Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Future of Learning

Sugata Mitra is known for his "Hole in the Wall" research project in India in 1999. He's known for the TED Talks he has given. He's known for being the TED winner for 2013.

Today I had the privilege of listening to him for 60 minutes as the opening keynote speaker at EduTech 2014 in Brisbane. This post has a few of my observations and then links to his previous research.

Let's set the record straight from the start. This guy is so genuine. He's a modest, thoughtful, dedicated, intelligent, sensitive, reflective researcher. He speaks from his heart and his mind.

So - what did he have for us today? Sooo much ... where to begin ...

I'll begin where he did. He gave the now standard "today's schools are designed to produce conformity, obedience, instruction following" that is now the hallmark of many - Sir Ken Robinson in particular. But that's OK - because there are young teachers at this conference for whom the rationale for educations systems being constructed the way they are might be new.

But he quickly moved to the killer stuff for me. Here's my paraphrased backstory. He started some research in a non-English speaking area. The kids were Tamil. They were 12 years old. The question he left them with was something about DNA. They didn't speak English. The resources he left them with were basically Google and in English. As he states "a pretest would see then score zero, and when he returned in 3 months, a post test would show them score zero". He was stunned at the results. And so presumably is anyone who has followed the story.

So, he's gone on to show that 9 year olds left alone with an internet connection can answer GCSE questions and retain the information for 4 years!

He asks the question "Is knowing obsolete?" Not to say that "knowing how (and when) to know" is obsolete - quite different!

From his research and commentary we know that examinations see students at their lowest "ebb" for learning. We know that the "friendly adult" (aka Granny cloud) is a powerful motivator for kids. We know that his SOLE ( self organising learning environments) work. We know that these are potentially in conflict with what most think of  as 1:1 technology initiatives. We think (well, he does, and I don't know enough about them, but I know he knows more than me!!) that these SOLE environments are on the edge of chaos according to "Complexity Theory".

So what are my takeaways ...

  • explore through practice these ideas 
  • get some big questions applicable to our environment
  • get some supporting "friendly adults" to support
  • change the collaborative space
  • enjoy the ride and the results
So - here are some of the backstories from Sugata. Thanks for the opportunity to share!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rob - really enjoyed the concept - schools in the cloud and certainly we must explore - just wonder in OECD countries whether you might get some engagement this way but some might not have the same motivation. This shows through with entrepreneurial research - people in India and China are much more motivated to change their social status than OECD countries, hence show greater entrepreneurial activity. Would the research replicate in our worlds, for our ethnicities? It certainly should become part of how we provide learning opportunities. Also the cloud is not always accurate with information - i guess students work that out? - H