If you were ever in doubt about the power of computers and the internet to change the world, Sugata Mitra will convince you.
He started in 1999 with an informal experiment to answer the question: "Could the poorest children benefit from a computer?", putting an internet-connected PC into a literal hole in the wall of slum next door to his New Delhi office.
He hoped it would do some good, but half-expected it to be ignored, vandalised or stolen. Instead, he was astounded when the slum children quickly worked out how to use it. And started learning. Much, much more and much, much faster than he or anyone predicted.
Sugata's opening keynote at EduTECH took us through the research that started with this impromptu experiment and the progress he's made since winning the TED Prize in 2013, developing his vision for self-organised learning environments (SOLEs) and a global "School in the Cloud".
His research also challenges the way we organise our education systems. As he points out, the principles underpinning the schools of the Western world were developed in the 19th century to train people for a very different world. As Sugata puts it "Our education system is very efficient. But it's obsolete, because it doesn't produce the creative and imaginative people the world needs today." And he asks, "How do we fix it?".
His School in the Cloud is intended to help answer this question.
The applause for Sugata's talk at EduTECH showed that plenty of Australian teachers share his vision for change and are excited at the prospect.
More to come from EduTECH.
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