NIIT’s R&D head bags award

DQW News Bureau
Chennai, 4 Oct

UK-based think tank, Institute for Social Inventions has bestowed the ‘Social Innovation Award for 2000’ on Sugata Mitra, head of NIIT’s R&D division, for his experiment on Minimally Invasive Education, to spread literacy among the less privileged kids of India. 

Mitra believes that all children irrespective of their economic and academic background can quickly teach themselves the rudiments of computer literacy, provided they find it interesting enough. ‘Minimally Invasive Education’ is an ongoing experiment that explores the convergence of three domains: education, the psychology of learning, and technology.
“Clearly, technology has the power to change the society. But the challenge of education, especially at the primary level where it is needed most, is enormous enough to warrant cautious optimism and effective measures,” said
Mitra.

Mitra started the ‘Minimally Invasive Education’ experiment by taking a PC with high-speed data connection and installed it into a window carved out in a boundary wall at the NIIT headquarters in New Delhi. The wall separates the company’s building from a wasteland housing a slum. The computer was connected to the Internet and left on allowing any passer-by to play with it. The activity on the PC installed in the wall was monitored using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree.

The experiment came up with some astonishing results. The most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12 most of who have only the most basic education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Internet giving a new insight into the possible avenue of education, which are still unexplored.

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