By Richard Galant, CNN
(CNN) - What if everything you thought you knew about education was wrong?What if students learn more quickly on their own, working in teams, than in a classroom with a teacher?
What if tests and discipline get in the way of the learning process rather than accelerate it?
Those are the questions Sugata Mitra has been asking since the late 1990s, and for which he was awarded the $1 million TED Prize in February at the TED2013 conference.
Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, won the prize for his concept of "self organized learning environments," an alternative to traditional schooling that relies on empowering students to work together on computers with broadband access to solve their own problems, with adults intervening to provide encouragement and admiration, rather than top-down instruction.
Mitra's work with students in India has gained wide attention and was the focus of a 2010 TED Talk on his "hole in the wall" experiment, showing the potential of computers to jump-start learning without any adult intervention.
Coming to education trained as a physicist, Mitra said he was encouraged by his boss to start teaching people how to write computer programs. When he bought his first personal computer, he was surprised to find that his 6-year-old son was able to tell him how to fix problems he had operating the machine. He thought his son was a genius, but then heard his friends saying the same thing about their children.