Outdoctrination: Sugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselves

http://community.brighton.ac.uk/jd29/weblog/28585.html

Full story at: http://jondron.net/cofind/frshowresource.php?tid=5325&resid=1379

Mind-blowing talk by Sugata Mitra on how kids aged 6-13 can and do teach themselves and, most importantly, each other. All that is needed is access to a connected computer, which Mitra’s team provided across India through public holes in the wall.

There were no teachers or formal curricula of any kind. Not even a start page, just a search engine. The kids are able to teach themselves without anyone telling them to do so, without any teachers save the other children (often with younger ones teaching older ones) and of course the creators of content on the Web.

A central observation is that the kids learn as much by watching and talking about it as by doing – typically in groups of about 4. It makes no difference whether they are controlling the computer or not, they all learn as much. Results in tests were closely comparable to those achieved in schools and incredibly cost-efficient. The educational effect has no correlation with any other factor that they could measure apart from access to a computer in a group.

A nice example, the first thing non-English speaking kids did after figuring out the computer interface (which took very little time) was to find out about and learn the English alphabet.

Mitra concludes with four important points, each of which is elegantly proven in the video:

– remoteness affects the quality of eduction (largely because of poor teaching by teachers who do not want to be there – there was very little correlation with any other factor).

– educational technology should therefore be introduced into remote areas first – many of the studies that have been performed are in places where education is already pretty good, so the gains are modest. Where teaching is bad, educational technology has a more important place. He uses a lovely quote from Arthur C. Clarke – "Teachers who can be replaced by a machine should be"

– values are acquired, doctrine and dogma are imposed (some delightful evidence of this, using a bottom-up process for identifying value statements)

– learning is a self-organising system

This is a stunning piece of work. Anyone connected with education should see this.

Mitra sums up that education and pedagogy should be digital, automatic, fault-tolerant, minimally invasive, connected and self-organising. Brilliant.

Created:Mon, 15 Sep 2008 01:20:16 GMT

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

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