About 15 years ago, Education scientist
"What I did was I broke an opening in the wall; put a glass pane and a computer monitor against the glass pane. It had a broadband connection set on vista ultra.com which was the search engine at the time and a mouse embedded on the wall and left it there. It was set up three-feet above the ground. I then asked a colleague to go around and film anything interesting that would happen," Mitra said in a past TEDtalk interview.
Eight hours later, the machine imbedded in the wall drew the attention of an eight-year-old boy who had no prior computer knowledge. He used the mouse to search the web, while his six-year-old sister watched attentively.
"I got a lot of questions from my office on whether it would be productive or they would just break the glass and unplug the computer from the wall. I came back after two months and I found this eight-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl browsing the net. When they saw me they said, "We need a better mouse and a faster processor". Then I asked them how did you know about this and they said something very important that every educationist should know, "if you have given us a computer that only works in English, we taught ourselves English in order to use it." This is diagrammatically opposite to the adult perception of learning. An adult would say, you have given me a machine that works in a language I don't understand, therefore I cannot use it." Two negatives, the children converted it to two positives."
Mitra called this social experiment; The Hole in The Wall (HIW). The experiment aimed at proving that children could be taught by computers very easily without any formal training. Sugata termed this as Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). The experiment has since been repeated in many places. HIW has more than 23 kiosks in rural
This work demonstrated that groups of children, irrespectively of who or where they are, can learn to use computers and the Internet on their own with public computers in open spaces such as roads and playgrounds, even without knowing English. His publication was judged the best open access publication in the world for 2005 and he was awarded the
The Hole in the Wall experiment also left a mark on popular culture. Indian diplomat
Mitra's work got the attention of
She shared her vision with her parents, former British High Commissioner Rob and
With the help of her friends and family, Molly was able to raise enough money to buy one computer to start-up her project at the end of
"I have started with a small group of four nine-year-olds. I skype with them every day after school for a little bit and the better the children's learning gets, the longer the time of study. To begin I encourage them to play games so that they are comfortable on the computer. They have educational games set up for them, some even involve coding computers. So I start asking them general knowledge questions. Soon they start to educate themselves because they are browsing the net. This way they are not only learning English but increasing their world knowledge. When they are comfortable, I will set questions for them to see what they have learnt so far."
The self-learning project, Molly says, is not meant to replace school; it's supposed to be complementary. "For instance if they have a problem with a lesson at school, when they get to speak to me, they can ask for help in that. I already have friends of mine from school, who will be helping with the project. There are 1,500 children in Huruma, we have started with four but if we get more computers, we can work with more children," said Molly.
When deciding what computer to buy, Molly contacted her former teacher from
"Aleutia's main feature is extreme energy efficiency, so they run on about 20 per cent energy consumption of a normal desktop and about 50 per cent the energy consumption of a normal laptop. It has a solid state system, meaning it has no moving parts. This means it is less likely to break down than devices that have mobile mechanisms.
"The computer is cooled by convention using low voltage processors direct from
"They are perfect for solar installation. For instance, if you were running a computer lab with normal computers for which you found you needed five solar panels and five batteries to get it going, with these computers, you could run your lab with one solar panel and battery. The savings in a solar environment are enormous," said Muckle.
With all these added benefits, the computer is priced slightly high than other desktops.
"The computer is Sh60, 000 plus VAT. If you were to look at a computer lab of about 10 or 11 our system would run on 350 watts. Normal computers that go for about Sh30,000-Sh40, 000 use about 1.5 to 2 megawatts. If you go to a shop and ask for solar panels or batteries for 2 megawatts, think how much you are going to spend in comparison to get those that can power 350 watts. One company we worked with were happy with our project. They told me how they had done a computer installation in Nothern Kenya and the desktops they took for use died in two days because of the dust. The trouble with these areas apart from the dust is the heat, so the computer fans have to work faster, drawing in dust and increasing the energy consumption."
Molly's vision is to expand the self-education programme by getting more computers and hopefully inspire more students around the world to get involved.
"Most of the money we raised, we used on the first computer and setting up the broadband to work. If we can get some sponsors to help buy more laptops then we can increase the number of children we work with. It's a wonderful initiative that I believe will help bridge the digital divide of underprivileged children. With IT literacy they will also have a platform wherein they can express themselves."
For more information on how to be part of the programme, please email email@example.com
The Aleutia computers, as supplied in
Extreme energy efficiency -- It uses only one-fifth the energy of normal desktops. This extreme energy efficiency makes them the most cost effective solar-powered computer available.
- It has no fan meaning that no dust is sucked into the system (Aleutia buy parts directly from
- No moving hard drive meaning lower energy consumption and greater reliability.
- Simple maintenance with only six parts (two of which are the casing) and the ability to be dismantled with a single screwdriver.
- Small form factor means that they can be installed in an unobtrusive way and because they have no moving parts run completely silently.
Two projects that
These two systems demonstrate the versatility of the devices on both usage and power. Stonehouse has also been able to provide stand-alone computers to offices in
The company is making plans for technological developments in the IT sector, particularly emerging hardware and applications.
The proprietor of Stonehouse Ltd Martin Muckle moved to
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