Education in the Clouds

It’s fascinating to see how technology is changing education.  It’s not clear which forms will pan out, but it’s fun to see what people are coming up with to expand education.

Recently I read about Sugata Mitra’s new idea for education in the clouds.  Mitra is a Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University and he is most well known for his “Hole in the Wall” experiment in 1999. In the experiment, he installed a “child-height computer in the wall of a Delhi slum. Children worked out its functions for themselves, leading to Professor Mitra’s idea of a self-organised learning environment, or Sole.”

Now he is building on that idea by forming cloud schools with an army of “grannies”.  Using the $1 million dollars he won from TED 2013, he is working on the creation of 7 schools, 5 of which will be in India and 2 in the UK. The idea is mostly geared to remote schools in poorer countries, where students may not have teachers, much less access to computers.  Mitra also wanted to experiment with a couple of good schools as well, however, to see if cloud schooling could make a difference there.

So what is the role of the grannies?  Mostly they are retired schoolteachers who will “suggest research topics to children and encourage and praise their learning, without actually teaching them. Professor Mitra hopes that the grannies will be able to supervise everything in the cloud schools remotely, including physical features such as lights and windows.”

There will be seven schools to begin with. Here is the rundown:

Area 0: the flagship, most expensive, cloud school. A hexagonal glass pod to be built in Gocharan, a village in West Bengal, India.

Area 1: the most remote cloud school, to be built from mud and grass in Korakati, a tiny village in the Sundarbans mangrove swamps in the Ganges Delta, West Bengal.

Area 2: in an existing room in the village of Chandra Koma, around 200km from Calcutta.

Area 3: in a yet to be identified urban slum in Delhi, India.

Area 4: in a yet to be identified urban slum in Pune, India.

Area 5: in a converted classroom at George Stephenson High, Killingworth, England.

Area 6: in an arts centre at Greenfield Community College, Newton Aycliffe, England.

The one thing that I found a bit freaky is that each area will have a large screen where a “life-size image of a supervising “granny” will be projected.”  I’d find that a bit weird if I were a student and a bit awkward if I were the granny.

 All in all though, this is an interesting idea and I will be following it to see what kind of results Mitra finds.
h/t @drpaulinedixon