SOLE innovator Dr. Sugata Mitra (center) stands with Lawrence Intermediate School principal Dave Adam and teacher Joe Jamison.
SOLE innovator Dr. Sugata Mitra (center) stands with Lawrence Intermediate School principal Dave Adam and teacher Joe Jamison.

Students in Joe Jamison’s fifth grade class at Lawrence Intermediate School were ready for prime time at the beginning of May as they were filmed as part of a documentary series entitled The Work Wonders Project for Microsoft.

Jamison’s students were tapped for this production due to Jamison’s use of the Self-Organized Learning Environment program in his classroom.

Developed by Dr. Sugata Mitra, SOLEs are child-centered activities that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while students learn how to ask questions in order to take ownership of their learning. In this process, the teacher steps aside, allowing students to take charge of the class.

The documentary campaign is a three-episode series that highlights the collaboration of two senior experts in the field of education technology. The series documents the collaboration of Adam Braun and Mitra on their initiative to implement a cloud-based education program at schools built by the Pencils of Promise foundation.

Filming for The Work Wonders Project ranged from being onsite in Ghana to footage taken in Jamison’s classroom in Lawrenceville to capture the SOLE program in action. Braun and Mitra joined the LIS fifth graders as the documentary cameras rolled.

After receiving a higher-level or “BIG” question that is aligned to the curriculum, Jamison’s students organize themselves into groups to find an answer. During this process, students collaborate to investigate, research, and develop ideas while thinking critically about the information they find. Amidst the activity, Jamison can be seen facilitating amongst the groups of students, asking more question that require deep thought and pushing the boundaries of each student’s capabilities. Students then present their findings to the class using a medium of their choice.

The first of the three The Work Wonders Project episodes has been released and can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRE1eBptVy8.

Jamison and LIS students have a cameo appearance in this episode and it is anticipated they will play a bigger part of the second episode. At present, Jamison does not have a definitive date for the second episode’s release.

Adam Braun is a millennial philanthropist and activist who, according to his bio and while traveling the world, always asked local children a question: “If you could have anything you wanted in the world, what would it be?” He was surprised when a child in India said he wanted a pencil. This request made Braun realize how many children around the world have little or no access to education and, inspired him to start Pencils of Promise, a foundation that has built hundreds of schools around the world and continues to gain momentum.

Related in his bio, Dr. Mitra, from Calcutta, India, is a computer scientist and education reformer who, in 1999, conducted an experiment dubbed the “Hole in the Wall,” where he put a computer into the wall of an Indian slum bordering his office. He soon discovered that children were teaching themselves, revealing that they could learn without traditional schooling. This led Dr. Mitra to develop the SOLE educational system.

In 2013, Dr. Mitra delivered a TED Talk about his School in the Cloud initiative, to give underserved children around the world access to an inexpensive, cloud-based SOLE education. He won the coveted 2013 TED Prize for his vision and was awarded $1,000,000 to fund the School in the Cloud project.

As described on its website, TED is a platform for ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages.