I have been enjoying some Ted talks recently, now that I’m officially a teacher but not graduated…but have QTS (I’m a little confused at how the process works exactly but safe to say I have a lot of spare time now whilst waiting to get some supply work going). In my attempts to continue some form of professional development between this stage of ‘qualified’ and ’employed’ I came across this talk by Sugata Mitra who has very interesting things to say regarding children being initiators of learning in 2007:
All very promising. He shows that if deprived children in India are given a computer, despite never having seen one before (an assumption but a very likely assumption in my opinion) then they will be able to learn how to use it by exploring it and sharing the knowledge between a group. This seems very key to Mitra, the individual learning always led to group learning. However, after watching the talk and considering his implications for education, I felt left wanting a bit more verification. Yes, if I placed any child in front of a computer who had never seen a computer they would eventually learn how to use it. There is an element of interactivity from the computer though…the child is receiving instant feedback from the machine from what they are doing.
I recognise Mitra’s premise is that maybe we do not need adult-guided learning as much as we suppose which is fair enough. However, what if I placed a writing exercise in front of the child? Would they be as self-motivated then to explore and learn? How could Mitra’s findings have any relation to what could be achieved in a classroom, never mind a classroom in England?
Some answers to those questions began to become clear in the next address Mitra gave in 2010:
He is certainly a fan of this ‘Hole in the Wall’ idea but here I can now see some relevance for me personally. The example he gave that intrigued me the most was the class in Italy toward the end. The children were given questions such as ‘Where is Calcutta?’ and a computer. Using tools to translate and locate the information the children were able to answer, even who Pythagoras was and what he did (besides being Jason’s sidekick in the enjoyable but factually degenerate Atlantis series on the BBC, with Hercules, which I think underlines one of the problems of where children receive information from these days – fair enough tell stories about mythical characters but don’t involve real life leading thinkers like Pythagoras)!
Despite all this, I couldn’t help notice one key point in this particular example of the Italian class Mitra worked with. Yes, the children were exploring the information themselves but there was one important factor – the adult initiated the learning. They asked the question. The teacher still played a vital role in the learning process, whether or not they helped the children find the answer.
So, I’m not completely convinced that I could leave an object in the middle of my future classroom and expect the children to gain a worthwhile learning experience from it. However, I think it is important to take away the thought that it might be worth giving the children more responsibility in their learning. This of course would not and should not be the primary method of learning – in my opinion there should not be a primary method, rather a variety, an arsenal if you will, of teaching and learning methods implemented – this just being one of them.
I do still have another video to watch from 2013 by Mitra – am interested to see if he bases his claims on more Holes in the Wall or some other research method…