Dr. Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher and professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, took to the stage at TED2013 to explain his goals for a "school in the cloud," and what he calls Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE).
"Schools as we know them," said Mitra, "are obsolete."
Careful to establish that schools are generally well designed, Mitra says the old approach forged in the "age of empires" just isn’t needed anymore. Instead, Mitra favors "minimally invasive education," describing how new kinds of learning labs could prepare students for the job world of tomorrow.
In describing an astonishing set of experiments where Mitra and colleagues allowed Indian children access to computers in slum areas, Mitra suggests that the self-learning process is incredibly powerful and needs little outside assistance to set itself in motion. Citing instances where children learned how to browse the Internet, read English and even interpret high-level scientific materials on their own or in self-formed groups, Mitra outlines how a test-based approach can actually have a hindering effect on learning. A "test environment," Mitra says, causes the reptilian brain to kick in and perceive a threat. The problem? Certain cognitive functions don’t work as well under pressure.
In the past, Mitra said, this pressure may have been necessary to mold students for a kind of academic, or even physical, survival. The schools of the future, however, will let learning happen, with adults providing encouragement or basic health and safety conditions, but not forcing students down a specific didactic or pedagogic path. To this end, Mitra envisions a school "in the cloud," where children around the world will be free to engage in "intellectual adventures" and use their own creativity to learn. This video is a must-see for educators or anyone else with an interest in how IT may shape tomorrow’s classroom in unexpected ways.