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TEDGlobal: set up 'cloud schools' to improve access to top quality education

The TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh has discussed the idea of children in developing countries educating themselves using computers.

Professor Sugata Miltra put forth the idea of the first "school in the cloud," saying that although there would be adult moderators available, the children would mainly be teaching themselves.

Concurrently, an MIT professor laid out his vision of brining top quality education to less privileged parts of the world.

Professor Anant Agarwai currently has an online platform (edX) providing courses run by some of the best universities, which has one million students enrolled already.

His proposal has been created due to his belief that "education has not changed in 500 years – we still herd children like cats into classrooms at 9am".

In order to tackle this, the edX platform offers online courses on a wide range of topics and "for the first time, learners are able to take course from some of the best professors in the world" said Professor Agarwai.

Professor Miltra was awarded $1 million (£638,000) at the main TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in LA earlier this year in order to set up a series of cloud schools.

"A school in the cloud is basically a school without physical teachers. We need this because in many places you can't get teachers or the teachers are very bad" he said.

The schools will be very different from conventional schools, providing students with a glass pod filled with computers and one large screen to allow moderators to Skype in and be a role model for the children. There will also be no timetables or curriculum.

"In the first few weeks they will go berserk with games," he said. "Then one child will discover Paint and the others will copy. After four months, they will discover Google".