At the School in the Cloud learning lab in the village of Korakati, India, students sit on colorful stools in front of computer screens, talking over Skype to educators in England and Germany. So it might be surprising to discover that this high-tech education center was built in a place that can only be accessed by boat and rickshaw, where electricity was sparse and Internet connectivity did not previously exist.
The School in the Cloud, a new documentary by filmmaker Jerry Rothwell that premiered today at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival, CPH:Dox, tells the story behind the construction of this unlikely lab. The brainchild of 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra, this lab got its start when a landowner in the village contacted Mitra and offered a plot of land to build a center in Korakati, where there isn’t much development or educational opportunity. The film, which was funded in part with the Sundance Institute | TED Prize Filmmaker Award, traces the development of lab from an early site visit where Mitra sketches out the building in his notebook, through to three years into the lab’s operation, when it has already changed the lives of its young students in unpredictable ways.
Rothwell has been following Mitra ever since he spoke at TED2013 and shared his TED Prize wish: to redefine the future of learning by building the School in the Cloud, a platform and network of learning labs where students are encouraged to explore big questions. At a panel before the premiere, Mitra was joined onstage by Rothwell, TED Prize Director Anna Verghese, and CPH:Dox curator Lars Torp. In the conversation, Mitra shared that data he’s collected on the School in the Cloud shows rapid improvement in reading comprehension and reported well-being of students — something visible in the footage captured in Korakati. Mitra also shared that he considers the Korakati lab — the most remote of the eight launched so far — the most successful. The thing that’s made it thrive despite Internet outages and other challenges: the community’s continued investment and pride in it.
The School in the Cloud will be available to a wider audience later this year. Stay tuned for information on how to watch.