Ready to have everything you know about education turned on its head?

A friend of mine recently told me about this TED talk from Sugata Mitra on building a school in the cloud. I was intrigued by his description of the video, and floored when I actually got a chance to watch it myself. Mitra is an educational researcher based in India. In 1999, Mitra and his colleagues built what they called a "Hole in a Wall" classroom in an urban slum in New Delhi. They put an Internet-connected, English-only PC behind a literal hole in a wall, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area) for several months.

What they saw were kids with minimal English proficiency and no exposure to computers, able to learn how to use the computer and go online easily. They also took great pleasure in teaching each other their new skills. Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" project demonstrated that even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can be ripe for learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge.

Even more astonishing is Mitra's spot-on reflections of the current method of education.

"We take our children. We make then shut their brains down. And then we say, 'perform.'"

There was a time when this style of assembly-line education was an appropriate way of preparing kids for their future. But will this type of education really prepare today's children for tomorrow's workplace?

"It's not about making learning happen. It's about letting it happen," says Mitra.

Here is Mitra's prize-winning TED talk, "Build a School in a Cloud." I'd love to hear what you think ...

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Building a school in a cloud
What if everything we think we know about education is wrong? What if kids could do a better job teaching themselves?