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A hole in the wall: engaging children in learning; expanding the playground

Access to information and opportunities for learning in parallel to some of the technology limitations and restricted access have emerged as two important themes while I was reading the research posted during this phase. I remembered a project started in India in the late 90's which aimed to provide access to technology as well as experiment with the idea that kids could learn "by themselves" if provided with the right opportunities and access. How can we learn from some of these projects as we brainstorm for solutions for this challenge?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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Excerpts below are from:

In 1999, a Hole-in-the-Wall was started as an experiment with a single computer at Kalkaji, New Delhi, put into a public location providing free access to the community. 

"The driving force behind Hole-in-the-Wall is the the concept of Minimally Invasive Education which is truly path breaking. That children could learn on their own, was something not many people would have imagined and that too in such a cost effective manner with benefits like improved group dynamics, better in-class behavior etc." 

"Breaking the traditional confines of a school, Hole-in-The-Wall Education Limited (HiWEL) takes the Learning Station to the playground, employs a unique collaborative learning approach and encourages children to explore, learn and just enjoy!"

"For experts, like Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, Hole-in-the-Wall is a ‘Shared Blackboard’ which children in underprivileged communities can collectively own and access, to express themselves, to learn, to explore together, and at some stage to even brainstorm and come up with exciting ideas."

4 years of research has proved the relevance of this hypothesis and there are now  more than a hundred computers at various locations across India and abroad.

What is also interesting is that in an article I read several years ago on this project, the authors talked about how the parents started also interacting with the computer, and how kids started teaching their parents. This is also reflected in the quote below:

"For villagers, it is more like a village Well, where children assemble to draw knowledge and, in the process, engage in meaningful conversation and immersive learning activities that broaden their horizons.

And finally for children, it is an extension of their playground where they can play together, teach each other new things, and more importantly, just be themselves."

Next steps: 

"With the formation of HiWEL in 2001, a national research program was started, in which Learning Stations were set up in 23 locations across rural India. In 2004, the Hole-in-the-Wall reached Cambodia through the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. 

HiWEL is now poised to scale up the idea of Hole-in-the-Wall to make a significant contribution to improving elementary education and life skills of children across the world, especially those in disadvantaged communities in rural areas and urban slums."

What can we learn from this project?

- The importance of providing resources and opportunities and trusting children and the community' autonomy / resilience when it comes to use.

- The social aspect of learning and the role of the community

- The possibility to have a shared tool / resources for children and parents

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Photo of An Old Friend

Hello Anne,

Nice idea and scintillating research.

It will be interesting to know how will smaller children aged 0-3 make use of the resources?