Some time ago I began to write a monthly article for Newsweek en Español and one of my first pieces dealt with educational innovation, a favorite topic.
I mentioned that the current Latin America educational system is outdated and does not stimulate creativity.
On my blog I have commented on the ideas of Ken Robinson regarding how schools limit children's ingenuity while preventing us from finding our element.
Fourteen years ago, the physicist and technology consultant turned educational expert had an idea. Back then, very few children in India had access to computers. This led Mitra to experiment with a computer connected to the Internet that was made available to local children in a poverty stricken neighborhood. The terminal provided them with access through a Hole in the Wall, which is how the experiment is known today.
After a few hours, the children were able to navigate the web and also began to teach others. They also shared among themselves some knowledge of English in order to use the computer. Indeed, the device opened up for them a fabulous window into a previously unknown world.
Mitra, surprised, broadened his experiment and found that if you let children work freely as a team, they can learn almost anything once they find out how to do research on the Internet.
The experience was repeated in Great Britain and subsequently in other countries, and the conclusion reached by Mitra is that this way of learning has nothing to do with the economic situation of the children, but with the way in which knowledge is obtained in an open environment.
This new learning environment requires two factors. To begin with, access to technology, which for businessmen poses the need to make Internet connectivity available to the population, and secondly, teachers must take a step back and become a guide in children's exploration.
Mitra noted that the children were learning precisely because the teacher did not interfere, which suggested a new role for teachers. The process included asking students the right questions to facilitate the learning process and then opening up a conversation about what they had learned ... and applying what is known as the grandmother method, namely, remaining in the background and encouraging the pupils.
In conclusion, the school in the cloud consists of developing learning environments linked to technology in which children are organized into groups to learn for themselves. They were then encouraged to share this knowledge with their peers under the supervision of teachers. The goal of the new system is to encourage students to acquire knowledge through their own efforts, through their natural curiosity.
Mitra was awarded the 2013 TED Prize and received one million dollars for his project.
Today in Mexico, politicians are paying more attention to education. It would be worthwhile to consider new experiences that go beyond cosmetic changes and to visualize the future of an education guided by the natural curiosity of children. Our youth are our future and our most important investment.
Sugarta Mitra in TED: Building a school in the cloud