Praxis – practice and theory comes together

Praxis screen

I am the list to present at TMSoton, here is my prezi. I have in the past as the regional manager for Vital set up and presented at numerous TeachMeets in the south west, this one however feels very different and I feel a bit of a fraud. TeachMeets are about sharing good classroom practice the ‘How’ and I have spent the last 9 months doing theory the ‘Why’. Neither can I can’t claim that I have tried this out in a classroom but I decided that I wanted to present because in the past whilst listening to all the great stuff people do in the classroom I was uncomfortable that no one was quizzed about the ‘Why’ and how whatever it is could be used in other situations. Another reason why I wanted to present was whilst studying I was very aware that ‘jobbing teachers’  got on and taught and academics rarely if ever went into an honest to goodness classroom but they do seem to spent a lot of time pontificating. Which is why the question ‘What is the point of theory’ keeps on coming up as I study.

My presentation is an attempt to look at that question of ‘What is the point of theory’ for a specific area ….e-learning using the work of Sugata Mitra as the anchor. I originally chose to look at his work because I was looking for his feet of clay but I must put my hand up here and admit that I find him and his approach engaging, he is self-deprecating and unlike some educational researchers has some very solid reproducible and specific evidence on which to base his theories. However the main reason I am using his work as the focus for the presentation is because there have been blogs (see bleow) and comments on Twitter recently that are critical about his work. These have  possibly been sparked the increased interested in his work since winning the TED Award and funding that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong I think that critiquing work is a good thing and help to contribute to the understanding of the area. My concern here is that I get the impression that rather than looking at his work themselves that they have misinterpreted other people’s opinions, for example the dialogue between Mitra and Arora (2010) or they have taken the sound bites as being the substance.

Mitra’s original work was intended to address the needs of children in rural India that had little or no access to good quality education. When he moved to Newcastle University he started looking at schools in England that were deemed to be failing, noticing that similar to the Indian rural schools the best teachers  avoided areas of social deprivation. Through the decade that he has worked in this area he has introduced among other things the concept of Minimally Invasive Education and Self Organising Learning Environments.This is where during class time that the children work in groups with a connected computer to answer questions. During this time the role of the teacher is not to intervene or guide but to observe and prepare to facilitate the plenary where the children feedback their answers. As a teachers this can be uncomfortable; the children are able to choose their groups they are able to change groups and to see how other groups are working. The children are also responsible for managing their own behaviour.  In the guide for implementing SOLE  in schools they recognise the many of the issues that may be raised, making suggestions about how to address them.  What they have found is that year 6 children that have been given GCSE questions to answer using SOLE can do so, more interestingly when these children are tested a couple of month later they score better than the first time. This concept has been tried out all over the world take a look at the video blow.

What he doesn’t suggest is that teachers are redundant; his point is that teachers and society need to consider that teachers should now have a different role. Times have change;   information is abundant and being constantly updated. We need to develop the skills to navigate and make sense of the information and it is the teachers’ job to support children to do this.

Mitra suggest that the primary curriculum should teach three things:

  1. Reading Comprehension
  2. Information search and analysis skills
  3. Rational system of beliefs

I don’t see SOLE and MIE replacing our current educational system anytime soon and I am not convinced that Mitra is either but I do think that there is value in considering what they bring to the party and to the teacher’s tool box.

I suggest that if you are interested in considering an education that meets the needs of the future that as a starting point that you read ‘Beyond the Hole in the Wall’ by Mitra and Negraponte (2012)

Although Mitra when he started this research in 2000 drew on the theories of Piaget and Vygostsky to explain the learning process I feel that MIE is better supported by connectivism . It is not surprising the Mitra did not consider connectivism as George Siemens did not propose it until 2004 and this was online the theory wasn’t published in a peer review paper until 2005. Siemens states that connectivism is ‘….the integration of principles explored by chaos, network and complexity and self-organisation theories’   which aligns with much of Mitras beliefs of self-organisation. The key features of connectivism are that the pipe line is more important than the content, that you need to know where to get the information, have access to the key gatekeeper of the information.

Mitras work not only challenges current teaching practice it also flys in the face of many of the current theories and pedagogies such as Wegerif’s Dialogic and the Learning to Learn Together, and Philosophy for Children work.

Here he describes his work finishing up by asking for help to gather further data to support or otherwise his proposal.

There are loads of other Mitra videos describing his work check out his TED talks as a staring point.

Further Reading

Oliver Qunilans blog post on Praxis 

Sugata Mitra’s blog Barefoot in the head

Blogs commenting on Mitra’s work … positive and negative

Plan B – Donald Clark Sugata Mitra: Slum chic? 7 reasons for doubt and  More holes in Sugata Mitra’s ‘Hole-in-Wall’ project

Leraning Spy -David Didau Why do I need a teacher if I’ve got Google and a Granny?

Kenny Piper – Do it Yourself

Peer reviewed papers 

Arora, P. (2010). Hope-in-the-Wall? A digital promise for free learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 689 – 702.

Editorial. (2005). Best educational article in an Open Access Journal, 2005. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(2).

Freire P. (1970) Pedagogy of the oppressed New York: Continuum.

Inamdar, P. (2004). Computer skills development by children using ‘hole in the wall’ facilities in rural India. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(3), 337 – 350.

Mitra, S. (1988). A computer assisted learning strategy for computer literacy programmes Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the All-India Association for Educational Technology Goa, India

Mitra, S. (2003). Minimally invasive education:a progress report on ‘hole in the wall’ experiments British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(3), 367 – 371.

Mitra, S. (2006). The hole in the wall : self-organising systems in education. New Delhi ;: New York, NY : Tata-McGraw-Hill Pub. Co. Ltd.,.

Mitra, S. (2009). Remote Presence: Technologies for ‘beaming’ teachers where they cannot go Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence, 1(1), 55 – 59.

Mitra, S. (2010). Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education. TED: Ideas worth spreading from

Mitra, S. (2012a). Future Learning: Sugata Mitra. from

Mitra, S. (2012b). A Self-Organised Assessment Meathod (SOAM).  Retrieved from

Mitra, S., & Arora, P. (2010). Afterthoughts British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 703 – 705.

Mitra, S., & Dangwal, R. (2010). Limits to self-organising systems of learning – the Kalikuppam experiment  British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 672- 688.

Mitra, S., Dangwal, R., Chatterjee, S., Jha, S., Bisht, R. S., & Kapur, P. (2005). Acquisition of computing literacy on shared public computers: Children and the “hole in the wall”. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(3), 407 – 426.

Mitra, S., Dangwal, R., & Thadani, L. (2008). Effects of remoteness on the equality of education: A case study from North Indian Schools Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2), 168 – 180.

Mitra, S., Leat, D., Dolan, P., & Crawley, E. (2010). The Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) School support pack In A. f. L. Technology (Ed.).

Mitra, S., & Negroponte, N. (2012). Beyond the hole in the wall: Discover the power of self-organised learning  Kindle Edition TED Books

Mitra, S., & Quiroga, M. (2012). Children and the Internet – a preliminary study in Uruguay International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(15), 123 – 129.

Mitra, S., & Rana, V. (2001). Children and the Internet: experiments with minimally invasive education in India British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(2), 221 – 232.

Tobin, L. (2009, 3 March 2009). Slumdog professor, The Guardian Retrieved from

Richardson W. (2009) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms California Corwin Press.


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