Sugata Mitra: Kids Teaching Kids

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What is learning?
According to Richard E. Mayer, a professor of psychology at the University of California, we are still “trying to figure out how learning works”. He calls our attempt the “science of learning“. I agree with Mayer. As an educator, my role is to help people learn. But how do I do that? How do I facilitate learning? Mayer and most teachers claim that we can help people learn through instruction and assessment.

What does a teacher do?
Teaching is viewed as the transfer of information from the teacher to the student. The result of the transfer is learning. I have been called a teacher for over 30 years. However, I have never felt that my students learned because of my teaching. In fact, in 1978, I told a grade 11 class that I couldn’t teach them English, but that they could learn it. I continued and shocked them even more when I said, “in fact, I can’t teach you anything”. The next day, the principal called me in and reprimanded me for saying such things. Apparently, the kids and their parents were outraged. The principal asked me to apologize to the kids and never say such things again.

Was I right or wrong? Can students learn on their own? If you believe that teachers are essential for learning, you will find Applying the Science of Learning by Richard E. Mayer of great value. However, if you believe that learning can take place anywhere, at any time, and without the presence of a teacher, you will find the work by Professor Sugata Mitra, Ackoff & Greenberg, Eric Marcos, and kids teaching kids week in Australia of interest.

Kids Teaching Kids
Kids may learn best by teaching their peers.

Turning Learning Right Side Up
Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg in Turning Learning Right Side Up claim that it’s time we stopped focusing on teaching and paid more attention to learning. To get the gist of what they claim, listen to the following audio recording and article by Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Is it possible to learn without a teacher?

According to the “hole-in-the-wall” experiments, kids can teach themselves when motivated to do so. In fact, in the studies conducted by Professor Sugata Mitra, the children not only taught themselves, but they taught their friends, too. The children learned because they were curious and wanted to know.

So what do people need in order to learn?

People need motivation, social learning, opportunities to teach and share information with friends, encouragement and technology. How does technology facilitate learning? If it’s that simple, why teaching still more popular with teachers than with students? Why are teachers doing most of the learning as Ackoff and Greenberg claim?

Learn more about the “hole-in-the-wall” and about using technology in remote areas of the world. Join, professor Sugata Mitra in a conversation on WizIQ conversation.

Join Dr. Nellie Deutsch and Dr. Kalyan Chattopadhyay in a live conversation with Professor Sugata Mitra. Professor Sugata Mitra is a visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in Boston, MA, and a Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education for Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK.

Born in Calcutta, India, Dr. Sugata is famous for his “Hole-in-the wall” experiments such as the “Granny Cloud” project of volunteers. Professor Mitra was self-taught and has a firm belief that others can do the same through technology and the Internet.

The session will be conducted on August 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm (EST).

WizIQ, Online learning

Dr. Nellie Deutsch has a doctorate in educational leadership with a specialization in curriculum, technology, and instruction. She conducts research and writes on fully online and blended learning programs, presents online and face-to-face at conferences, and organizes professional development workshops to educators worldwide. Nellie is passionate about learning and helping others reach their goals. She has a relationship-based learner-centred approach to life and learning. She consults, writes, and presents (face-to-face & fully online) on e-learning. She uses Moodle for her course management system and WizIQ education online to connect to colleagues and students in real time. Nellie is a faculty member of Atlantic University, the program coordinator at the World Association for Online Education (WAOE), on the program committee and reviewer at EdMedia, on the steering committee for computer assisted language learning interest section (CALL-IS) at TESOL International Association, manager, designer & lead facilitator of Moodle for Teachers (M4T) workshops at Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL). Nellie has been an ambassador to WizIQ since 2007. She organizes annual and tri-annual MOOCs such as Moodle MOOC in June, October, and February, Second Life MOOC in April, and Well-Being MOOC in September, online conferences such as CO09-CO14 on February, and Moodlemoot 2011-2014 in August that are sponsored by WizIQ.

10 Comments

  • Reply August 24, 2012

    Leo JC

    How can we call ourselves teachers or ‘professors’ if we don’t even know what teaching is? Does teaching only involves giving instructions and assessments? We all know it requires much more than that. How about rapport? attention? care? ….?

    • Reply August 24, 2012

      Leo JC

      *involve

      • Reply August 24, 2012

        Dr. Nellie Deutsch

        Involve is a great word, Leo. Can you explain how you view in the teaching/learning context?

    • Reply August 24, 2012

      Dr. Nellie Deutsch

      We know what teaching is, but does it lead to learning for someone else other than the one doing the teaching?

  • Reply August 24, 2012

    Dr. Nellie Deutsch

    Leo and others, Is it about teaching or learning? I feel that teachers spend more time on controlling students, the material, and themselves instead of on learning.

  • Reply August 26, 2012

    Dr. Nellie Deutsch

    Join Sugata Mirta in a conversation on WizIQ on Friday August 31, 2012. Read more about the event on the blog.

  • Reply August 26, 2012

    Janet Abercrombie

    Students learn tons when they are teaching other students. One of the greatest ways to get technology in all classrooms is to teach one classroom. That classroom of students goes into another classroom and pairs up 1:1 to teach the next class (and so on).

    One of the great learnings: When you do not allow student “teachers” to touch another child’s computer or iPad, the “teacher” must use language to explain procedures or use their own device to model procedures. It does wonders for students’ language skills.

  • Reply August 26, 2012

    Dr. Nellie Deutsch

    Hi Janet, I love the idea of students going on to the next class to teach. There’s so much learning in that. I totally agree with you that uUsing language whether in speaking and/or writing is a great way for teachers and students to encourage verbal communication. Have you documented your work in the classroom via video or image or writing? I would love to get a collection of audio, video or text files documenting what teachers do so I can share it with the world.

  • Reply September 1, 2012

    Theresa Heary-Selah

    Hi there- There are so many wonderful possibilities with these ideas and this technology. I keep thinking though, of the research that suggests that when people work together without an articulated hierarchy, the order that develops is not necessarily the healthiest of orders- often resulting in the most powerful person (not the most logical nor the most generous) leading, and the meeker people are silenced. As teachers implement this technology, are there ways that they can prevent this dynamic from occurring?

    • Reply September 1, 2012

      Dr. Nellie Deutsch

      Theresa, you have asked an excellent question about the role of a teacher if the teacher were to implement the hole-in-the-wall technology. I would like to ask you and others another question. What technology would you use in the physical or online classroom as a result of of the hole-in-the-wall experiments?

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