The first TED conference of 2013 just finished, which means there are a whole lot of great new talks to watch about brilliant ideas. It also means that the 2013 TED prize, of $1,000,000, was awarded. It went to Dr. Sugata Mitra, an education researcher, for his “Hole in the Wall” computer project which puts computers in front of kids and just leaves them to it.
His work is truly inspiring. It isn’t completely original, though. This method of teaching has been around for millennia. It exists anywhere any group of beings get inspired by a question and figure it out for themselves. This is the main impetus behind the Unschooling movement. It was the foundation of Native American teaching techniques. Jon Young was mentored this way by Tom Brown, and created the Wilderness Awareness School based on this technique, what he calls Coyote teaching.
Even though this is not a new idea, it is pretty spectacular to have a PhD in Education discovering it, and getting recognition for it by such people as the TED foundation. One million dollars will go a long way in India towards changing the dynamics of education and equality. The attention they get will hopefully open more minds in the rest of the world, too.
My favorite part of Dr. Mitra’s TED talk, and about his idea, is the part about the grandmothers. They are the Coyotes who ask the right questions, and then just sit back and mutter encouragingly. So let me mutter. “Oh! Wow. How did you make that work? And what are you doing there? Could you show me that again?”
Great Idea: Let kids direct their own learning, and inspire each other, without interference by adults.
Practical Step: Set up sturdy computers in slums and other unlikely places, then let the kids play.