Hole in the Wall or “the leader takes the mouse”

May 11, 2005

An article appeared on the BBC web site May 2 about the Hole in the Wall programme in India where computers are made available to dispossessed children in a shanty town. Sugata Mitra broke a hole in his office wall and made a computer available to children who had never before seen one. Within a few days, they had taught themselves to use it, working together with no help from any adults.

This extraordinary story tells us a lot about collaboration and the power of collective experimentation. Among his comments “”Groups of children given adequate digital resources can meet the objectives of primary education on their own – most of the objectives.”

Sugata observed their behavior: “You find that the noise level begins to come down, and from somewhere a leader appears. Often his face is not visible in the crowd, but he is controlling the mouse because suddenly you see the mouse begin to move in an orderly fashion.”

“And then suddenly a lot of children’s voices will say ‘Oh, that pointer can be moved!’ And then you see the first click, which – believe it or not – happens within the first three minutes.”

Take the time to read this amazing story, and think about what it suggests for our own work on intranets and collaborative projects. For me it illustrates how leaders emerge naturally and groups are capable of self-regulation and self-teaching  given the opportunity, time and motivation.

Teach-yourself computing for kids, BBC

The Hole in the Wall web site

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