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Professor Sugata Mitra opens first SOLE lab in America

A school in Harlem has created the first American research lab dedicated to exploring self-organised learning environments (SOLEs).

SOLE NYC is based at John B. Russwurm PS 197M, which teaches from Pre-Kindergarten to 5th Grade (four- to 13-year-olds). The school has embraced this new approach to learning and SOLE NYC has now officially become the eighth 'School in the Cloud' lab.

Professor Sugata Mitra developed the concept of self-taught learning following his 'Hole in the Wall' experiments, in which he placed a computer in a wall of an Indian slum and observed as children taught each other subjects from English to programming. His early work inspired the novel and hit movie Slumdog Millionaire.

The work brought him global recognition in the form of the $1 million TED Prize in 2013. As a result, Professor Mitra expanded his research into SOLEs and has since created seven 'Schools in the Cloud' – learning labs in India and the UK testing the extent to which children in small groups, with access to a computer, and when prompted by the right questions, can learn on their own.

'My wish has always been to support children around the world by tapping into their innate sense of wonder and ability to teach themselves,' said Prof Mitra. 'While there are already SOLE labs in India and the UK, I've dreamed of it expanding to America. It is truly wonderful that this SOLE lab will be in New York – TED's backyard – where there is so much innovation in learning.'

The Harlem Lab is funded by Newcastle University, where Professor Mitra is director of SOLE Central, the global hub for research and practice into SOLEs.

Supporting Schools in the Cloud

A project is now underway to raise $50,000 to continue the vital work that is happening in India beyond 2016, to establish real impact on the community and collect vital information to inform the research and development of these incredible learning environments for children in the US and elsewhere.

Professor Mitra has received support of $50,000 from an anonymous donor in the US, and Newcastle University has matched this donation.

The matched funding from our US graduates and friends and the University mean that every dollar raised is, in effect, triple matched.

Graduates can give a gift right now at www.bit.ly/soleappeal (choose ‘School in the Cloud’ from the dropdown menu). Around Thanksgiving our team of student callers will be calling graduates in the US from the heart of our Newcastle campus to ask if they can give a gift to help us reach our goal and give more children this unique learning opportunity. 

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published on: 13 November 2015