In a pitch-black Indian street market where the only electric light appears to be coming from the directors camera the locals are being told about a plan to educate their children using just a computer screen. Most of them, especially the children, have never seen a computer before let alone used one. Yet they are about to be connected to the Internet for the first time in a purpose built self-sufficient classroom with no teachers. The locals are dubious and rightly so, but the person who donated the land confidently reassures them ‘a wise man is always ready to learn more’.
The School in the Cloud is a 2018 documentary feature-film which will revolutionise what you thought you knew about learning. The film follows Professor Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University as he rapidly scales-up his ‘great-big experiment’ with a $1m award from TED the Internet based ideas organisation. Director Jerry Rothwell and co-director Ranu Ghosh allow us to see the world through the eyes of participants (whose lives are being transformed) as well as introducing us to the ideas and objections driving the scientific process.
The film expertly navigates the geographic and cultural divide between learners in India and the UK whilst explaining the concept of self-organised learning. Self organisation gives children the freedom to learn, which in-turn gives them better understanding and test results. This seemingly simplistic approach is at odds with the traditional top-down school model which originated 300 years ago. Mitra’s charisma and determination to provide an education system for all, even the most highly-disadvantaged, is very persuasive. Enough to disarm all but the staunchest of critics but in reality he is somebody who is set on a collision course with society.
“Mitra argues that the information revolution has enabled a style of learning that wasn’t possible before” (Wired magazine). To his credit Mitra is a physicist, not a teacher, so for him learning takes place ‘at the edge of chaos’ and is ‘an emergent property of a self-organising system’. No doubt you will be able to find a bio-psychologist & neurosurgeon who will agree with that statement but what does it actually mean for our children living here in the UK?
For those growing-up in a world of social-media, fake-news and censorship how are they supposed to cope? Climate Crisis, Brexit and Polluted Oceans are just three immediate problems the future holds. We can’t blame our children if they want to lose themselves in an online world that’s far more attractive than reality – can we? “Who knows what we will need to learn in thirty years from now?” says Mitra “One thing is for sure we will need to be good at searching for information, collating it and figuring out whether it is right or wrong”.
Like all good research the School in the Cloud throws-up more questions than answers. The audience are taken on a journey of scientific discovery and hope for the future. The result is a film that is accessible to the general public with far-reaching implications for a creating a global society. The School in the Cloud is presented by Dorset Cloud School the after-school club that boosts learning for ages 7-11.
For all enquiries contact Mr Lee Hadaway
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