Sugata Mitra’s New Experiments In Self-teaching: What Do They Mean For The Future?

Dr. Sugata Mitra is an educational researcher whose wish is to build a school in the Cloud in which students can learn from and teach each other. His experiments have uncovered the fact that children can learn and teach themselves (as well as others) without the guidance of an adult when personal and peer interest is present. Mitra’s video about self-teaching can be found here.

In conjunction with Mitra’s video, I believe the greatest characteristic of children that educators and political officials fail to realize is this: Children can teach themselves.

Carver 1Source: John Carver

Take for example a class in which students can explore their personal interests and create a project to focus on that will incorporate a variety of new skills and a final product (even if the final product is knowledge learned from failure). This is Innovations.

Not only do students in Innovations foster their creativity by exploring passions and taking risks, but we learn different skills and teach ourselves. We teach ourselves how to fail and fail beautifully. Not all of our ideas are gold and most projects never blossom to full fruition–but that is not the point.

The concept of Innovations is encompassed in the idea of 21st century skills. In Innovations, we are entrepreneurs discovering our personal brand. We are “out-of-the-box” thinkers and we are students learning the true meaning of resilience. In Innovations, we are students teaching ourselves within a safe environment to fail and learn.

Never Learned in HS Source: Education: Things I Never Learned In High School

In school, we do not learn how to solve a 30-60-90 triangle (use sin, cosine, or tangent depending on which side has the variable) or what our typing speed is on the computer (78 words per minutes). We do not learn when the Moors first took over Andalusia (711 A.D.) or what maize is (corn). In contrast, we learn how to market our own brand. We discover how to communicate and collaborate in a professional world. We accept our mistakes and learn from them. And though we have a teacher to guide us and provide a safe environment for risk-taking, we are learning these things on our own.

Relating this assertion to my own project, I have acquired a variety of skills throughout my social media education mission journey. Though my end goal is to film, produce, and distribute a DVD and I will learn how this process unfolds, I have also learned how to talk in front of a camera. I have learned how to voice my opinion. I have learned how to conduct a professional interview. I have learned how to write eloquent and informative blog posts. I have learned how to manage a professional and personal social media account and the difference between the two. And I have learned how to gracefully accept my mistakes, even if during a Youtube video or live interview. (If you are curious on what I mean, please check out the first few videos on my Youtube channel found here. By about my sixth video I finally conquered my quest in fitting my entire head into the frame. Thank goodness.)

I suppose the next question, then, is what is learning? Is learning defined by the classroom setting? Or sitting in a lecture hall with a teacher at the front of the room? Is learning being taught what is appropriate to know? Or is it only knowing what you are taught?

In my opinion, learning is acquiring information you do not yet possess and sharing with others that information. (And I believe a majority of people will agree with me, though will add more to my succinct summary.) I also believe learning information is different than knowledge, which I will discuss at a later time. What is more hotly debated, however, is how and when learning happens. Though the education system is strongly advocated for, educators also define students as unique and acknowledge all learn in different ways. Why, then, do educators push for standardized testing and learning, when students’ learning is unstandardized?

Supposedly, we students are required to have a base foundation of information when transitioning from the high school to collegiate level and beyond–at least that’s what I’m told. Despite this, employees continue to disappoint when asked to perform specific tasks. When I spoke to Sarah Price, manager of community and social media programs for Google Glass, at the Google Headquarters in California, she mentioned her disappointment when employees cannot fulfill the tasks she wishes for the company. Her statement is transparent for many.

Though schools are meant to prepare students for the workforce, they simply teach us information to regurgitate for a standardized test, not knowledge to utilize throughout our careers.

More information about the current education system and my view on it can be found in my post “American Schools and Their Rigor: Should That Be Our Focus For Aiming Towards Success?

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2 thoughts on “Sugata Mitra’s New Experiments In Self-teaching: What Do They Mean For The Future?

  1. Very thoughtful. So many students could benefit from more flexible self-learning.

    When I finished my Master’s thesis, I was surprised at how much it helped me in the workforce. The knowledge and facts from my thesis were entirely irrelevant to my job. But the skills that I developed in the course of writing the thesis – researching, hypothesizing, clarifying, sheer focus – were invaluable.

    I suspect that some important skills are developed through traditional education regardless of the subject matter: writing, self-discipline, handling successes and failures. But my Master’s program was the first time I had to be truly self-directed, and I developed more skills in that year than I had in many years of previous schooling.

  2. Pingback: Social Media Education | Where Are The Role Models?

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