pioneering researcher in the field of education
The future of learning and education
Harnessing technology and self-organising systems to improve learning
Sugata Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK.
He was given the $1m TED Prize in 2013 in recognition of his work and to help build a School In The Cloud, a creative online space where children from all over the world can gather to answer 'big questions', share knowledge and benefit from help and guidance from online educators.
The School In The Cloud brings together Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) to link in with the Granny Cloud, originally set up in 2009 following an appeal for retired teachers willing to offer a few hours a week to help teach English to Indian schoolchildren. This mentoring and encouraging role is still a vital part of the success of this educational approach today.
Much of Sugata's current research builds on the Hole in the Wall experiment, which he instigated in 1999 while chief scientist at NIIT. Children were given free access to a computer embedded within a wall between his office and an Indian slum at Kalkaji, Delhi.
This, and further experiments into children’s learning, have demonstrated that groups of children, irrespective of who or where they are, can learn to use computers and the Internet on their own in a public space - a process which Sugata called Minimally Invasive Education (MIE).
The Hole in the Wall experiment has also left a mark on popular culture. Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup read about Mitra's experiment and was inspired to write his debut novel, which went on to become the Oscar winning movie of 2009 - Slumdog Millionaire.
In his now legendary TED talk, Sugata pioneered the idea that education, at its best, is a not a top-down process. Rather, it is driven from the bottom up, by the curiosity and collaboration of those wanting to learn.
As the world of of work and employment changes ever more rapidly due to technology, it is more important than ever that we equip younger generations to harness their curiosity and adapt to change.