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Using computers to teach children with no teachers


A 10-year experiment that started with Indian slum children being given access to computers has produced a new concept for education, reports the BBC. Professor Sugata Mitra first introduced children in a Delhi slum to computers in 1999. He has watched the children teach themselves—and others—how to use the machines and gather information. Follow-up experiments suggest children around the world can learn complex tasks quickly with little supervision. “I think we have stumbled across a self-organizing system with learning as an emergent behavior,” he told the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Global conference. Mitra’s work began when he was working for a software company and decided to embed a computer in the wall of his office in Delhi that was facing a slum. “The children barely went to school, they didn’t know any English, they had never seen a computer before, and they didn’t know what the internet was.” To his surprise, the children quickly figured out how to use the computers and access the internet. He has repeated the experiment in many more places with similar results, observing children teaching each other how to use the computer and picking up new skills. One group in Rajasthan, he said, learned how to record and play music on the computer within four hours of it arriving in their village. In Cambodia, he left a simple math game for children to play with. “No child would play with it inside the classroom. If you leave it on the pavement and all the adults go away then they will show off to one another about what they can do,” Mitra said…

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