Walnut Creek, Calif., October 14, 2014 - CUE confirmed today that TED prize winner Sugata Mitra will be its General Session Keynote Speaker for the CUE 2015 Annual Conference, March 19-21, in Palm Springs, California.
Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, UK and a visiting professor at MIT in the U.S., will deliver the keynote address on Friday, March 20, 2015, from 8:00 - 9:45 am. Mitra is currently working on the “School in the Cloud,” which is the culmination of over a decade of research and observations from all over the world. This project defines and explores learning at the edge of chaos -- a community, place and experience to discover and explore children’s learning as a self-organizing system.
From his earliest experiments while working at NIIT in Delhi through to setting up SOLEs (self-organized learning environments), Sugata discovered that children’s innate sense of learning is magnified when they are given the freedom to explore the internet in small groups. He found that children in these environments, regardless of who they are or what language they speak, can competently search for answers to the big questions, drawing rational, logical conclusions from their research, including questions far ahead of what is expected of them in their school curriculum.
Mitra was the instigator of the Hole in the Wall (HIW) experiment, where in the year 1999 a computer was embedded within a wall in an Indian slum at Kalkaji, Delhi, and children were allowed to freely use it. The experiment aimed at proving that kids could be taught computers very easily without any formal training. Sugata termed this as Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). The experiment has since been replicated at many locations. The HIW experiment left its mark on popular culture. Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup read about Mitra's experiment and was inspired to write his debut novel that went on to become the Oscar winning movie of 2009 - Slumdog Millionaire.
Mitra’s work has challenged some of the key assumptions of formal education, demonstrating that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity could result in learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. However, his research has shown that it’s not simply a case of taking teachers out of the equation: children in remote areas often perform poorly at school because they do not have access to good teaching. As a result of this research, which showed the importance of an encouraging adult in these circumstances, the Granny Cloud was born, after Sugata put out a plea for retired teachers in the UK to come forward who were willing to interact with children in India via Skype.
Mitra’s interests include Children’s Education, Remote Presence, Self-organizing systems, Cognitive Systems, Physics and Consciousness. He is a PHD in Physics credited with more than 25 inventions in the area of cognitive science and educational technology. He was conferred the prestigious Dewang Mehta Award for Innovation in Information Technology in the year 2005. At TED2013, Mitra made a bold TED Prize wish: Help me build a place where children can explore and learn on their own -- and teach one another -- using resources from the worldwide cloud.