Headline Nov 06, 2015/ ''' STUDENTS SLUMDOG COMPUTER '''


IN PAKISTAN  -the first  'temporary, historic, proud hosts'   of !WOW!, the World Students Society, never did I find:

A university, a college,a student, a professor, or a teacher,  devout some moments of their precious lives,  *to the heroes, and to the future of the slums*. 

This generation, as I observed to discover, never could get past the  ME-ME generation.......... Ever.

Here is one good professor from India: ''I was teaching people computer programming in New Delhi, and had just spent £500 [$800] on my first home PC. My four-year- old son wanted a Go. 'Don't even think about it,' I said. But he carried on watching me.'''

UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE'S PROFESSOR Sugata Mitra wrote a paper for a Goa Educational Conference in 1988, suggesting that-

If you let left children to play with computers unaided, you could identify particularly bright kids and concentrate government spending on them for the good of all.
''It was dismissed as fascist,'' laughs the professor. ''So I forgot the whole thing for a while.''

Eleven years later, Mitra was the chief scientist at IT company NIIT, charged with developing public-space terminals similar to those now used as ticket dispensers in train stations. Adjoining NIIT's building in New Delhi was a wasteland on the edge of the Kalkaji slum. Pigs and animals snuffled through the rubbish looking for food, but it was also a cricket pitch for the area's children.

Professor Mitra decided to install a computer operated only by cursor buttons, facing the wasteland. No doubt it would be vandalised by the children, giving him data on how to make them more robust.

Then his  1988 paper sprang into his head. This could be more than an engineering project. None of the children knew much English and all were poorly educated, but if, perhaps, one or two of the brighter kids could at least open some documents, it might go some way to proving his theory.

He instructed his staff to install the computer in a small gap in NIIT's wall,  90 centimetres off the ground with a metal hood so only kids could easily access it. 

Next day, he arrived late to his office to find a colleague waiting for him.
''Those kids out there, they're surfing!'' he said.
''Did you show them how to do it?'' Mitra asked. ''No-one went near them.''

Professor Mitra monitored the children from a second computer and saw them start to play online games unaided. After two weeks, he turned on the PC to find a word document  reading ''I Love India''  in a multicoloured letters. Eight-year-old Rajinder showed him how he had created it using a character palette that Mitra had no idea existed.

Soon the children's father were asking them to look for jobs for them online, while their mothers wanted to know their horoscopes.

Mitra set up further HIWs in the central Indian town of Shivpuri and the rural village of Mandantusi, north-east India, where the children spoke no English at all. ''Our children can't even plough a field,'' said the village adults. ''How are they going to use this English machine?'' a reference to the fact that no search engine operated in Hindi.

''I returned three months later and the first thing the children asked me was,'' Can we have a faster processor and a better mouse?''
The children had developed a vocabulary of about 200 English words, such as ''exit'', ''stop'' and ''save''.

''Though individually the children comprehended very little, a group of 20, through reasoning and discussion, could work out enough to get started. They would also type in the odd that they thought they knew, such as  ''rit''  instead of ''rat''. The internet search engine would say, ''Did you mean rat?'' So, by trial and error, the PC was teaching them English.

Professor Mitra published a paper, attracting the attention of the World Bank, It had recently started the Millennium Development Fund and gave Mitra $1.8 million to repeat his experiment in 23 locations around India.

In diverse places such as Stock, 19,000 feet up in the Himalayas, and an island in the Ganges where the terminals had to face way from a lake to prevent crocodiles sneaking up on the kids-

Time and again the children were operating the computer within hours. They also acquired knowledge from websites from on everything from sport to electronics.   

In the southern Indian village of Kuppam, Mitra placed information on biotechnology on the computer and asked the children to look at it.

He came back two months later. ''Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecules causes genetic disease,'' a little girl confided, ''we've understood nothing.''

''I'd pre-tested them and they scored zero,'' says Mitra. ''Now I tested them again and they scored 30 percent. I asked a  20-year-old girl, whom the kids all admired, to them she wanted to know more about the subject.

I came back three months later and they scored 75 percent.'' 

The Honour and Serving of the ''Educational Operational Research''  continues. Thank you for reading and see Ya all on the following one.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Voice of the Slum Students '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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