Sunday, September 19, 2010

A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be.

Educational scientist, Sugata Mitra, changes children's lives by allowing them to teach themselves on computers embedded in walls in impoverished areas in the world. See the website, Hole in the Wall, for more information on this amazing project.

The main idea here is that children learn best when interested. Of course. Self-directed learning and authentic inquiry describe the most fundamental way that humans learn from their experiences with the world around them. It is important to have ownership over our own learning, an investment in something that matters to us, and critical understandings are most often born out of 'figuring things out' for ourselves. This type of experiential learning empowers the learner to feel satisfaction and understanding from the experience, and therefore motivates and drives the learning cycle onwards.

It is important to note that this type of learning doesn't only happen with technology. A child can have deep learning experiences outside in nature, through social interactions and with non-technological objects in the physical environment. It is obvious, however, as we see in numerous examples around the world, across cultures and between stages of development, that technological devices are a focal point of interest and enthusiasm for children. They provide instant feedback and create an interactivity that inspires the user to dig deeper and keep learning. 

Sugata Mitra suggests, "Education is a self-organizing system where learning is an emerging phenomenon." This doesn't mean that teachers are irrelevant, or even gaining insignificance, within the system. Their effectiveness is being challenged. Learning is not something that teachers can teach children. Learning needs to happen collectively, collaboratively and with a positive outlook. A playful, supportive and humble attitude is often a teacher's best quality. This can be the driving force behind inspiring and motivating self-directed learning as well as the essential, underlying safety net used when encouraging learners to become risk-takers and step outside their comfort zones. This is when and where all the good stuff happens. 

1 comment:

  1. I can see the application of the instant feedback technology provides for certain specific skills. However, nothing will ever provide the kind of dynamic instantaneous feedback of a teacher. I worry that technology is already far too perverse in classrooms across the world, and the most fundamental skill of education, communication, is being lost to 1s and 0s. When I read about teachers freaking out that they wont be able to teach the "definition of a negative number" when they cant throw it up on a powerpoint slide because the classroom technology broke... I worry about the future of education. Obviously, this kind of technology is better than powerpoint, but again, its tipping the scale in the wrong direction, in my opinion.