Have you ever heard of Professor Sugata Mitra?  You can be forgiven for not knowing about this Professor at Newcastle University – but he has some interesting things to say about education.

He’s used some interesting strategies to help children generate learning.  He’s shown groups of children TED talks to help them to expand their horizons.  He has reported amazing outcomes – and moved aspirations from ‘a footballer’ to a ‘primatologist’.

He’s shown TED talks on huge screens and then asked the kids questions about whether they liked the content, what they thought of the presenter and why they thought he (or she) had chosen to give that particular speech.

He thinks that the two abilities that are essential for the future – comprehension and the ability to communicate your learning to others clearly.

Professor Mitra carried out a project called ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ experiment.  This explored children’s learning.  He believes this demonstrates that given access to the internet and the opportunity to collaborate, kids can learn on their own – a self-organised learning environment (SOLE).

This effectively generates a School in the Cloud.

However, Professor Mitra believes that, because parents are risk-averse when it comes to their own child, they can see the results are amazing, but don’t want to put their child into this kind of educational system.

The assessment system is, to a large extent, the culprit – it’s still stuck in the old bureaucracy.  Parents want their children to have good handwriting – even though few kids do much of that any longer as they are all operating digitally and good handwriting has a much lesser importance than it used to have before we were all using computers.

The secret of the education system is in non-material things – like the internet, which can’t be seen or touched.  It’s a network, which clearly exists, but not as a physical entity.  Professor Mitra thinks the future is embedded in the fact that we are all a giant network.

He suggests that a good TED talk would be ‘Do we need an education any more?’  A revolutionary concept, but with the School in the Cloud maybe it’s more ‘Do we need the kind of education that worked 20, 50, 100 years ago – or is it time for something completely different?

If you haven’t discovered TED talks look them up and take a look at what some thought-leaders have to say about education.  Then maybe introduce your kids to them.  They’re only a little over 15 minutes so they work really well in today’s world of short attention spans – and you and your children may be inspired by some of the concepts that they explore.