I’m ready for liveblogging sitting in the opening session of the Learning and Technologies conference– I have to decide to blog in Dutch or English and I think it best to do it in English since I’ll be blogging during the presentation. I hope that works for you..
Sugata Mitra is professor of Learning Technologies, focusing his work on children. He starts with a Wordcloud on children en learning and what is striking that the work teaching is missing. Where has teaching gone? What will be the future of learning? Schooling started when we needed people who could work in factories and offices. The office people needed to be able to read and write, in a readable way, by hand. They needed to be able to calculate with using a calculator. Those were the skills at the basis of our schooling system. The factory workers should not be creative, because their jobs were repetitive. Rather, they should follow orders and not question anything. Now, we are still schooling people for an age which doesn’t exist anymore.
Schools as obsolete institutions
How to undo this 70 years of damage? Schools have become obsolete institutions.. Inkpen, atlasses, linear calculators they have all disappeared. Like the internal combustion engine replaced the horse and carriage. This also led to disappearance of the role of the coachman. A whole range of things like driving licenses had to be invented and the people started to drive without coachman. With new developments of the self-driving cars it is possible that our grandchildren will ask us why we were driving a car.
If we look at this in the context of learning – can the learners drive? Not just things but also concepts can disappear… Even learning as a concept might disappear?
The hole in the wall
Sugata Mitra did an experiment with the hole in the wall. Where a public internet access point was created for children in a slum in India. First the children didn’t do anything because Sugata was there. When he went away – they started browsing the internet in English even though they didn’t speak English, finding games, but also putting their homework in Google translate so they had great grades in English. You can hear more about the experiment here. The result of the experiment was-
Within a period of nine months children will reach the same level of computer literacy as an office worker in the west (without teaching).
Another experiment – the children would graduate with a terrible accent in English – and hence Sugata Mitra introduced text to speech with the hope that this would help to know the right pronunciation of words. Children downloaded the speaking OXFORD dictionary which was actually a better pedagogy to improve their English skills.. A last experiment was with Tamil speaking 12 years old can learn the biotechnology of DNA replication in English? The children scored 30 out of 100. Not a high result but still. Conclusion: children can learn almost anything by themselves. A critical view on the hole in the wall can be read here in Dutch and here in English.
The granny cloud
Sugata recruited grandmothers with internet access, since 2009. They are often retired educators, they don’t teach but talk to the children using Skype. Conclusion: the presence of an intermediator can improve self-organised learning. You can create Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE) with broadband, collaboration and encouragement and admiration. You need a curriculum of questions, include peer assessment and offer certification without examination. Knowing will become obsolete.
Learning is an emergent phenomenon in a self organizing educational system.
What I personally like about his talk is pointing out that change in society is going fast and that we might educate children for the world of today and not for tomorrow. Also the focus on self-organized learning. However, I also see the limits of self-organized learning and motivation especially for children. If I would allow my daughters to self-organize… I’m not sure they would learn anything about history for instance. I believe in equipping people with the basics of certain domains. What do you think?