Sugata Mitra gained widespread acclaim after his TED talk on the Hole in the Wall experiment. In the experiment, he put a computer in a wall of a New Dehli slum, and found that children learned to use it all by themselves. His explorations continued, trying out whether such self-organising learning environments or SOLEs could perform as well as traditional classrooms in terms of children's learning. He since received funding from the World Bank to expand his project to a range of developing countries.
However, independent researchers who have visited Hole in the Wall sites have been disappointed, or even disillusioned, with what they found. The sites where vandalised and abandoned, to the point where two years after they were first installed, few could remember what they were there for. When they were operational, they were mostly used by older boys to play games, and girls and younger children were excluded.
In this episode, I aim to make the audience aware of the imperfections of Sugata Mitra's work, and of the possibility that it has been over-hyped.
Enjoy the episode.
A while back, I listened to an interview with Bruce Lee*. There were two things that I took away from it, neither of which I understood at the time: Bruce Lee's insistence that martial arts are first and foremost about self-expression; and the concept of "acting un-acting" or "un-acting acting" (elsewhere I have heard him talk about "fighting un-fighting"). Recently I was reminded of this interview, but this time it made sense to me, because of what I had learned in the meantime about the nature of learning.
Perhaps surprisingly, another look at what he had said got me to think of A Mathematician's Lament, an article by Paul Lockhart about maths education that had I previously covered on the podcast. I feel as though, armed with my new insights, I have a feeling as to what Paul Lockhart may have gotten wrong in his controversial piece.
Overall, then, I am able to extract some ideas from what Bruce Lee says in a rather more coded or mysterious way, and generalise them so that they can apply to any field, while showing how they apply to maths in particular.
Enjoy the episode.
*Full interview available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jfQSCbkA940, entitled "Bruce Lee Interview HQ".