kids learn about computers…without help

New Delhi physicist Sugata Mitra puts a computer in a middle of a slum and then watches what happens.

What happens? The kids pick up on basic computer concepts quickly, all by themselves. They don’t need to be taught anything about what a mouse is, how to use a user interface, what the Internet is all about. They don’t need $29.95 1000 page computer books. They figure it all out on thier own.

Mr Mitra calls it “minimally invasive education:” ask the right questions and assume kids can figure things out themselves. The teacher isn’t there to stand up on the podium and lecture (or alternately to write chapters and chapters worth of explanation) — the teacher is there to pose the questions and stand aside. Children’s curiosity and the internet do the rest.

Interestingly enough its pointed out in this article that this doesn’t work for adults — by the age of 16 adults come to expect a teacher or something that will explain how things work to them. But I don’t know, when I read this article, my immediate thought was “how can I apply these methods to teaching technology? How can I do something like this in writing computer books?” I think there may be lessons in here even for teaching adults about computers. I’ll have to lie awake all night thinking about that.