Thursday, September 9, 2010

Education is a self organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education -- the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

Sugata Mitra's "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.

This is a very interesting and insightful body of work. He starts with the following premise: There are places on Earth, in every country, where, for various reasons, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go.

Then with technology and the Internet, he lets students find there own way to learn, sometimes without any problem to work and sometimes with a problem. He uses very little instructions and no actual "teaching". In some cases he uses what he calls "grandmothers" to encourage the kids.

The results are striking and counter intuitive.

His explanation is that he has created a complex system with emergent properties.

He defines two characteristics of the system:

Self organizing system: A self organizing system is one where the system structure appears without explicit intervention from outside the system.

Emergence: The appearance of a property not previously observed as a functional characteristic of the system.

He then concludes with what I think is a very powerful observation:

Education is a self organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.

1 comment:

  1. Read Will Richardson's comments and questions at this link