Dr Sugata Mitra is a long-term educationist and a scientist of international repute. He has over 25 inventions and first-time applications in the areas of Cognitive Science, Information Science and Education Technology, to his credit. Dr Mitra has been the Chief Scientist at NIIT where the discovery of Hole-in-the-Wall occurred. As early as 1982, he had been toying with the idea of unsupervised learning and computers. Finally, in 1999, he decided to test his ideas in the field.
On 26th January, Dr Mitra’s team carved a “hole in the wall” that separated the NIIT premises from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi. Through this hole, a freely accessible computer was put up for use. This computer proved to be an instant hit among the slum dwellers, especially the children. With no prior experience, the children learnt to use the computer on their own. Encouraged by the success of the Kalkaji experiment, freely accessible computers were set up in Shivpuri (a town in Madhya Pradesh) and in Madantusi (a village in Uttar Pradesh). These experiments came to be known as Hole-in-the-Wall experiments. The findings from Shivpuri and Madantusi confirmed the results of Kalkaji experiments. It appeared that the children in these two places picked up computer skills on their own.
The idea was to broaden the scope of the experiments and conduct research to prove and streamline Hole-in-the-Wall. As part of this, more than 30 such clusters of computers or, as they have come to be known, Learning Stations have been set up in India and outside India. The results which have been uniformly encouraging, show that children learn to operate as well as play with the computer with minimum intervention. They picked up skills and tasks by constructing their own learning environment.