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I started working in a very large and beautiful office in New Delhi teaching people how to program. Right in front of my office there was an enormous slum with hundreds of children who had nothing to do. They played football and things like that, but basically, they didn't do anything. So I thought, "How strange. Maybe some of these kids could learn to be fantastic programmers. So, why not teach them?” The answer to this was very simple: “How can you build a school in a slum? There's no room. It's very dirty. Good teachers don't want to go there." But, what would happen if I gave the kids a computer? People's response to this was, “It's a stupid idea because they've never seen a computer before." So, I tried it. The first problem was: if you want to put a computer in a slum, where should it go? There was a wall along the perimeter of my office, and the slum was on the other side. So I made a hole there. I took a computer monitor and placed it against the window so it faced the slum. Then, I got a touch pad and placed it on the other side of the wall. The computer had Windows and an Internet connection. Nothing else. No applications. Nothing. They looked at it but didn't do anything. After six or seven hours, a friend of mine came and said to me, “How have you taught them to use a computer?" And I replied, “I haven't taught them anything. Why? What are they doing?” She said, “They're browsing the internet. And they're teaching each other to browse." How had these children learned to do this? I then set up twenty-two computers across India. I put them in deserts, small villages, near the sea, near rivers, at the top of mountains, in the Himalayas, everywhere. And the same thing happened all over. Groups of children came to have a look and in less than a couple of days they had started to download games and play. Everybody asked me, “Who's taught them to do this?” I still have no reply, but I think I have a rough idea what's going on. I call it "self-organized learning," as there's no teacher involved.
To teachers, I say, “What can you do in this situation, when you might not be able to answer a question, when questions might arise that you hadn't even thought about? The only thing you can tell a child is, "Find out for yourself." Right? What else can you do? It's like there's a group of kids and a forest you know nothing about. But the kids want to go there. What are you going to say to them? I would advise teachers to say, "You go, and I'll accompany you." That's very important. Don't tell them. “You go, and I'll stay here and drink my coffee." That's how I would provide leadership when tackling questions I don't know the answers to.