Can children teach themselves?

the-child-driven-education                                            The “hole in the wall” project.

I enjoyed todays reading on Sugata Mitra. I managed to print it off the night before, got up early to read it to help prepare myself for the lecture. I’m glad I did so, as the lecture made more sense, and I had a rough idea of what Sandra and Jessie were talking about. I am still arriving to my morning lectures a little late so to read about the subject of the lecture before the lecture is a MUST from now on…and I feel a bit silly for not doing this prior to all my previous lectures…but I guess this is a learning curve.

Now I would like to talk about The “hole in the wall” project…initially I thought to myself,  ATM, you know, a cash machine, a hole in the wall…is this relevant? Feeling a little confused by the title, I read on. You should never judge a book by it’s cover…or by it’s title! As the “hole in the wall” project has absolutely nothing to do with cash….well, I’m not quite sure about that and won’t go into that part just yet!

Sugata Mitra came up with(accidentally?? I am not sure on this either)an idea for an experiment which consisted of computers connected to the internet being situated in rural areas, areas less likely to have well-built schools with well-trained, qualified, inspiring teachers, such as Kalkaji in India…These computers are literally positioned in a brick wall, outside, in the slums.. where children have access to them as often or as little as they wish. With no adult supervision. The children aged between 6-14 could not contain their curiosities and had no trouble whatsoever giving this computer thing a whirl. During our lecture we watched a young boy, alone, using one of the computers. This young boy had never used a computer before and must have thought to himself ‘ what the actual hell is this thing’ who knows but by the expression on his face when he put his finger on the directional pad, and moved the cursor across the screen…wow…he seemed very intrigued as to what this is, what’s it’s purpose and how do I use it. The young boy then went onto accidentally hit the button which to the boys surprise changed the page the computer was currently on to another page. Of course this shocked the boy who expressed this through his face as he quickly lifted his head as if to say …did I just do that,is that meant to happen.  Which encouraged the boy to maybe push the button again over a different icon or symbol to see what happens. This is great as this could potentially give these more unfortunate children in rural areas the opportunity to broaden their knowledge. These kids could not read english, they had no understanding of english literature. Yet being exposed to this experiment they all took to it very well, considering they had never used these technologies before and self-taught themselves how to use it and read english…maybe not in the correct context…for example one of the young children started to use the word file, which he had learnt from using a computer and started to use the word in his day-to-day conversations, ‘put the bread in the cupboard’, soon became ‘put the bread in the file’. I can see the logic here and it seems to make sense as keeping a document in a file is similar to keeping bread in a cupboard same concept different context.

From the one young boy using the computer alone quickly turns to a group of children all working together to find out more about this machine. Some standing at the front of the screen with others behind all observing the ‘leaders’ every move, every click, every icon. All having an input into the activity on the screen. For example if the ‘leader’ did not know what move to take next someone watching would shout out what they thought the ‘leader’ should do. Just one computer connects all these children not just to each other but to the rest of the world. The children after time started producing small video clips and even music within a few months of using a computer ….what an achievement!!

Sandra mentioned something that has stuck in my mind since, she said something along the lines of , does age stop a child from learning, when is a child too young to learn. Sandra explained how in Sweden where she grew up being too young to learn was pretty much non-existent. At the age of 4 children would be packed off to work, to contribute into the family, to earn money to feed the extra mouth and to secure the futures of the rest of the family ie mum and dad. When mum and dad can longer work their children already have the skills to bring the money in to keep the family afloat. Some would see this as neglect, absolutely diabolical to send a 4-year-old off to work but this is their culture, this is all they know, it makes perfect sense to them as a whole. But to send a 4-year-old living in London of to work everyday to provide for their family  is most definitely looked at as neglect to the child and without doubt the childs parents would have a lot of explaining to do. This type of behaviour is non acceptable and to be really honest with you ..again I am not sure on this. Because when my eldest was 2 years old she could arrange pieces to a puzzle in the correct way, identify certain objects by sound, feed herself and almost use the toilet by herself. No structure to the learning but through either playing alone or through observation, as sometimes children do learn well watching others and then ‘giving it a go’ themselves. But would it have been acceptable for me to send my 4-year-old off to work in a supermarket?

I believe we start learning from the moment we are conceived, after a little time in the womb we can hear our mothers heartbeat, recognise our fathers voice, detect light and dark, knows when mum is trying to sleep and can tell by motion when mum is active. Is that not learning at a very young age? Self taught learning? I have been bombarded with questions…constantly, without answers!! What is wrong and what is right?? If our young ones have the capability to learn at such a young age why do some prevent that from happening till they are ‘told’ to send their children to school to have a structured learning day via a ‘teacher’, a ‘leader’, someone standing in front of a blackboard calling out ‘instructions’…..? This is only a small percentage of the questions that have almost cut my sleeping hours down to a minimal!

Do we need teachers?? What effect do teachers have on pupils??

Which leads me to Granny Cloud and Digital Textbooks.

Let me start with Granny cloud. Skype. Granny is someone (granny may suggest an old lady,retired) who has the time to have interactive periods with children in places like India via the internet to share knowledge, play games, for example it was snowing in ‘grannys’ garden yet baking hot where the children were, ‘granny’ was showing the children what her garden looked like in the winter and these children could relate to this as they had a garden which they nurtured to bloom. Easter, had just been and ‘granny’ was showing the children an easter egg..a chocolate easter egg. Which was something we briefly discussed at uni. Was it fair for ‘granny’ to show the children a chocolate easter egg? or could she have been more sensitive to these children as they do not have these luxuries at hand like we do and shown them an easter bunny? I am not sure..again. As not showing how we celebrate easter (with chocolate) would be lying to the children? Granny was gaining knowledge and so were these children…sharing cultures…and so on.

Digital Text books. Is this not just simply replacing a teachers role? Do we replace bad teachers with technology? Do we not need teachers to share their personal experiences with pupils? I remember being taught a little ryhme to make the word I was trying to spell more memorable for me and even now I pass this ryhme on to children having the same difficulties…with the same word..Is this not a perfect example of why we need teachers?? Can a computer  share these types of things?  Again I have many questions and am not sure if I have the answer or will ever find an answer…will it be the right or wrong answer to all these questions rotating around education and its purpose.

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3 thoughts on “Can children teach themselves?

  1. I am really loving these insights into your other modules! Can you try to connect what happens there to what we are trying to learn as those who are becoming educationalists?
    One thing that strikes me – if we are born as learning animals – if we can learn so much so quickly – because we want or need to – then what is wrong with ‘school’?
    We send our learning animals off to school and suddenly (in the West) all the lights seem to go out. It cannot be the fault of the children – they have no choice in the matter… So what are we as a society doing wrong? And are we learning anything in our module that could help provoke positive change? Best, Sandra S

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    1. Sandra…..you ask the best questions! 🙂
      I’m not sure if I have the right answer but I do have a strong feeling our teachers have a duty…which some do not step up to! Teachers…some teachers…do see their job as a job…a chore as such maybe. I mean what’s the point in working if you do not like the work you do… this effects our younger generation …puts a huge barrier between the child and the learning…at such a young age….is that the correct guidance for a young child…to be taught in such a boring ..yawn….way because the ‘teacher’ has no enthusiasm for the subject..has a naughty(probably bored)child in class..make it fun..make it interactive, hands on…lets get messy AND LEARN!! At the beginning of learning getting children engaged..wanting to learn more and more as they grow the want to learn more grows too! I also believe strongly that children need support at home for many reasons.(This may need a separate blog) 🙂

      Children and schools in the west……please……teachers are not even turning up for lessons…i won’t call it work…not turning up yet pocketing the cash…the cash that should so rightly be spent on facilitating these children who so desperately want to learn with what these children rightly deserve …teachers who want to teach.

      We as society fall into the trap of “my child is at the best school..in the best borough..because tracey and claire said it’s a great school” ….probably full of teachers who don’t want to teach they just want a wage packet … which is dumb… but claire and tracey said it is so great…I think there are a few things wrong with society!! And our schools/teachers/government….and parents!

      Provoke positive change ….. I will keep questioning…keep learning and hopefully pass my knowledge I am being taught by wonderful teachers at a wonderful facility on to the next …just being taught by teachers who want me to learn has had a huge effect on me, opened my eyes and made me question why everyone has such a sit back and let someone else deal with it attitude.

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