Leonardo Award

Leonardo Crossing Borders: Challenging established ways of thinking

Sugata Mitra

Exceptional new developments that fundamentally challenge prevailing mind-sets and thus also influence learning in businesses – this is the aspect that the Leonardo category “Crossing Borders” emphasizes. Daring alternative approaches that bring about change through their influence on people, companies and society are distinguished.

Award-winner in this category is Sugata Mitra, Professor for Educational Technology at Newcastle University in Great Britain and currently visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab. Mitra is particularly well-known for his “Hole in the Wall” experiment where he installed a computer with internet access in a wall in a New Delhi slum in 1999. This experiment, which he later repeated at other locations around the world, was able to prove the great extent to which children can learn and develop social behaviour by themselves – even without teachers.

“With his revolutionary view of children's creativity Sugata Mitra has also become involved in the issue of increasing educational opportunities in remote locations where schools and teachers are in scarce supply", points out the Leonardo Advisory Board. Moreover, on the basis of his research at Newcastle University he has also proven that these challenges, which were often considered problems concerning countries in Asia and Africa, also affect regions in Europe. “Mitra has inspired education experts around the world to re-think learning methods and to develop a new learning design for talent management – in school education as well as corporate learning.“

According to Leonardo Secretary Szogs, the fact that some of the categories partially overlap is actually no coincidence. “The award emphasizes the unique components of each of the award-winning education innovations, which are unified by the Leonardo's holistic spirit.” In his day, Leonardo da Vinci provided a hitherto unprecedented example of how traditional and incoherent schools of art and science could refer to each other in such a way as to work in a highly professional manner and at the same time foster knowledge, empathy and passion. “In order to achieve that, two things in particular are necessary, which are facets that are also embodied by this year’s laureates: A certain visionary ‘oddballness’ in their volition to ‘disarrange’ the norm, combined with the courage to use that boldness in an economically responsible fashion.“

Interview with Sugata Mitra