Fires in the Mind

The hole in the wall

I’ve heard of Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, in which he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching. But the images in his TED talk really underline for me how much curiosity and the shared interest of a peer group drive our motivation to learn.

Mitra concludes with, “education is a self-organizing system where learning is an emergent phenomenon.” What does that mean for how we should be setting up our formal learning environments? Shouldn’t we be setting up a “granny cloud” of mentors such as Mitra describes? Shouldn’t classrooms be much messier, livelier places, driven by mystery and inquiry?

If so, we’ll have to learn in another culture altogether—one that tolerates and even promotes the chaos of youthful energies when they are going where they want to go. What conditions make that possible? I am waiting to hear your ideas!

P.S. I’ll send a complimentary copy of Fires in the Mind to the best responses that come in this week.

“Say please!”

6 Responses to “The hole in the wall”

  1. Kathryn Knox says:

    As we break out of the box of traditions that limit learning and passion(such as seat time, standardization of method and assessment), and expand creative options such as the Hole in the Wall applications, the School of One in New York or blended schooling, we have such potential! I’m so excited about this to change lives around the world, and I want to be involved in this sea change.

  2. Nahid Husain says:

    First of all, this is fantastic and absolutely mind-blowing! As a student in London doing a mini-study on student voice and motivation, this talk, as well as your book, rings a pretty loud bell. It is amazing that despite the vast improvements in education around the world over the years, so many teachers still go into classrooms with the expectation of filling students’ minds with information. So many times, teachers forget that students come with their own interests and knowledge and with their own passions. I don’t think that this change in attitude towards students will change overnight, but I do think it is a change that needs to happen. We need to be able to use students’ interest and build off of it to offer them the “deep learning” that Mitra has achieved. And we need to be able to let them develop this learning on their own, through inquiry-based structures and maybe one day, through SOLEs and “granny clouds.” As a teacher, I know that I will definitely take advantage of these ideas in order to increase motivation for my own students in the future and to spark their minds and hearts with the love of learning that they should all hold.

  3. Min L says:

    We need to free the children out into the real world and allow them to explore in a safe way. There needs to be time and space for discussion and investigating further if there’s interest. This can be accomplished via homeschooling or organizations where people get together for a set purpose like 4-H or other community action groups. Imagine giving a group of young people the tools to solve real life problems…the sky’s the limit! But first, there needs to be trust.

  4. You’re right, community organizations can do a lot to help kids get out and explore the world of learning in a non-school context. Can you tell us more about the trust-building you envision? Where do you think the trust is breaking down? Between schools and community organizations? Between students and adults?

  5. Min L says:

    I believe we need to trust that children are capable and not be spoon-fed information that has been broken down into bits and pieces. Young children learn through immersion and by asking questions about the world. Since becoming a parent, I have learned to let go of my preconceived notions of how to teach and follow my child instead. I apologize for being so general.

  6. John Patten says:

    Just thinking out loud, …. but how are “we” as adults (educators,parents) going to promote this to our students when we are just as guilty of “tell us what to do to get an A grade as adults?” Our emphasis on national standards, making such a big deal of a single assessment, educating students in the most economical and efficient manner as we can, valuing and devaluing teachers, etc., etc., stifles our creativity, and provides a “plan” that promotes the least resistance and mediocrity. At times I feel we are talking out of both sides of our mouths. We have all been schooled under the current educational system, maybe our difficulty with promoting this type of learning is that we have no “hooks” to hang these ideas upon and we need much more scaffolding than a couple TedTalks. Thanks for sharing!

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