Saturday, September 20, 2008

Self-Organizing Learning

It's not just a new school year, but also a new colony of a school, that makes me interested in people uncovering new patterns of learning in children, e.g., how they learn without any teachers involved.

Sugata Mitra is behind the "Hole in the Wall" project in India where kids were given access to a screen and a keypad and the internet -- and left to learn it by themselves. In his TED talk -- Can Kids Teach Themselves? -- he also addresses the role teacher attitudes play in kids' learning.

Different research -- this time on teenagers who have plenty of quality access to the internet -- reveals the same self-organizing learning at work, thanks to videogames.

I was trying to think about how to watch students learn something technical on their own but in groups (a la Sugata Mitra's experience). Then suddenly there it was, happening in front of me. Keri-Lee teaches ICT in the other end of the resource center and she was busy helping one student at a terminal. Meanwhile, another child had got hold of the interactive whiteboard pen and was experimenting with whatever had been left up on the screen. Three or four students clustered around, shouting out suggestions of what to press and what to try. Made me think we should leave it up running every break and lunchtime, just to let that group learning continue.

It also made me think about how best to introduce our new library search catalog, when it's ready to go. Might just force them to work in groups of four (even though we have enough terminals for a one-to-one session) and make it a treasure hunt with no instructions, e.g., you have 20 minutes to see how many different things you can do with the new online catalog.

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