Friday, September 27, 2013

Tip of the Week: Tinker, Tinker!: September 30, 2013

Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher and winner of the 2013 TED Prize, is someone I have followed over the years because I am intrigued with his discoveries. I encourage you to listen to (at least) two of his TED Talks. One is titled "The Hole in the Wall" project, or "Kids Can Teach Themselves." Mitra's experiment involved placing a high-speed, internet-connected computer within a hole that was dug into a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, India. With no teacher physically available, children played and tinkered with the computer. By collaborating and troubleshooting with each other, both in person and online, these kids figured out how to use this PC on their own and then taught other kids. This project demonstrates that, "even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge." He asks, "What else can children teach themselves?" 

The second TED Talk I recommend by Sugata is: "His wish: Build a School in the Cloud."  Mitra's wish is to build a place where children can explore and learn on their own - and teach one another - using resources from the worldwide cloud.  Check it out.. 

Why am I such a fan of Sugata's theories and vision? In my personal opinion, I believe that the current structure of education must change (drastically) in order to adequately prepare our youth for THEIR future. Even today, our workforce no longer functions the way our educational system is preparing our students for. The message of 'tinkering, playing, collaborating, failing, and trying again', as shown by Mitra's research, is critically important. Please know that I do NOT advocate that teachers are unnecessary, but in fact, just the opposite. What IS needed to support our children along their educational journeys are more teachers/mentors/facilitators/guides that understand and embrace the idea of 'tinkering' to find solutions to problems and to value the deep learning that takes place while doing so. We adults must learn to think like students.. to ask others, to seek out information from anyone, including their students, to 'tinker, play, fail, succeed' just like children do. Children will seek out information when they are curious about or find value in something.  They will search the Internet, check out YouTube tutorials, chat with their friends, build social networks, and they will try, try, try, try, and try again until they reach their goal(s).  Now isn't that what we all want our kids to do?

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