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Indian children learn on their own and from peers using computers in playgrounds
Detail: An innovative educational experiment called the Hole-in-the-Wall moved the personal computer to a playground near a low-income neighborhood in New Delhi in 1999. Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd. (HiWEL) is a joint venture between NIIT Ltd. and the International Finance Corporation (a part of The World Bank Group). The experiment involved implanting a PC with Internet in a brick wall in an informal playground and observing how children learn on their own with appropriate technology without any adult instruction. Researchers observing this learning station found that 8-14 year old children from the neighborhood were able to use the computer within a few days, without any instruction at all. Other hole-in-the-wall learning stations were set up in two rural settings in the same year and observers reported similar findings. The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi adopted the idea in 2000 and set up 30 learning stations in resettlement colonies. A survey of the process in 2004 revealed that children picked up critical problem solving skills while freely experimenting with the learning stations. The survey also found that children organized themselves into three roles—leaders or experts, connectors and novices. Leaders and connectors connected with and taught novices. Often girls took on the role of connectors bringing in younger children and siblings to the leaders for computer training. Through a multiplier effect, a large group of children learned computing without adult instruction.

Subsequent experiments across the country demonstrated that exploratory technology enhanced environments in the everyday environments of children provided opportunities for minimally invasive education that were learner driven and self-organizing. More recent hole-in-the-wall experiments in diverse living environments across India found that unsupervised group learning in shared public spaces improved children's performance in school examinations. Rural Indian children passed curricular examination in computer science with no classroom instruction other than the exploratory group learning at a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ kiosk. Rural children also experimented with digital imaging by observing and collaborating with experts at hole-in-the-wall computers. Some of these digital artworks produced in the hole-in-the-wall kiosks were exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2005.

For more information on ‘Children, Collaboration and Learning in Technology Enhanced Environments’ contact Parimala Inamdar (Assistant Professor at the Center for Research In Cognitive Systems, The NIIT Institute of Information Technology) at
Date: May 11 2006