Sugata Mitra On The Child Driven Education

While many TED talks offer inspirational bromides without much substance, this 2010 example (despite its, typical for TED, grandious offer of a simple tech-based solution to a vexing human problem) from Sugata Mitra does contain some significant ideas about how the educational paradigms may have to shift in response to universal access to the internet.

What do I mean by a shift in educational paradigms?

Increasingly, as an educator, I am convinced that co-learning (students helping each other to learn) using digital tools holds great promise for the world's next generation of students.

And I've also recently become wary of the enthusiasm some university administrators have for what they are calling "online education" and  massive open online courses (MOOCs).

While MOOC's are hot right now, is an online lecture really as effective as allowing kids to figure it out together?

If you think broadcasting a (boring) lecture to a wider audience is the future of education - you just don't get it.

What excites me (and Sugata Mitra?) about the new digital tools is that they can empower communities and interactivity - while providing access to all the world's knowledge.

But how many school administrators will simply give today's bad teacher (there are far too many) a web-based course to teach and then - touting their increased enrollment numbers - claim they're offering effective online education?

The idealistic vision behind MOOC's (as I understand it) is to give even the poorest children in the most geographically remote regions of the world access to the world's leading educators.  But if those educators don't know how to use the new tools - and don't encourage the most effective types of learning - why are they considered leaders?

The New World (brought on by advances in technology that will soon have internet-enabled broadband mobile devices in the hands of children all over the world) is challenging educators to come up with new models for teaching and assessing learning.

In my view, the impulse to "teach" in the old ways, and to measure student achievement solely by standards of the Old World, must be resisted.

I realize that my criticisms of university administrators, some Old World educators and some MOOCs are being applied with a broad brush - and Sugata Mitra's idealism cannot paper over the hard work that lies ahead to improve the quality of education using connected-devices - but we're at a point in history where educational fads (e.g., MOOCs and co-learning), especially those that appeal to bean-counters, need to be examined and discussed.

I'm waiting for Mike Monello - who has recently expressed frustration with TED talks ("over TED and the mindless drivel that comes pouring out of it, hailed as "inspiring," or "brilliant." TED Talks are the cheesy motivational posters of the Internet age") - to poke holes...

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