Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blue Sky Thinking from Man Building in the Cloud

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blue Sky Thinking from Man Building in the Cloud

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Proctor Reporter

AWORLD renowned academic who inspired the film Slumdog Millionaire has outlined plans to roll out his $1m 'Schools in the Cloud' project in the North East.

Professor Sugata Mitra aims to set up two schools with money from the 2013 TED prize fund, a prestigious grant previously given to rock superstar Bono and former American president Bill Clinton.

Using the internet and volunteer "grannies" to interact with children over online video software Skype, the professor believes he can help children in the region as young as eight answer GCSE level questions.

Unveiling his plans at a press conference at the British Science Festival 2013 in Newcastle yesterday, he said the project will run alongside similar schemes in deprived areas of India.

"I'm going to jump the children six years and inside the Schools in the Cloud they will be working at the level of a 14-year-old," said the Newcastle University professor, who was born in Calcutta, India.

"Children in groups can read four or five years ahead of their time and if there is four in a group, then someone else will understand it.

"I suspect if you do this on a regular basis each child's reading age will jump. I'm hoping for a six-year jump in a few months time."

Special centres at George Stephenson High School in Killingworth, North Tyneside, and Greenfield College at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, will be set up where children work in groups around a single computer on a question set by a volunteer over Skype.

Pupils' progress will be contrasted with the experience of youngsters in five other schools in India who have never had access to a computer, and in some cases, will not attend school.

In 1999 Professor Mitra installed a computer in a wall at a New Delhi slum and found that without any formal instruction children learnt how to use the computer, surf online and grasp basic English.

They would then teach other children and his "hole-in-the-wall" project inspired Vikras Swarup, the author of the book Q&A which became movie Slumdog Millionaire, on how youngsters have an innate sense of education. …

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