Barefoot In the head

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The OLPC and Self Organised Learning Environments

Some people seem to think that I am not happy with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. This is not correct at all. I have always been an admirer of the OLPC, particularly its engineering design. We should not forget that it is this design that sparked the NetBook phenomenon - finally a laptop that has the right form factor and functionality.

My work with self organised learning by children shows that groups of children can learn to use computers and the Internet to answer almost any question. This happens everywhere and is independent of what language they speak, where they live and how rich or poor they are. All they need is free access and the liberty to work in unsupervised groups. The most effective group size seems to be 4-5 children.

So, we really need one laptop for every 4 children (OLF4C?)

This will reduce the project costs by 75% !

The ideal computer would be one that is about as big as the present OLPC, but with a built in, micro projector. This will enable children to share a screen by projecting it on any white surface. There are new micro projectors that use hybrid LED and laser technology to produce a bright image at low power.

I think, with the 75% cost savings through shared computers, it is entirely possible to produce a solar and/or pedal powered projecting netbook.

Would love to try one!


Blogger Mariano Lopata said...

Is very interesting-
I work at Buenos Aires University, in educational strategies and your proposed model is very simple and smart-
Thank you

May 21, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Br3nda of said...

certainly has been tried - several deployments have been 1 laptop per X children.

however, the conclusions of the study was that not having ownership of their laptop greatly decreases learning. It is when the laptop becomes their own, to control, explore, break - that they really engage with the laptop and the educational tools within.

May 26, 2010 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger eric said...


There is also a One Mouse Per Child movement that requires far less of a budget! Here's a link to the article:

Looking forward to your thoughts on it.

-Eric B.
Community Manager, Mouse Mischief

June 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger PHL said...

I agree that the 4 person type group will be a lot more beneficial at developing knowledge with interaction. It is important not to sacrifice the social development for the intellectual solely, as they need to "feed on" each other. Your work is very intriguing and holds some real promise for a better quality of person in the world.

September 7, 2010 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Sugata

have you any insights on adult education? We work with a lot of illiterate adults who we are teaching employability skills, and I was curious if you had done any work with this profile?

September 8, 2010 at 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Google will finally release its OS, the cost of net books will drop down very low. They have everything in place for all kids and adults to work on the CLOUD. Google has delayed this to get it right which is good. American kids are at risk without a PC tool fully integrated in the classroom. Maybe a cheap net book for all teachers would finally move us forward from our archaic educational system.

September 8, 2010 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Mr Mitra,

I loved your TED talk on self-education and added it to my website:

On August 19, 2010, I sent an Education Letter to Obama, which supports the notion that we are much more than blank slates to write on. I am following his letter up with one to school administrators, teachers, parents and children, suggesting that active and thoughtful participation in the creation of our reality is what we have been waiting for.

To stimulate creativity, we need to ask ourselves questions, we need to have curiosity. Your study affirms this. If you are interested, you can find the letter to Obama at:

Your research is very exciting and I will continue to follow it. Thank you for what you do!

September 8, 2010 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger blokesablogin said...

Dear Dr. Mitra,

Thank you again for your amazing research. Working with children (as a parent and as a teacher), I have learned that the role of the teacher is more to provide them with the right learning environment rather than content. Further to foster a discerning mind that can separate the chaff from the grain.

How do you deal with situations when children stumble across websites that are not "accurate"? How do the children understand that what they are reading is not true or tested information?

September 8, 2010 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger WHardaway said...

One of the great things regarding research is that when it's new it knocks down some status quo that everyone previously fought for. If this research is found to be right then why not take those expenses, slash them by 70% to benefit students with the same impact.

September 9, 2010 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger norm said...

Hello Mitra,
Once again,I have watched your work on TED and am enthralled. Well done, that you have revealed children as engaged learners is a gift to children and learning. I will begin asking questions in similar ways in my work as a therapist. Your thoughts about SOLE leave all of us with much to ponder. Thank you for your efforts and trust in children. Norm

September 9, 2010 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Arvind Kumar said...

Hello Mr. Mitra,

You were unknown to me till 10th September 2010, 12:50 A.M IST, just clicked on a link on facebook which directed me to one of your vidoes on TED, really impressed by your research, hats off to you, this reminds me of lines from one of the books of Swami Vikekananda, where the great saint says that "Nothing is outside you, the world lies within" you will find your goal depending on the intensity with which you search it.

The good thing is your research is proving the same thing - In your experiments, nothing is coming from outside, it is the knowldege that all of us already have which is getting displayed.

One of the comments also says about adult education,it would be very helpful if you can do something on this as a major proportion of the Indian Masses in this age group requires something.

Do let us know if i can be of any help to you in any of your research projects.

Very Good Sir.

Ham aapko Namaskar Kartey He.


September 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Ed Dodds said...

Since the growth globally is in cellulars with texting capability and smartphones, have you tried these yet? Excellent TEDTalk. @ed_dodds @conmergence

September 13, 2010 at 5:16 AM  
Blogger benebee said...


@Eric B., sounds like a great idea.

@Sugata, i wish there was something practical I could do to help you.

I'm struggling to build a free and open educational classroom at

much luck and speed,

September 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Mariana Ludmila said...

Dear Sugatra,

Just as Br3nda has posted... It is having a computer of their own what increases their commitment to learning.

Lets compare it with having a book to learn from.. shared between 4 kids. Of course it is better than having non, but ...isn't it better when each kid can look at what they are interested most about from each of those books?
One kid could read & day dream, while the other one gets information by underlining or doodling on it and perhaps some others will learn by actually experimenting what the book suggest...
Having their own source of learning is what OLPC is committed to, even if that signifies not dropping costs down.

OLPC is not a computer project, but an educational one. Each computer becomes a window to the world. World that probably they wouldn't have the opportunity to learn from if it wasn't for owning their own window and looking through it for what they are most interested about.

Looking forward having a little chance to chat in your visit to Mexico. I'll be there..
Mariana Ludmila

October 8, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Ani said...

Hello Sugata,

I learnt about you when I undertook an internship @ NIIT GIS to design their internal marketing website in 2002. I worked with Anirudh Roy who had mentioned about you.

I now work with HCL Technologies, UK and look after branding & strategy for the European Region. I will be taking 20 top tier european journalists to India from 25-30th Oct to showcase Indian innovation.

I would like to discuss with you and see if I can arrange a session on 27th Oct afternoon.

I look forward to hearing from you.

October 12, 2010 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger roopa said...

Hi, I was abroad for over 10yrs and just returned home(Bangalore). Although I did research in Indian Philosophy and continue to on a part-time basis, I have met many moms like me who choose to stay home or work minimally on a voluntary basis to take care of the family. Wouldn't it be wonderful to organize moms like me and use us as resources in connecting with kids who want to learn?

October 21, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger S said...

Hello Sir,
I am working with Educational Initiatives in India and have, over the past few months, attempted to understand how "learning" happens.

Quite loved your talk. I can actually relate to "incidental learning" (I learnt quite a lot of stuff that way as a kid).

I tried/participated in some activities in Delhi and Rajasthan to study how learning in groups can help improve understanding. A very satisfactory experience was at the Evening Classes initiative back in college where a college student acted as a facilitator-cum-mentor to a group of students from nearby schools in Delhi. Interestingly enough, you mentioned this as the Grandma effect at one of your talks.

My work mostly involves studying the pedagogical aspects of learning (the cognitive sciences) and using technology to most effectively provide content and exposure and assess learning. In a sense, trying to replace, with a machine, the teacher that CAN be replaced by a machine.

With Mindspark, a computer-based, adaptive, self-learning programme, we allow each student to follow a learning path that is based on his/her need. Each child sits on a single machine and goes through content trying to improve skills and learn concepts. In a classroom scenario, a student-driven discussion should ideally follow. All this takes place in the presence of the subject teacher who simply acts as a facilitator.

We have been studying student performance and behaviour patterns and we found interesting results. One of our major focus areas right now is to be able to engage students without reducing understanding. Several ideas came across - many of them after listening to your talks.

Looking forward to discuss with you and share views.

-Shashanka S Kundu

October 23, 2010 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger Its me ! said...

We want the same for the childern at Koseli.... pls see :

November 21, 2010 at 9:50 AM  
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November 22, 2010 at 2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I applaud your amazing research and efforts! I am sharing your Ted Talks lecture. Thank you for sharing.

Global Change is happening.
Crisis in financial, and energy sectors are but two examples.
Some people may have lost hope but I say:
"Never, ever, give up!"

LOVE & Peace

March 28, 2011 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was wondering if there is a point where the ratio of students to laptops actually diminishes the effectiveness of organised learning environments.

April 19, 2011 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I want to help! How can I offer my time and internet connection?

April 22, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Sparkling Adventures said...

How about one laptop per family? We have 4.5 (unschooled) kids, and one laptop would give them all a chance to experiment and learn (collaboratively).

September 26, 2011 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger startupjedi said...

I enjoy your TED talk. And I agree with you that from an economically viable and doable standpoint, the chance of success is better with 1 for every 4 or 5 student than 1 laptop or every student. (Naturally we would like to have that but lets shoot for 1 to 5 first)

About your solar power laptop... i think it would be better economics and doable to provide a solar power FIY kit with replaceable parts that can be use for multiple devices. I saw this on kickstarter

Maybe you can use recycle tin can as the exterior? like about the same shape.

September 28, 2011 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think it would be great to not only have a mini projector (so all group members can see) but make it an interactive projector screen where they can move the objects, and interact with the project directly on the wall (so that they can all see the work in progress).

I also think it would be great to be able to 'link' the tablets so one main system so that the teacher can monitor all their work with out being 'involved' just to make sure they are on task. I've seen a system similar to this for language learning however it was for desktops (stationed) and quite expensive. Perhaps make an app that they all have to 'sign on to' that links their screens to a main computer.

Or even allows them to link to more then one tablet so they can link to one another and work in groups too!

August 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

It would be great if we could bring that system to Argentina and also Gather some money to rent a furnished apartments buenos aires to use as a learneing center

December 24, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger şahin said...

Your proposed model can be a method in educational strategies.Students learn a lot and they can find anything in internet with a laptop.

January 11, 2013 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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February 12, 2013 at 4:43 AM  
Blogger sports sharing said...

There is also a One Mouse Per Child movement that requires far less of a budget dvd box set

February 24, 2013 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Elvin said...

certainly has been tried - several deployments have been 1 laptop per X children.

however, the conclusions of the study was that not having ownership of their laptop greatly decreases learning. It is when the laptop becomes their own, to control, explore, break - that they really engage with the laptop and the educational tools within.

Bu haberde gabile kelimesi etiket olarak kullanılmıştır.

October 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM  

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