(CNN) — The Hole in the Wall experiments, known as HiW, were first implemented in 1999, when a computer with an internet connection was embedded into a wall for children to discover and use unsupervised.
The wall adjoined a slum in India. Only a month later, it was evident that the children had taught themselves to use the computer and also picked up some skills in English and mathematics. This kind of design was then set up in more and more remote areas across the nation with almost identical results. These were computers embedded in walls or kiosks in easily accessible and highly visible public spaces, facilitating peer interaction, discovery and learning in groups of children.
We concluded that groups of children from disadvantaged and remote settings can learn to use computers and access internet resources, on their own, if given appropriate free, public and unsupervised access.
These earliest experiences also showed that children could develop some skills in English and mathematics. What came through unequivocally in this and further work on self-organizing systems in education was that groups of children — irrespective of who or where they are, or what language they speak — given free and public access to computers and the internet can:
1. Become computer-literate on their own — that is, they can learn to use computers and the internet for most of the tasks done by lay users.
2. Teach themselves enough English to use e-mail, chat and search engines.
3. Learn in a few months to search the internet for answers to questions.
4. Improve their English pronunciation on their own.
5. Improve their mathematics and science scores in school.
6. Be prepared to pass examinations several years ahead of grade level.
7. Change their social interaction skills and value systems.
8. Form independent opinions and detect indoctrination.
We then went on to show that the quality of traditional schooling declines the farther schools are from the urban center of New Delhi. A similar decline is visible in the UK as one goes to more economically disadvantaged areas. This has been attributed to the lack of teachers willing to work in these areas.