Friday, November 11, 2016

Untaught Technology Skills: The Hole in the Wall Experiment

Have you ever wondered why children cannot resist touching everything when they are little? Theories on the process of learning and knowledge acquisition in the early stages of development confirm that human beings start learning the day they are born. Newborn babies start learning by watching, feeling, smelling, and hearing. Even though formal language is not understood, babies learn to communicate to have their needs met. We learn through our senses and our sense help us understand the world around us.

As I am reading about the Hole in the Wall experiment in India back in 1999, I make a strong connection between the theory of natural learning and the reasons why it amazes me to see babies and toddlers find electronic devices to be fascinating tools.

In the Hole in the Wall experiment, Professor Sugata Mitra conducted an experiment in which a computer was placed inside a man made hole in the wall. There was also a camera installed to record activity near the computer. No instructions were given in any language. The location of this whole in the wall was in the slums of India with high populations of kids with no formal education or English language reading and speaking abilities. The findings of Dr. Mitra's experiment gave rise to the the concept of minimally invasive education  as it was observed that children learned basic computer skills on their own as well as curriculum content through games and other engaging activities. Kids just explored on their own and started to build knowledge structures that eventually allowed them to engage in more complex tasks.

The Hole in the Wall Experiment serves as a reminder that when it comes to technology integration in the classroom, children need to be given the opportunity to explore and learn through technology even if the adults in the room do not feel capable to handle or integrate technology. Fear of technology integration is more pervasive in adults rather than in children. A word of caution when allowing minors to freely learn and explore on electronic devices is the need for an internet filter. Children are capable of finding amazing things online, however, material not suitable for children needs to be kept out at all times. I believe that allowing students to learn with an electronic device has valuable implications for English Language Learners. ELL's can learn valuable concepts and skills by freely exploring an electronic device that has access to age appropriate pre-loaded resources.

I have included one of the only creative commons picture I found on the internet for the Hole in the Wall experiment. The computers depicted in the picture resemble the original one but the first computer and setting looked different.

Mitra, S., Rana, V., Campus, I. I. T., & Khas, H. (2001). Children and the Internet: Experiments with minimally invasive education in India. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(2), 221-232.

Trucano, M. (2010, June 18). Searching for India’s hole in the wall Retrieved from


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