February 12, 1951 |
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
|Known for||Hole in the Wall project|
Sugata Mitra (born 12 February 1952) is Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England. He is best known for his "Hole in the Wall" experiment, and widely cited in works on literacy and education. He is Chief Scientist, Emeritus, at NIIT. He is also the winner of the TED Prize 2013.
Early scientific work
Starting with molecular orbital computation in the 1970s, Mitra discovered that the structure of organic molecules determine their function more than the constituent atoms (Crystal structure sensitivity of the band structure of organic semiconductors. S.C. Mathur and S. Mitra, Journal of Phys.C Solid State, 12, (2) (1979) UK).
After earning a Ph.D. in Solid State Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, he went on to research energy storage systems - first at the Centre for Energy Studies in the IIT, and later at the Technische Universität, Vienna. This resulted in a new design for zinc-chlorine batteries that is now in use by the military (A design for zinc-chlorine batteries. S. Mitra, Journal of Power Sources, 8, 359-367 (1982) USA).
His interests in the flow of electricity through biological systems, a consequence of his Ph.D. research on exciton dissociation in organic semiconductors, led on to a seminally speculative paper on why the human sense organs are located where they are (A correlation between the location and sensitivity of human sense organs. A.K. Banerjee and S. Mitra, Spec. Science and Technology, 5, (2), 141 (1982) Australia).
His interest in computer networking led him towards the emerging systems in printing in the 1980s. He set up India’s first local area network based newspaper publishing system in 1984 and went on to predict the desktop publishing industry (Compositors that compute, S. Mitra, Computers Today, May 1985, India). This in turn led to the invention of LAN based database publishing and he created the “Yellow Pages” industry in India and Bangladesh.
Education and cognitive science studies
Mitra is a leading proponent of Minimally Invasive Education. He has a PhD in Physics and is credited with more than 25 inventions in the area of cognitive science and education technology. He was conferred the prestigious Dewang Mehta Award for Innovation in Information Technology in the year 2005. In September 2012 Mitra won the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award in the "Crossing Border" category.
His interest in the human mind once again led him into the areas of learning and memory and he was amongst the first in the world to show that simulated neural networks can help decipher the mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease (The effect of synaptic disconnection on bi-directional associative recall. S. Mitra, Proc. IEEE/SMC Conf., Vol.1, 989, 1994 USA).
Mitra’s work at NIIT created the first curricula and pedagogy for that organisation, followed by years of research on learning styles, learning devices, several of them now patented, multimedia and new methods of learning.
Since the 1970s, Professor Mitra’s publications and work has resulted in training and development of perhaps a million young Indians, amongst them some of the poorest children in the world.
Some of this work culminated in an interest in early literacy, and the Hole in the Wall experiments.
On May 3, 2013, Mitra’s TED Talk “Build a School in the Cloud” was featured in NPR’s TED Radio hour on “Unstoppable Learning”. In the program, Mitra discusses the "Hole in the Wall" experiment. Mitra discovers that children in the rural slums of India (many of which have never seen a computer in their lives) are capable of teaching themselves everything from character mapping to DNA replication all on their own.
Mitra discusses a world of unstoppable learning through the creation of a worldwide cloud – where children pool their knowledge and resources in the absence of adult supervision to create a world of self-promoted learning.
Hole in the Wall
|Sugata Mitra - Explaining Hole in Wall after winning TEDPrize.|
|The Hole in the Wall Experiment at TED TED Talks 2007]|
|The Child-Driven Education/ Sugata Mitra at TED TED Talks 2010]|
|Build a School in the Cloud/ Sugata Mitra at TED TED Talks 2013]|
In an experiment conducted first in 1999, known as the Hole in the Wall (HIW) experiments in children’s learning. In the initial experiment, a computer was placed in a kiosk created within a wall in a slum at Kalkaji, Delhi and children were allowed to use it freely. The experiment aimed at proving that children could be taught by computers very easily without any formal training. Sugata termed this as Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). The experiment has since been repeated in many places, HIW has more than 23 kiosks in rural India. In 2004 the experiment was also carried out in Cambodia. His interests include Education, Remote Presence, Self-organising systems, Cognitive Systems, Physics and Consciousness.
This work demonstrated that groups of children, irrespectively of who or where they are, can learn to use computers and the Internet on their own with public computers in open spaces such as roads and playgrounds, even without knowing English. His publication was judged the best open access publication in the world for 2005 and he was awarded the Dewang Mehta Award for innovation in IT that year.
The Hole in the Wall experiment left a mark on popular culture. Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup read about Mitra's experiment and was inspired to write his debut novel Q & A, which later became the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
Evaluations and criticisms
Critics have questioned whether leaving computers in villages results in gains in math and other skills. According to Michael Trucano, no evidence of increases in these key skills has been found. Others see the idea as a recycling of what they see as a "Dump hardware in schools, hope for magic to happen" plan.
The long-term sustainability of the kiosk system has been questioned because they can fall into disrepair and abandonment unless the resources typical of a school are provided  UK education researcher Donald Clark has accumulated significant support indicating that the typical fate of a site is abuse and abandonment, unless located inside a sanctuary such as a school. Moreover he argues that the computers are dominated by bigger boys, excluding girls and younger students, and mostly used for entertainment.
Twelve year old Paloma Noyola Bueno, who lives in a Mexico slum, topped the all Mexico Maths exam after her school teacher, Sergio Juarez Correa, implemented Mitra's revolutionary teaching method in the classroom. Perhaps more importantly, her class went from 0 to 63 per cent in the excellent category on the Maths exam while failing scores went from 45 percent down to 7 per cent. Her class also posted major improvements on other parts of the test. 
- Wakefield, Jane (2013-02-28). "BBC News - TED 2013: UK educationalist wins TED prize". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- Mitra, Sugata. "SM-Resume". SM-Resume. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
- Dewang Mehta award winner
- Press release: How companies can use keen visions responsibly
- (Voluntary perception analysis - a new measurement device. S. Mitra, Media and Technology for Human Resources Development, Oct. 1989, India and Imaginet - An associative, non-linear, multimedia storage and retrieval system. S. Mitra and Ajay Magon, Multimedia Computer and Communications (INFOCOM ’92), Tata McGraw Hill pp20–30, (1992), Bombay, India).
- The Beginnings
- "ICCR takes NIIT's "Hole-in-the-wall" experiment to Cambodia".
- Mitra, Sugata, Ritu Dangwal, Shiffon Chatterjee, Swati Jha, Ravinder S. Bisht and Preeti Kapur (2005), , Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(3), 407-426. Acquisition of Computer Literacy on Shared Public Computers: Children and the “Hole in the wall”
- Michael Trucano (2012)Evaluating One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in Peru
- Cuban, L, (2012). No end to magical thinking when it comes to high tech Schooling
- Arora,P (2010). Hope-in-the-Wall? A digital promise for free learning British Journal of Educational Technology doi 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01078.x
- Clark D. (2013) Sugata Mitra: Slum chic? 7 reasons for doubt
- Wired How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
- Hole in the wall official website
- The Hole in the Wall, a documentary about the experiment
- Press release about Dewang Mehta Award
- HIW: Kids learn computer by themselves: An interview with Dr Mitra published in a Hindi webzine.
- Personal profile at Newcastle University
- Wiki referenced during Ted Talks
- Live Conversation with the Professor at Wiz-IQ-dot-com WizIQ is a popular educational website equipped with state-of-art Virtual Classroom
- Should We Replace Old With New? A response to Sugata Mitra
- Davis, Joshua. "How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses | Wired Business". Wired.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20.