Sunday, June 16, 2013

You can Google that: Rethinking our approach to Education

"Would a person with good handwriting, spelling and grammar and instant recall of multiplication tables be considered a better candidate for a job than, say, one who knows how to configure a peer-to-peer network of devices, set up an organisation-wide Google calendar and find out where the most reliable sources of venture capital are, I wonder? The former set of skills are taught in schools, the latter are not."

So begins an editorial by Sugata Mitra, the winner of the one million dollar TED prize in 2013, in a Guardian.UK piece called  Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education. He is a proponent of something he calls Self Organized Learning Environment’s (SOLE) and his “Hole in the Wall” experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they’re motivated by curiosity and peer interest.

We tend to be hanging onto romanticized ideas of education and skills that are no longer relevant. Education, according to Mitra, should look something like this:

"If examinations challenge learners to solve problems the way they are solved in real life today, the educational system will change for ever. It is a small policy change that is required. Allow the use of the internet and collaboration during an examination.
If we did that to exams,  the curriculum would have to be different. We would not need to emphasize facts or figures or dates. The curriculum would have to become questions that have strange and interesting answers. "Where did language come from?", "Why were the pyramids built?", "Is life on Earth sustainable?", "What is the purpose of theater?"
Questions that engage learners in a world of unknowns. Questions that will occupy their minds through their waking hours and sometimes their dreams. 
Teaching in an environment where the internet and discussion are allowed in exams would be different. The ability to find things out quickly and accurately would become the predominant skill. The ability to discriminate between alternatives, then put facts together to solve problems would be critical. That's a skill that future employers would admire immensely."
You can read the whole article here. His TED talk is below.

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