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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The “Hole in the wall” experiments – current status

My original experiments (1999-2005) had showed that groups of children can learn to use a playground computer connected to the Internet on their own – irrespective of who or where they are. The fact that children in remote areas, who do not understand English and have little schooling can learn to do this was considered a discovery of sorts. The results were published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology in 2005 in a paper that was later awarded as the “best open access paper of 2005”.
It was later noticed that the children who use these computers seem to be scoring higher in English and mathematics. It was also established that they could pass a government examination in computer science on their own. The results were published.
In an experiment conducted in 2006, we observed that the quality of education in remote areas decreases with remoteness. Remoteness, in this context, can be geographical or also social, economic, religious etc. as in ghettos or slums in cities.
We remark that there will always be areas in the world where, due to whatever reason, good schools and good teachers will not exist. Hence, in such areas, alternative forms of education will be needed. No such alternative exists for primary education today. The hole in the wall could be a possible indicator of such an alternative.
In a recent experiment conducted in village Kalikuppam in Southern India, we were able to show that Tamil speaking children could learn the basics on biotechnology, in English, on their own.
6. We notice that new educational technology is always piloted in the affluent
schools of cities where good students and good teachers are present. As a result the educational gains from such technology are marginal and educational technology is considered over-hyped and under-performing. We propose that the highest technology should be developed for and piloted in the remotest areas first.
We also notice that educational technology is seldom developed for that purpose. It is usually technology developed for industry or defence and borrowed by educators. For example, PowerPoint and LCD projectors were developed for corporate boardrooms and not for teachers.
We propose to create a lab that will create and test educational technology for use in remote areas.
We propose to create educational facilities in remote areas of India where groups of children can self organise their learning to pass the government high school examinations (eg GCSE) on their own.
The results of these experiments are likely to be important for all countries, since a shortage of and lack of quality in primary education is a worldwide phenomenon.
In the UK, in addition to the usual problem of quality education in remote areas, there is also a problem of aspiration – children are reluctant to study science, engineering, mathematics etc. for two reasons. One, that subjects such as banking can make them rich more easily. Two, that they can get a good standard of living anyway, even without any skills.
These aspirational problems need to be addressed immediately and technology can be a powerful way to do so.

8 Comments:

Blogger veritas magnificat said...

Slumdog Millionaire is not among your favorite movies, it seems. By now the world knows though that the novel Q & A on which it was based was inspired by HIW. When my priest-friend who works with the urban poor in Manila, Philippines shared with me the story of the movie which he saw during the Christmas holidays, I told him about the ADB video about HIW and other real-life experiments about Children of Asia. Fiction adds fluff and icing to the cake of reality. Do you think at the rate the "graduates" of HIW are learning, will they learn enough to break the cycle of poverty in their own impoverished hometowns? Or will they be solitary, one-time millionaires who run the risk of leaving their values of community behind?...And will those UK kids still have aspirational problems after the banks crashed and crushed careers in the UK?...I'm glad I found your blog. So much for a movie winning the Oscars.

February 23, 2009 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger Jf said...

Would it be fair to assume that Standardized Tests like the GCSE are designed to see whether the Government's curriculum have been followed? In my experience in Canada, my high school teachers always explained to us what to expect, what to study when we had to take these sorts of things. There are many courses for the SATs, for example.
Thus, are Standardized tests the correct ones to see whether SOLE students have learned anything?
If not, which or what sort of test would be most effective?

July 24, 2010 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Penny said...

Hello, I am not sure how to get a message to you, but I thought I'd try this. A medical student I mentor in international health forwarded me a talk you gave on the "Hole in the wall" experiments. She more forwarded it to me bc she knows I'm a pediatrician & she loved what it showed about the children, but what it got me thinking about was how GREAT it would be if you could figure out a way to get a few of those in Haiti with maybe a question posed about how to make Oral Rehydration Solution & administer it. It's a super easy recipe that could save literally thousands of lives, as there is now a new cholera epidemic that is most likely going to be a problem for a while & medical services are limited to non-existent, so educating people is really the key...huge hurtle, I'm sure, to set something like that up in Haiti, but I just thought I'd throw the idea out there. After working there myself, it's difficult not to think about all the wonderful people I met, how relatively speaking small changes, like knowledge abt a simple recipe & how to give fluids slowly, could literally save 1000's of people's lives, & then I saw your speech & thought if you found a way to teach about DNA replication where you did, why not ask if it would be possible to teach ORT in Haiti? :) Best Regards & Thank you for the inspiring work that you do! Priscilla

December 6, 2010 at 5:56 PM  
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