Sugata Mitra experiment in collaborative autodidacism

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http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves.html

is an interesting video on an experiment in self education.

This surprising video tells about an experiment in which children taught themselves English in order to use a computer that someone had left built into a wall in their community.

The children in Madantusi village in India knew no English. But 3 months later, the first words out of their mouths when they saw the researcher, were "We need a faster processor and a better mouse."

The children had mastered 200 words such as 'exit', 'file', and 'stop' except for the pronunciation. They incorporated these new words into their daily conversation. Lack of knowledge of the English language was not a barrier to acquiring computer skills (in English).

How did the children accomplish this amazing feat?
1. They noticed an abandoned unmanned computer in a wall.
2. Curious, they tried out the touch pad and noticed that they were manipulating the "TV" (monitor) with their movements on the touch pad (mouse).
3. In a short time, by trial and error, they noticed that you can navigate the internet by tapping (clicking) and moving (dragging)their fingers on the mouse.

4. They went to a website to learn the English alphabet.
5. Often the younger children instructed the older children.
6. It was proved over and over again in several experimental trials spanning several villages that 6-13 year olds can self-instruct in groups without adult intervention

Usually the children were grouped thus:

One child manipulated the mouse. Three others near him gave him suggestions what to do and where to navigate to. Beyond this circle of 4 children nearest the computer was a circle of 16 other children who also gave advice, usually wrong advice, but which helped promote the learning by showing what does not work by trial and error.

The children did not devote hours per day to learn the computer and how to surf the net. They spent several minutes per day for 3-6 months. The learners who merely observed learned as much as the child who manipulated the touch pad.

What did they learn?
1. basic window functions
2. browsing
3. painting
4. chatting
5. e-mail
6. games and educational material
7. music downloading
8. playing videos

Eventually, after 3-6 months the children had taught themselves to be computer literate starting in one village from ground zero in English. The researcher concluded that children in groups can learn without adult intervention, surprisingly, as well as children guided by teachers in certain subjects. He even jokingly offered the proposition that where ever a teacher can be replaced by a computer, he should be.