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The Forum
15 Mar
Listen to the programme

A conceptual meeting point for this week's three ideas, by Emily Kasriel
The Forum, the BBC World Service programme which boldly crosses boundaries: scientific, creative and geographic, presented by Bridget Kendall.


Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, on the role of Educational Computer Technology in helping children in geographically, economically and socially remote areas of the world to teach themselves. This includes the hole in the wall experiment where a kiosk with a computer was built in to a wall in a slum in Delhi allowing children to use it freely and to teach themselves computer skills. His experiments served as inspiration for the author behind the film Slumdog Millionaire.

Award winning author and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri juggles his dual heritage from Sweden and Tunisia to take issue with names and their ability to confer meaning. His latest play Invasion! is currently on at the Soho theatre in London.

Can we teach ourselves to think differently? Neuroscientist Gregory Berns argues that by understanding how our brain works we can train ourselves to become more innovative and creative. By recognising the cognitive functions that makes someone an Iconoclast - a person who does something that others say can't be done - we can perhaps even become one ourselves.

Listen to the 60 Second Idea To Change The World

Each week one guest presents an idea to enhance the world. This week it's the turn of Gregory Berns who believes everyone should learn to play music.

Your comments...

What an amazing piece on Sugata Mitra's hole in the wall PC experiment.
What struck me was that all over the world there are kids of between 6 and 12, living in remote areas, able to read and write sufficient English to use the internet (or were some using Hindi for example?). That alone is an astounding fact, 50 years after the start of independence movements in the developing world.
Did the kids ever need to find a teenager/adult to help with language?
Katharine, London

Very interesting for sure. Even more telling is the fact that even though you talked about language and identity you had an all-male guest list and apart from the iconoclastic girl in the remote village we had no other token female presence.

This week's forum is fantastic! I am half Moroccan, half German, growing up with French, German and English mingling in my head... Thanks so much for offering a scientific take on what has to be one of the most character-shaping experiences of my life, which is the constant need to explain my not fitting into categories...and yet, this process also entails a much more thoughtful engagament with the boxes people want to put you in, in particular nationality - an odd concept for a mixed child!

Great idea! Playing "music" (ie anything involving a sound, a rhythm, a beat, a tone etc) is a wonderful inter-hemispheric activity for the brain. (Especially rhythm and melody - gets both left and right hemispheres working well together). It's also good for emotional expression and can be inspiring and uplifting and help mental health as well. The biggest obstacle is often other people telling someone that they cannot sing/play "correctly" or "in tune". Ignore them all & voice, sing & play away!
Cris, London

The Mitra contribution defining group intelligence in Indian children learing computer skills could possibly be also applied to the animal kindom where, for instance, a homing mechanism in pigeons is really a group action rather than the product of a biological mechanism.
John, Stockport

I support Gregory Berns' idea of playing music but with a twist. I sing in a large choir and, just as for music-making, group singing requires listening to others and creates something unique every time. I experience emotions when I sing that I do not experience in any other part of my life including singing alone. It's so uplifting and satisfying that it wipes away all my troubles, time stands still and the harmonies make me cry without knowing or understanding why. Everybody should do it.
Peter, Whitley Bay

Excellent stuff. Imagination does indeed reverse natural causality for the reasons stated. A cause can become a cause (second meaning, which derives from the first). The whole of universal cosmology and life itself will one day be understood to be based on this.
James, Milton Keynes

I think the point about control was missed by Jonas when he discussed categorisation/naming, in that people use language to gain control, even in poetry (I as a multiracial person use poetry to gain control of how others perceive my category/identity, it's about having my say). The English language has a rich vocabulary to make creative writing rich, penetrating my intention to gain control. I don't know about other languages - if this is so? For me perception/words can be a pedestal to be wary of.
Emma, UK

I entirely agree this is an idea that could change the world. Music is a universal language that can link people at their most human level. It is the language we understand together. It makes us "be" together.

Music and movement together. Let's redefine what "making music" means. It does not require fancy instruments or written notes. When my son, Harold, was 13, the school counsellor called me with the diagnosis that my son was crazy. He had been running around with a stick banging on things - the flagpole, the wall, a window, a bench. When I asked Harold about it, he said he was making music - listening to all the different sounds each object made and "playing" them, making a composition.
Suzanne, Gila Hot Springs

I agree wholeheartedly with Gregory Berns about importance of music, and all my family play intsruments and sing, but does whistling count?! I am also a keen whistler!!
Sarah, London

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