The future of learning

I was going to call this post “The Future of Education” but I am more and more of the opinion that has the name “Education” will ultimately die.

That does not mean that “Learning” will cease and we shall all take some giant step backwards towards whence we came. On reflection we may well be doing that in one particular way, as Sugata Mitra said in his Ted 2013 Prize speech, “our ancestors gazed up at the stars and asked big questions about what they were and how they got there”.

We have more and more compartmentalized knowledge and have passed the knowledge that we feel is important to generations of children sitting in neat rows with fellow pupils who happened to be the same chronological age as themselves on an “industrial model” that was based on obedience, good timekeeping and a rigid testing regime.

In this process we have created generations of bored children.We have missed the opportunity to let children develop their potential because we have divided them on the basis of a notion of intelligence that has proved controversial and was propagated by people such as Sir Cyril Burt whose methods have been contested by many academics as possibly fraudulent.

Sugata Mitra, is a very interesting person. He started out as a computer programmer and in the late 1990’s he decided to do an experiment with slum children in Dehli who happened to live next to the smart new hi-tech office building that he was working in. This experiment conducted first in 1999, has come to be known  known as the Hole in the Wall (HIW) experiments in children’s learning. In the initial experiment, a computer was placed in a kiosk created within a wall in a slum at Kalkaji, Delhi and children were allowed to use it freely.[6] The experiment aimed at proving that children could be taught by computers very easily without any formal training. Sugata termed this as Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). The experiment has since been repeated in many places, HIW has more than 23 kiosks in rural India. In 2004 the experiment was also carried out in Cambodia.[7]

His Ted Prize wish was to create a number of “Schools in the cloud” that would be built in India (and two in the U.K.), where children would be able to use computers to explore subjects that interest them. There would be no teachers only what he calls “Granny mentors” who would Skype the children from their houses and ask them questions or maybe just say “I didn’t know that, tell me how it works”.

The whole concept is obviously open to debate. Some have said that Mitra’s claims that children learnt English (not their native language) in order to interact with the computers, is somewhat far-fetched. I must admit that I had some doubts of my own, but I have now had the opportunity to read about an amazing teacher in Mexico who decided to use Mitra’s ideas of letting the children follow their own interests and has come up with a class that included the child who was the number 1 Mathematical test taker for her age in the whole of Mexico! (Current population: 117,706,148). This is even more fascinating when you read the social realities of the children who are in his class and the fact that they had no availability of computers and other technology that many children in Britain, The U.S. and other such countries, take for granted.

The article that contains the story is from Wired Magazine and is, in my opinion, the most interesting article I have read about education this year. I would strongly recommend anyone reading this post to follow the link and read it.

In the final part of the article there is a link to how people can become involved in this new movement that can transform education. Here is what they suggested:

“In the weeks leading up to the publication of our cover story about Sergio Juárez Correa and the students of José Urbina López Primary School, it became clear that WIRED could help. We decided to sponsor the school and Juárez Correa, providing them with supplies and equipment they need, like a projector, printer, and laser pointer.

But there also are powerful ways you can get involved with the burgeoning student-centered style of learning and teaching. Whether you want to bring this approach into an existing school, start a program of your own, donate to a program, or find a teacher who has asked for specific help, we’ve got suggestions. Here are four ways to take action:

1. Last year, the TED prize gave $1 million to Sugata Mitra, one of the movement’s leading thinkers. If you are interested in supporting Mitra and his School in the Cloud project email TEDPrize@TED.com or make contributions payable to:

Sapling Foundation
Care of: TED Prize Team
250 Hudson Street
Suite 1002
NY, NY 10013

2. TED has created a toolkit full of ideas for jump starting student-centered learning in your home, local community, or school. It’s called SOLE: How to Bring Self-Organized Learning Environments to Your Community. Download it here and share your story afterward on the SOLE Tumblr.

3. To support or adopt a SOLE classroom (many of which are listed on the SOLE Tumblr) emailTEDPrize@TED.com.

4. Support a teacher who has made a specific request for help through DonorsChoose.org, an onlinecharity that connects public school teachers with donors.

Meanwhile, read more about Mitra’s TED Prize at José Urbina López Primary School or watch a preview of the documentary, School in the Cloud, that filmmaker Jerry Rothwell is making about Mitra’s TED prize activities”.

(Wired Magazine 10.15.13)

I will conclude by saying that I found the story of Sergio Juarez Correa fascinating and inspiring and I feel that we can no longer avoid the move towards a different approach (backed by the power of technology) to facilitate our children’s learning.

 

 

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