Michael Franco
February 5, 2014

In 1999, Sugata Mitra tried something unusual in New Delhi, India: he placed a computer behind a clear plastic panel in one of the slums and just left it there.

Fully expecting it to be disassembled and sold for parts, the Newcastle University professor of educational technology came back eight hours later to a discovery that would change the course of his life and, quite possibly, the way we educate our children. A group of kids was using the computer to surf the Net in a language they didn’t understand: English.

Thinking that maybe someone had coached the kids, Mitra repeated his experiment in a rural village 200 miles away where the chances of someone knowing how to surf the Internet (let alone use a computer) were slim. After two months, Mitra returned to find the kids working the computer as if it was second nature. According to a report in Wired, one of the kids told him: “You’ve given us a machine that only works in English, so we had to teach ourselves English.”

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