Learning - from a mouse?

Can a computer replace a teacher?

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Can a computer replace a teacher?

Professor Sugata Mitra, from Newcastle University, wanted to know what happens when the adults stand back and allow children to use a PC unsupervised.

This year, Professor Mitra is conducting a series of experiments in locations around the world including Brazil and India, in which children are given access to computers without a teacher to guide them.

Pupils acting up

One location is a "suitcase school" classroom, in Kiddapore in Calcutta, India. The school which is run by an ngo to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds more access to education.

In Kiddapore, Professor Mitra asked teachers are asked to stand back and let the mouse teach. Teachers observed impact on behaviour.

In particular, a pupil who had misbehaved was helping younger children use the PC, and acting as their teacher.

Hole in the wall

This is not the first time that Professor Mitra has asked academics and educators to think twice about a teachers role.

Free learning and more

In 1999, he launched a set of experiments known as 'Hole in the wall' in a slum wall in Delhi, India.

Given access to computers, Mitra observed that children started to learn English and naturally fell into organised learning groups.

By 2001, the Hole in the wall experiment had been modified and carried out in 23 locations across rural India.

Slumdog Millionaire

The project also had an impact on film industry. Author Vikas Swarup was inspired by Hole in the Wall to write in his 2005 novel Q&A.

The book tells the story of a Mumbai teenager who competes in a game show, answering questions with knowledge how he picked up through his impoverished life.

Q&A was made into Danny Boyle's 2009 film Slumdog Millionaire, that went on to win eight Oscars.

A co-production between the BBC and The Open University.

Watch films from a rural village in India where pupils are also taking part in Professor Mitra's investigations from BBC Schools World Service on the Digital Divide, the Village Computer. See more from teachers around the world in Peace Lessons in Kenya.

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