna give it a try in my Private School in Nigeria. very rewarding Talk and resource.

  15. Sudipto Chatterjee

    November 6, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Amazing talk! Fantastic research work!

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