Monday, June 13, 2011

Children who learn by themselves

In 2006, the university professor Sugata Mitra, decided to do an experiment. Embedded in the wall of his office, overlooking a marginal population of India (a "slum"), a computer connected to the Internet, and left it there so that children could use it freely. In the following years repeated the experience in about 20 communities in the country, and then refine the experience, applied in several countries. "The Adventure of children learning for themselves" is the title of inspiring TED video where you can learn firsthand the details of this experience.

The results were wonderful and interesting. Children learn by themselves, without adult assistance. Motivated by questions and the ability to investigate and discover, the children learn. It's hard to believe, but it does work. The same Sugata Mitra has a lucid phrase popularized by Arthur Clarke: "If a teacher can be replaced by a computer, should be". In other words, where there are good teachers, excellent. Where there are no teachers or they are not good, technologies can be an indispensable support to produce significant learning. And not because the technologies themselves, but for its potential to enable new pedagogical processes.

Sugata Mitra was this week at a seminar in Chile. There I had the honor to make a presentation and participate in a roundtable discussion in which go deeper into the lessons of his work and his projections for education in Chile and Latin America.

There are four aspects that I think are in the proposal of a "minimally invasive education" as he calls himself Mitra, it is important to consider:

1. The focus on students and their learning: do not lose sight of that education is about every child, to provide space and learning experiences that enable them to develop their enormous potential. Trusting children, give them opportunities.

2. Re-enchant to learning: to regain the enthusiasm, interest, intrinsic motivation of students, let them express and discover, create and communicate. Spark their curiosity, let them try, fail, find paths.

3. Ubiquity: accept that education is not something that only happens in classrooms, but a personal experience of life for everyone, especially children, who joins us 24 hours a day and all year long. The world, the city, the media, the neighborhood is full of missed educational opportunities. Education is not a time of day, is an attitude to interact with the world and with others.


4. The technologies enable these changes. Are they not, in themselves, which make a difference and change, but they give us excuses and opportunities to change, offer tools to customize each student's educational offerings, to excite each of those involved to be present in each space and time.

I think that such experiences can be an opportunity in Latin America, at least four contexts:

1. Where there are no schools or teachers in remote or rural areas.
2. Where there are schools, but students drop out or are rejected by schools, especially the young in age to attend secondary school, allowing flexible forms of education.
3. Where there are schools and students who attend them, but the quality of education has significant deficits. For example, is known the difficulty of teaching maths, science and English in our continent.
4. Where adult population (over 18) who left the school and can have a second chance to achieve educational levels that will open up opportunities.

We must thank CETHUMS Foundation for the gift that has made ​​Chile and the hundreds of attendees to the seminar on Friday, inviting Professor Mitra to share their experience and findings. Thinking about different ways, to innovate and change, to provide quality education to all children, especially those who today have fewer opportunities, is an urgent challenge.

13 comments:

  1. The modern teaching styles tell us to give the environment of practical hand to the students and don’t disturb them while they work. The basic phenomena behind this is just to create the awareness in a students how they can sole there problems to their own. And how the learn independently. I agree with professor Sugata Mitra research and this type of simple experiments give us big benefits I rely appreciate this idea...
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