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The SOLE Challenge 
I love TED Talks. I consider the twenty minutes I spend listening to TED Talks to be an investment in myself, and sometimes I discover a new hero. Salman Khan became a hero a while back, but today they gave me a new hero. A man by the name of Dr. Sugata Mitra. Dr. Mitra won the TED Prize this year and the speech below describes his wish for a School in the Cloud. Find the twenty minutes somewhere in your day to sit down and listen to what Dr. Mitra has to say. It is exciting in its simplicity. 

If you don't have the time to sit and watch, here is the Reader's Digest version. Dr. Mitra set up something called the Hole in the Wall project in a poor neighborhood in India. He took a computer and literally placed it in a hole in a wall so children on the streets of this town, who did not have access to a computer, could take the time to learn how to use the machine. Within a short time these students were asking if they could have a faster processor and a better mouse. 

When these first students showed they were able to use of a computer. Within a short time they had figured it out. Dr. Mitra decided to step it up a notch. He posed the following question:

Can Tamil speaking 12 year old children in a south Indian village teach themselves biotechnology of DNA replication in English by themselves from a street side computer?

Dr. Mitra left the children alone for two months. When he returned he asked the children if they had learned anything and they initially said no. That was to be expected... The children didn't speak any English and the biotechnology of DNA is a concept that most well educated English speaking people would struggle with. Eventually a young girl elaborated that they had learned nothing, "Apart from the fact that the improper replication of the DNA molecule causes genetic disease, we've understood nothing else." 

Wow... for a recap, these 12 year old children taught themselves a new language AND gained a fairly advanced concept of DNA in a two month time frame. From a computer. On their own. Just wow. 

Dr. Mitra created what he calls a Self Organized Learning Environment, or SOLE, for these children. He gave them a big question or task, and let them go off and generate their own learning. The power of technology in this case is truly amazing. With technology (I am not talking about advanced technology, just a basic computer) these children were able to conquer some advanced concepts when left to their own devices. 

Dr. Mitra wants you, and anyone else who will listen, to help him out. He is trying to crowd source the collection of data on how SOLEs work and develop. He has partnered with the fine folks at TED and the Huffington Post to create a contest. In order to participate, Dr. Mitra asks that you create a SOLE for your students/own children and provide some feedback. Below the speech from Dr. Mitra I have included a copy of the full article including contest details. If you are selected as a winner, you and one other person will have the opportunity to attend the upcoming TEDYouth2013 Conference free of charge with airfare and hotel included. 

I strongly recommend that educators everywhere to watch Dr. Mitra's video, read over the information below, and experiment with creating a SOLE of your own. If you need help coming up with the questions/design, please email me at lgreen@floydboe.net.

Click here for the full site.  

Dr. Mitra's TED Wish


Sugata is inviting parents and teachers everywhere to set-up a Self-Organized Learning Environment by downloading the SOLE toolkit and creating their own SOLE environments.


Part experiment, part contest — your challenge is to test the SOLE method with students in your school, home or after-school program and to share what you learn with TED in the form of a 500-1000 word blog post. What was your experience like in setting up SOLE? Tell us about your SOLE adventure and the students who participated. What were the challenges, how did you overcome them and what did you learn? How do you believe SOLE can be used at your school in the future?

Up to three winning submissions selected by Sugata and the TED Prize team will win a weekend trip for you and your child to attend TEDYouth 2013.


Step 1: Download the SOLE toolkit and agree to the official contest rules. (Note: TED and The Huffington Post will only contact you about of the SOLE Challenge, and will not share your personal information with any third parties.)

Step 2: Create a SOLE environment in collaboration with your local school, home, or after school program.

Step 3: Submit your 500-1000 word blog post to SOLEChallenge@TED.comby 9AM ET, Friday, April 12th, 2013 on what you've learned from the process and any photos that document or support your piece.

Step 4: Use the feedback form to let us know more about your experience with the SOLE.

Step 5: The TED Prize team will select up to 3 winning blog posts (based on the evaluation criteria below) to feature in a future edition of TEDWeekends on The Huffington Post.


SOLE Challenge Grand Prize

The winners will receive a pair of tickets (parent/guardian + child) to attend TED Youth '13 on Saturday, November 16th, 2013, including 2 economy class tickets and hotel accommodation.

For more questions or comments, please email SOLEChallenge@TED.com

Good luck!


SOLE Brochure Your name (required)

Your email (required)

 I have read and agree to the official contest rules.


All eligible entries will be judged by TED staff in consultation with the TED Prize Winner and advisory board according to the following criteria (the “Judging Criteria”): (i) creativity by which they conducted the SOLE experiment, (ii) uniqueness of key findings/results/learnings, and (iii) quality of the blog post.

Contest begins 2/27 9AM ET and ends on 4/12 9AM ET

You must be 21 or older to enter.

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