Earlier this month, I had a trip to Newcastle University to meet the inspirational professor and $1million TED Prize winner, Sugata Mitra. After listening to him give a talk at Tyneside Cinema about the Hole in the Wall experiments that inspired Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), I knew he’d have a fantastic story for Memory Box.
Mitra has carried out a number of experiments with ground-breaking results in education over the last few years. It was incredibly interesting chatting with Mitra about his experiments and his memories. He told me about the first time he saw the Hole in the Wall, an experiment where Mitra put a computer in the wall of a slum in India. His first thought seeing the children using the computer was ‘oh no, my experiment has gone wrong!’ Disappointed, he wondered who had taught them to use the computer. Later of course, he realised that they had taught themselves, and eventually after the novelty of playing computer games had worn off, they began using it to answer questions and learn, even teaching themselves English.
Mitra offered other lovely anecdotes from his research including his surprise at the children’s reaction to first encountering the Granny Cloud, a system that enabled children in India to talk to ‘surrogate Grandmas’ in order to practice their English and enhance their learning. He thought the children would be shy talking to somebody from another country but in fact one of the first things one of the children said was “Who are you?”
But some of the loveliest memories he shared were about growing up in a part of India famous for being the place where the Buddha attainted enlightenment. These stories along with three more by Sugata Mitra and hundreds of other inspirational stories will be featured on the Memory Box app next month.