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Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts 230

Posted by timothy
from the not-quite-unschooling dept.
theodp writes "Autodidacticism — self-education or self-directed learning — is nothing new, but the Internet holds the promise of taking it to the masses. Sugata Mitra, an Indian physicist whose earlier educational experiments inspired the film Slumdog Millionaire, is convinced that, with the Internet, kids can learn by themselves so long as they are in small groups and have well-posed questions to answer. And now, Mitra's Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) are going global, with testing in schools in Australia, Colombia, England and India. On their own, children can get about 30% of the knowledge required to pass exams, so to go further, Dr. Mitra supplements SOLE with e-mediators, amateur volunteers who use Skype to help kids learn online."
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Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts

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  • Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:45AM (#34450832)
    As far as programming goes, I've managed to teach myself the entire content of the courses I'm taking during my summer breaks and weekends. Admittedly, it is just basic stuff, but I now feel like I'm wasting $10k a year on schooling that I don't really need.
    • Re:Heck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:50AM (#34450856)

      I now feel like I'm wasting $10k a year on schooling that I don't really need.

      You're not buying schooling, you're buying an expensive piece of paper, called a diploma, to get past the HR filter that requires it.

      • Re:Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:59AM (#34450924) Journal
        Yep, nowadays you can learn a lot of stuff from the internet. For those it's more a matter of whether you want the "piece of paper" or not. Just from youtube alone you can learn undergrad stuff from MIT/Stanford/UNSW and even universities in India, guitar licks, to making a japanese omelette/omelet (tamagoyaki).

        But some stuff requires physical equipment and tools that most people don't have access to. In an alternate universe public libraries would have physical tools, workshops and labs, rather than physical books - because books can be more easily duplicated :).
      • You're not buying schooling, you're buying an expensive piece of paper, called a diploma, to get past the HR filter that requires it.

        Which is in it's self a problem. HR is not hiring paper.

        • Which is in it's self a problem. HR is not hiring paper.

          Seems sensible, if it's been written on by you.

      • Re:Heck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Duradin (1261418) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:54AM (#34451298)

        If all you're getting is a diploma and not schooling that you need perhaps you should take courses more advanced than the into course.

        It's college. You pick your classes. You also pick your college. So if your education doesn't seem worth it perhaps the school isn't the problem.

        • Re:Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Palshife (60519) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @05:11PM (#34453942) Homepage

          This. College is the absolute best place to explore targeted, interesting disciplines which you won't know about by cruising Wikipedia. If you're not getting your money's worth, you're doing it wrong.

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          It's college. You pick your classes. You also pick your college. So if your education doesn't seem worth it perhaps the school isn't the problem.

          Really? Out of 126 credits that I'm required to take, only about 40 of them were things I was allowed to select. And 18 of those had to be outside of my major (art classes, humanities classes, etc - things I'm not incredibly interested in as a Comp Sci major). Then I had to take some health/phys ed credits. When it comes down to it, I think there are maybe 12 or 15 credits of classes that I'm taking because I actually kinda want to take them (even those, I only had about 15 classes to choose from - there ar

      • by Gerzel (240421)

        Yes except some people learn in different ways and need the schooling that is provided with the expensive piece of paper.

        Also the paper is a statement that the issuing organization believes you to be at a certain level of competence in the area that the paper specifies. The schooling is part of what helps them determine that as simple tests are inadequate in most cases.

    • Re:Heck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:53AM (#34450878)
      Teaching yourself is fine, but very few people are capable of doing it properly without a lot of help. Sure when it comes to something like programming you can learn on your own. What you're generally paying for with tuition is guidance and an assurance to future employers that you know what you're doing or more accurately that you've at least seen the materials.

      But in general, most people lack the framework to make sense of what they're learning. Even with a degree I run into a fair number of people who don't understand more than just the basics of what was taught, they've gone to no effort to understand the whys and hows that go along with the whats involved.

      If this is becoming big that's a very serious problem. The internet isn't really a place to gain an informed opinion over things. There's a lot of noise and very little quality signal to use and without having a degree to start with it's pretty much futile in terms of knowing what is and is not reliable information.
      • Teaching yourself is fine, but very few people are capable of doing it properly without a lot of help.

        We're naturally talking about people who are capable of doing so.

        Sure when it comes to something like programming you can learn on your own.

        Actually, you can teach yourself about any subject that has a vast amount of information written about it, provided you're 'capable' of teaching yourself at all.

        What you're generally paying for with tuition is guidance and an assurance to future employers that you know what you're doing or more accurately that you've at least seen the materials.

        There's no 'assurance' to future employers. People with degrees aren't necessarily any better than anyone else. Though, you mentioned that yourself.

        The internet isn't really a place to gain an informed opinion over things.

        It is if lots of quality information is there.

        There's a lot of noise and very little quality signal to use and without having a degree to start with it's pretty much futile in terms of knowing what is and is not reliable information.

        Perhaps for some subjects, but it's certainly not true for many of them. I've seen lots of q

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Actually, you can teach yourself about any subject that has a vast amount of information written about it, provided you're 'capable' of teaching yourself at all.

          I disagree with this one. Some fields are sufficiently difficult that being "self taught" would either require someone with an exceptional intellect, or an unreasonable amount of time. I would say this is particularly true of abstract math e.g. topology, abstract algebra, etc. Anyone could pick up the basics in those subjects, assuming they had sufficient mathematical background to begin with, but I would be surprised if all but an extreme minority of people could really understand what they are doing

          • Some fields are sufficiently difficult that being "self taught" would either require someone with an exceptional intellect, or an unreasonable amount of time.

            You're going to use an unreasonable amount of time either way. Notice the word "capable."

            I would say this is particularly true of abstract math e.g. topology, abstract algebra, etc.

            It depends on whether there's enough information about it and if you're intelligent enough to grasp it on your own. Otherwise, self teaching in that subjects obviously isn't a good idea.

            but I would be surprised if all but an extreme minority of people could really understand what they are doing in those fields without some sort of formal education.

            It's not really a surprise if a vast amount of quality information (notice the word quality) is there. I don't think it's just an "extreme minority," but certainly less than the amount of people who require being taught.

            • It depends on whether there's enough information about it and if you're intelligent enough to grasp it on your own. Otherwise, self teaching in that subjects obviously isn't a good idea.

              (Emphasis mine.) Yes, if you are intelligent enough to grasp the material on your own. This becomes increasingly rare as the material becomes increasingly advanced; there is a point at which only an extreme minority of people are capable of understanding the material on their own, without a teacher's help (even further is the point at which only an extreme minority are capable of understanding the material even with a teacher's help).

              • This becomes increasingly rare as the material becomes increasingly advanced;

                That depends on whether the information is available and is quality. Even if it is as rare as you say, the information should still be available to these people.

                • At what point did I argue that any information should be unavailable to people who are interested in it? Quite the opposite, I think that given the Internet, people should be able to access any information they want, and they should be able to do so at little to no cost. There is no excuse for barriers to information in the 21st century, especially not in a developed nation like the United States.

                  It is also worth keep in mind that anyone who lives near a university can probably gain access to its libra
                  • At what point did I argue that any information should be unavailable to people who are interested in it?

                    You didn't... and I never said you did. I was merely stating that it should be available. There's at least some people capable of doing so, and if self teaching is what is best for them, then I think it's great that they have that option.

        • Teaching yourself is fine, but very few people are capable of doing it properly without a lot of help.

          We're naturally talking about people who are capable of doing so.

          Apparently "people who are capable of doing so" includes slum kids in India. That may still exclude many, but it's more than "very few".

          • Being able to 'teach yourself' is one of those 'x-factors'. You either have it or you don't. Even if there is a very very small percentage of the population who are capable we're still talking about millions of individuals.

            Those who are capable and motivated will persist and succeed.
            • Re:who's qualified? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by HungryHobo (1314109) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:34PM (#34451622)

              Hell yes.
              I know 2 or 3 people like this.

              One of them is a college dropout who works all hours.
              He's one of those busy people, you know the ones, from the saying "if you need something done give it to someone who's busy"

              I mentioned 1 way hashes to him over a pint when we were chatting about a problem he was having in work to do with checking for duplicate details without violating data protection.
              A few weeks later I chat to him and he's educated himself about hash functions beyond what would be covered in a CS degree.

              I sat down with him one afternoon and went through the basics of how to write a simple "hello world" program and compile it and how to do simple loops.
              just enough to get past the "where do I start" bit with coding.
              6 months later he's writing applications for his office.

              I mentioned data structures and various search algortihms to him when he was talking about how his code was always far far slower than the professional coders stuff.
              I fully expect him to find out next time I talk to him that he's gone off and educated himself about datastructures and algorithms beyond what a normal cs course covers.

              He'll go far in life... or, considering the workload he takes on, go nuts.... but probably go far in life.
              He has the tallent and drive to educate himself while working 2 jobs and isn't afraid of learning.

            • Being able to 'teach yourself' is one of those 'x-factors'.

              Being able to "teach yourself" is normal. That's what human beings evolved to do and children start doing it from day 1 of life.

              The reason you believe this skill is so rare is because modern educational methods were specifically designed to inhibit this natural ability. See John Taylor Gatto's book linked else where in the thread.

            • Being able to 'teach yourself' is one of those 'x-factors'. You either have it or you don't.

              Anyone can do it - in fact I'm writing a book to tell you how, it's called "Teach Yourself Autodidactism."

              • Anyone can do it - in fact I'm writing a book to tell you how, it's called "Teach Yourself Autodidactism."

                I find you ideas interesting and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • by hedwards (940851)
            There's literally tens of millions of geniuses out there, but we generally agree that there's very few geniuses out there. Other wise it wouldn't be considered special when one comes into contact with one.

            Apart from the bigotry of your implication that this should be less common in the slums of India, you haven't got a particularly strong point.

            Anybody can teach oneself checkers, or chess for that matter, they aren't likely to be able to become a chess grandmaster by self education, but it could happe
        • by hedwards (940851)
          I call bullshit on everything you said.

          Anybody that's capable of teaching oneself already does that. Having a vast amount of information available means that it's less likely that you'll actually learn anything as a result of information overload and an inability to filter out the crap from the stuff that's actually correct.

          There is indeed an assurance involved, that's why employers take applicants with a degree from an accredited institution of higher learning over those that don't have a degree or h
          • Anybody that's capable of teaching oneself already does that.

            Probably. When did I say otherwise?

            Having a vast amount of information available means that it's less likely that you'll actually learn anything as a result of information overload and an inability to filter out the crap from the stuff that's actually correct.

            Yes, because when I mentioned a vast amount of information I was referring to a mix of correct and incorrect information.

            There is indeed an assurance involved, that's why employers take applicants with a degree from an accredited institution of higher learning over those that don't have a degree or have one from an institution which isn't accredited.

            There is? That's odd. I didn't know it was 100% certain that someone with a degree knew what they were talking about! Here I thought it only increased the likelihood of that! Silly me.

            It doesn't matter how much quality information is out there when mixed in with bunk and unfortunately the bunk often times looks as real as the stuff which is real. Just look at all the crap which passes for medical research if you want to know what I mean.

            It does matter how much quality information is out there. Seriously, do you think I was talking about subjects that have a mix of correct and incorrect information? No. I o

          • Anybody that's capable of teaching oneself already does that.

            That's true, but it misses the point.

            Very few people are capable of teaching themselves because their ability to do so did not survive the conditioning of schooling, wherein the elimination of said ability is an explicit design characteristic of those institutions.

      • I agree, and I think that while the Internet is a great tool that puts information out there to be accessed more easily, these people aren't doing anything a small percentage of people haven't been doing since the beginning of time. Some people can do very well with self-teaching--in fact, they thrive on it and do better than in a classroom environment--and those people have always been more inclined to seek out the textbooks, articles, manuals, documentation, whatever it is they need to learn. The Internet
      • Even with a degree I run into a fair number of people who don't understand more than just the basics of what was taught

        I'm not sure why the fact that you have a degree should affect what other people understand.

      • Re:Heck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kijori (897770) <ward,jake&gmail,com> on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:54PM (#34451760)

        Absolutely agree. Heavy use of the internet to learn seems to me to lead to a very superficial level of learning - enough to sound knowledgeable in a soundbite, but not enough to actually understanding what you're reading about or do anything non-trivial with it. It's something that I think is very apparent on Slashdot; there are a great many posts made by people who have "learnt" about something via Wikipedia but who have completely misunderstood, or over-generalised, or misinterpreted it but who remain convinced that they are experts. It perhaps comes down to the old truism that the more you learn the more you realise how ignorant you are - and as a corollary, that when you know very little you are generally unable to tell just how little you know. A good teacher can guide your learning, because he/she has a solid general understanding of the subject area. Without one you're liable to stumble across a tail and assume that it's the entire elephant.

      • Teaching yourself is fine, but very few people are capable of doing it properly without a lot of help.
        But in general, most people lack the framework to make sense of what they're learning.

        I agree with you. I think the solution to this is Problem-Based Learning [wikipedia.org]. That is, allowing a specific problem that the learner faces (or has chosen to confront) to act as the framework that guides him or her into new learning. The outcomes of the learning are judged on the degree to which the learner can do something in the real world with that learning. This is perfect for the autodidacts, since classrooms, while efficient for imparting knowledge, are not very good places to assess it.
        However, an

      • The internet isn't really a place to gain an informed opinion over things.

        Yes, you are correct. Opinions should all be tossed out. Pure info is what the Internet is all about. Pick a language and a FOSS project, develop away, it's a great learning process that I've found much more "educational" than formal education.

        Teach yourself C++: C++ Annotations [icce.rug.nl], C++ Language Tutorial [cplusplus.com]... ... or Perl: Perl programming documentation [perl.org], or JavaScript [mozilla.org],
        or Java [oracle.com].

        Just search the web, you'll find everything that any professor will ever be able to teach you online. Need guidance, clarification, or

      • "If this is becoming big that's a very serious problem. The internet isn't really a place to gain an informed opinion over things."

        This is incorrect, I believe the internet is a great place to teach oneself. The problem is resources are often all over the place, the real issue is searching for high quality resources and then combining them in one place. The other aspect is the quality of the language in a curriculum and how ideas are framed.

        All people teach themselves stuff on their own everyday, how do y

      • "Teaching yourself is fine, but very few people are capable of doing it properly without a lot of help."

        Mostly due to schooling...
        http://www.holtgws.com/whatisunschoolin.html [holtgws.com]
        http://www.newciv.org/whole/schoolteacher.txt [newciv.org]
        http://www.the-open-boat.com/Gatto.html [the-open-boat.com]
        http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/toc1.htm [johntaylorgatto.com]
        http://www.thewaronkids.com/ [thewaronkids.com]

    • by retech (1228598)
      But you already had a base education.
    • If you just want to learn how to hack out some code, sure, you can teach yourself. I would not recommend this approach for theoretical topics in CS, except for the most basic concepts; at more advanced levels, you are really studying abstract math, and it really does help to have a teacher.
    • There are some things that really can't be taught without schooling. Medicine/surgery come to mind.

      • There are some things that really can't be taught without schooling. Medicine/surgery come to mind.

        Clearly you've never had a drunk college roommate and a supply of kitchen utensils.

    • I've managed to teach myself the entire content of the courses I'm taking during my summer breaks and weekends.

      Are you sure about the entire part? Self-taught programmers often know about 70% of the language quite well. They often convince themselves that the rest isn't important or useful. And they can often convince the PHBs too, so long as they can cobble something together that works, sort of, sometimes.

      This is all fine and dandy until they encounter a situation where there's a simple, reliable and e

  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:54AM (#34450884) Homepage

    First thing to learn: When the web site asks, "Are you at least 18 years of age?" the answer is always "Yes". All else follows from that.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:55AM (#34450894)
    No seriously. The amount of things I have learnt from researching on the internet...

    Anyone who has ever tried to develop any non-trivial piece of software knows all about learning on your own by using the internet. What is the fuss all about? Because its for children instead of adults?
    • No seriously. The amount of things I have learnt from researching on the internet...

      ...probably seems like a lot, but does not actually go into as much depth as you might think. I know plenty of people who are "self taught" and can do a fine job of hacking together certain types of programs, but they generally do not have deeper insights into the theory behind what they are doing. That might be OK for developing certain classes of applications, but it is usually a disaster for a field like cryptography, and I would not trust someone who was "self taught" to develop safety critical softw

      • but does not actually go into as much depth as you might think.

        Without knowing where someone learned the information or how they learned it, how could you possibly know this?

        but they generally do not have deeper insights into the theory behind what they are doing.

        Some people merely aren't capable of teaching themselves and may require help.

        • Some people merely aren't capable of teaching themselves and may require help.

          At a sufficiently advanced level, I would say that statement covers just about everyone, with the only exceptions being prodigies like Ramanujan (who are outliers even among very intelligent people). I know quite a number of people who are "taught themselves" how to program, and like I said, they are generally capable of writing programs, even highly complex programs. Where they tend to fall short are places where subtle insights are critical; for example, they may understand the basic idea behind RSA,

          • At a sufficiently advanced level, I would say that statement covers just about everyone, with the only exceptions being prodigies like Ramanujan (who are outliers even among very intelligent people).

            Well, I disagree. It's certainly more than an elite few, but I understand they're a minority. We're talking about them and only them. I believe they should at least have access to the information so that they can learn in ways that suit them best.

            for example, they may understand the basic idea behind RSA, but rarely do they understand Blum-Blum-Shub or its security proof, even after reading a lot about it.

            If the information is there...

            I will admit that there is a possible alternative explanation, which is that these same people may have difficulty getting access to material that is readily available to a university student, particularly journal access.

            There are a few instances of advanced topics not being available. This is what I think needs to be corrected.

            • by hedwards (940851)

              At a sufficiently advanced level, I would say that statement covers just about everyone, with the only exceptions being prodigies like Ramanujan (who are outliers even among very intelligent people).

              Well, I disagree. It's certainly more than an elite few, but I understand they're a minority. We're talking about them and only them. I believe they should at least have access to the information so that they can learn in ways that suit them best.

              It's not a small minority, it's practically unheard of. It's not just reading up on the material, it's making connections to other materials and properly predicting what the rest of the material that you haven't yet seen is likely to say. And knowing how to adjust what you've already learned as new information comes into it. Even amongst individuals that are brilliant or have advanced degrees it's pretty rare for a person to legitimately be able to do that without help.

              I take it you've never heard the ex

              • It's not a small minority, it's practically unheard of.

                It is? I didn't know it was such an impossible task, sorry!

                It's not just reading up on the material, it's making connections to other materials and properly predicting what the rest of the material that you haven't yet seen is likely to say.

                Okay. An intelligent person couldn't do that why exactly?

                Even amongst individuals that are brilliant or have advanced degrees it's pretty rare for a person to legitimately be able to do that without help.

                Even if you believe that, such people still exist, yes?

                Because otherwise you'd understand why certain materials are hard to come by.

                You must've missed my point about there having to be a sizable amount of quality information on a subject before self teaching can commence.

                Other than that it's also not particularly worth putting the information online as by the time you're dealing with PhD level research there's maybe a dozen people in the world that really understand the topic of the study.

                Spreading information is always worthwhile, even if it's only for a few people. I also really doubt that in a world with more than six billion people, there's only a dozen that can use such information

          • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            Where they tend to fall short are places where subtle insights are critical; for example, they may understand the basic idea behind RSA, but rarely do they understand Blum-Blum-Shub or its security proof, even after reading a lot about it.

            Most professionally educated programmers don't understand it or its security proof either. They may be able to give you the book definition, but if they don't work with it regularly they aren't going to understand it.

            The self-taught programmer may not know Blum-Blum-Shub or its security proof, but it is only because he hasn't needed to know it yet. If he ever does need to know it, he is well practiced at learning it on his own, whereas the college educated programmer may have more difficulty, depending on

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        Oh, but you know about Therac-25. And I bet you've read it on the Internet, most likely from an IEEE reprint.

        So at least you know that if you're designing a piece of life-critical software, you should not do dumb things. Like actually designing. And that's the point of education.

        If tomorrow someone asks me to write software for nuclear reactor control, I'd most likely spend several next years learning about formal software checking and analysis. And even then I'd insist on doing pure mechanical backups.

    • by damburger (981828)

      Software is a special case; its abnormally well documented on the Internet, and knowledge can be immediately and definitively checked on your computer. You find a piece of code on a website, it doesn't work, you find something else - fine. What happens if you read a fundamental misconception about particle physics? Are you going to verify it with your USB particle accelerator?

      In my experience, an autodidact is someone whose making too much out of confirming their own beliefs.

      Learning coding has *nothing* to

  • When this digresses to Lord of the Flies, just remember someone thought this was a good idea.
    • When this digresses to Lord of the Flies, just remember someone thought this was a good idea.

      Is there a self-paced course on that book available on the internet?

  • Fear! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hatta (162192) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:58AM (#34450916) Journal

    Autodidacts are recruiting your children on the web!

    • When the pedagogues [blogspot.com] get involved then it's really time to worry.

      • by Velex (120469)

        I'd mod you up but there's no +1, Facepalm. The saddest part of that anecdote is that it's completely believable. The degrees we're supposed to respect the people in power for having are meaningless.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Don't worry, just as long as they're not thespians. You really don't want your kids getting involved in that sort of un-Christian lifestyle.
  • by Alan R Light (1277886) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:16AM (#34451026)

    If you've read John Taylor Gatto's [johntaylorgatto.com] Underground History of American Education [johntaylorgatto.com] you'll know that in the 1800s the people of America were the best educated in the world, and had largely educated themselves.

    • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:28AM (#34451114) Journal

      Can you provide a pin citation to the part of the book that supports this proposition? I really don't feel like digging through an entire book to figure out what you mentioned vaguely. Right now, it sounds more like you're trying to use your post as advertising for the book than to provide useful information.

      • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:51AM (#34451266) Journal

        I really don't feel like digging through an entire book

        Clearly autodidactism is not for you.

        • Autodidact or not, some of us have better things to spend 4 hours digging through a book merely to figure out the point someone alludes to obliquely in a Slashdot post. For the time I waste, I could be learning something far more interesting to me.

        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          +1 Funny

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:38PM (#34451648)

        I've read it, and autodidacticism is one of the central tenants. In particular he pays a lot of attention to George Washington's self-education, which began around age 12 or 13, if I remember right, and was in full swing by the time he was 16 (when he taught himself surveying). Likely because his formal education ended so early, Washington always felt it was lacking, which he compensated for by continuing his self-education throughout his entire life.

        That the man who is arguably the greatest man in American history was self taught is astounding. Mind you he was not a prodigy. He was smart, probably above average, but he was not a natural genius or anything of the sort. In fact most of the educated elite thought he was of moderate intelligence and some had a real problem with his elevated status and position of authority given his lack of formal education.

        Gatto's book is definitely worth a read if you want some insight into the public education system (at least in New York) and why it works so poorly in the US.

        And I don't see what is wrong with advertising someone's book if you found it insightful. Could you please explain to me the problem? I'll hold off on telling anybody about any books that I like until you do, thanks.

        • by skywire (469351) *

          That the man who is arguably the greatest man in American history was self taught is astounding.

          What makes you think that?

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          First, you are right.

          Second, one problem with recommending Gatto's book, which I have seen a lot recently on Slashdot, is that it brings on the information too strong. Much of it is obviously correct. Much of it is verifiable correct. Unfortunately, it undermines most peoples basic belief system. This means that it comes across like a book that explains to fundamentalist Christians why their entire religion is a lie.

          What this means is that those who would like bring down the target institutions wi
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except Gatto uses anecdotes to prove his point. Its very sneaky and sounds really nice. But its not strong scholarship. Its in fact ideologically biased scholarship. Be careful when using Gatto as proof for a point because any decent scholar with access to JStor can debunk him (and you).

  • First things first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:19AM (#34451046) Homepage

    The problem in the USA today isn't a lack of quality teaching and quality schools or even a lack of quality curriculum. It is an attitude that doing well in school is for social outcast nerds and to be cool you have to ignore school and learning in general.

    This is popularized by the hip-hop culture as well as other aspects of the currrent pop culture.

    Contrast this with Asian children that are expected - no, required - to do well in school by their parents. Who is in the top of nearly all technology-oriented university programs? Asians. Why? Because they are getting the grades and it counts. Both for just "learning stuff" and getting a job later.

    We can continue with a culture that will obviously lead to a nation like Idiocracy. Or we can change things. Feel-good programs where everyone gets a prize and self-directed learning isn't going to make the kind of change that is needed.

    • Asians also cheat / do group work on stuff that they should being doing on there own a lot in schools.

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Ah, so that's why they can come to the US and outperform their native schoolmates, even though they don't yet have a firm grasp on the language!

        It explains everything!

        Oh wait, no it doesn't.

        If that were the problem, then the US wouldn't rank 40+ countries behind the Asian countries. They must have an inferior education, even though they obviously know a lot more, because they didn't do it on their own!

        Did you ever think that perhaps doing group work may be more beneficial than doing solo work?

    • The problem in the USA today isn't a lack of quality teaching and quality schools or even a lack of quality curriculum.

      This, too. I feel that schools need to focus more on what you actually need (in high school), and not on things that they merely think you'll need in the future. Instead of making you attend a bunch of classes that you won't need for your desired profession, they should (again, in high school) let you choose the classes that matter to you. Early on you can be taught the absolute basics. Forcing them to attend classes of every subject isn't helping them because you forget things that you don't need surprisin

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @01:24PM (#34452108) Journal

      The problem in the USA today isn't a lack of quality teaching and quality schools or even a lack of quality curriculum. It is an attitude that doing well in school is for social outcast nerds and to be cool you have to ignore school and learning in general.

      It most certainly is the teaching quality. I work in education, and while there are quite a few good and excellent teachers there, there are plenty of teachers that shouldn't be. It is like dodging raindrops.

      The current system also a system designed for Industrial age, and not the current post industrial age. We teach things in a manner which preps kids to be factory automatons rather than self organizing information age data processors. Mr Mitra has stumbled upon a new method for preparing kids to be functional adults in the post industrial information age. I've been touting his methods ever since I first saw his presentation.

      The attitudes of kids you describe is also rampant. But it isn't helped by requiring those kids be in classrooms to disrupt the kids that want to be there. I've seen classrooms where the teacher spends 1/2 of their time dealing with kids who don't want to be there. Which is completely unfair to everyone involved.

      Then there are the parents that think the world is out to get their kids and everything is everyone else's fault not theirs or their kids. Or parents who just don't care. Or no parents to speak of at all (only professional daycare providers).

      Suffice it to say, the problems with modern educational system can be spread around to a myriad of places. We just don't have the guts to do anything about the problems as they exist for fear of hurting someone's feelings or fear of breaking the status quo.

    • "The problem in the USA today isn't a lack of quality teaching and quality schools or even a lack of quality curriculum."

      The real problem is the whole idea of school, the idea that you can just throw kids randomly into a prison like system and get them to sit still and "learn" is totally flawed from the outset.

      Schools by their very nature KILL CURIOSITY. I think most slashdotters can attest to the fact that school and learning has to be approached from ones own innate curiousness about things and can't be

    • by shiftless (410350)

      The problem in the USA today isn't a lack of quality teaching and quality schools or even a lack of quality curriculum. It is an attitude that doing well in school is for social outcast nerds and to be cool you have to ignore school and learning in general.

      Really? And where in the USA is this attitude prevalent? I hear so much about this, but it's not really true from my experience growing up in Alabama. The difference between the smart kids who were popular and those who were social outcasts was nothing mo

  • by Stele (9443) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:22AM (#34451064) Homepage

    I was in 5th grade and our school had just gotten a TRS-80, the first computer I ever saw. Nobody in the school knew what to do with it - it just sat in the library. I and another kid in my class had reputations for being smart and inquisitive - the principal actually brought me broken radios and tape players and things to take apart.

    Anyway, the school would send me and the other kid to the library once a day while the class did other stuff, and we taught ourselves to program the computer together, figuring out how to get the tape player working, storing our programs, etc.

    That set me up for the rest of my life. In 10th grade (1986-7) I taught myself C while the rest of the class learned Pascal. By the time I got to college I knew more about programming than most of the professors.

    Dropped out in 1992 and the rest is history.

    I am grateful to the school system I was in (SW Virginia no less) to encourage and support my interest in such gadgetry, and to have the opportunity to learn things at my own pace. It works when done right.

    • by Eil (82413)

      I think it's great that you were actively encouraged by your school's faculty to learn about things that you were interested in at an early age. There should be more of this. Understand, however, that your case is the extremely rare exception. The high school that I attended had computers, but it was always made very clear that they were only to be used under direct adult supervision and only for completing assignments in class. That meant no games, no programming, no tinkering of any sort. The computers we

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:25AM (#34451092)

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/lang/eng/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

  • While autodidacticism is a great idea, learning from the internet is not necessarily a great idea because data on the internet can be replete with factual errors or even information designed to be biased towards one point of view. Wikipedia comes up against this problem quite often. You don't want a sixth or seventh stumbling on some web pages proclaiming that the holocaust was a myth and then believing that to be true. My point is that, while self education is a good idea, it does need guidance so that
  • All you can do is to ensure that there is enough material and of a diverse enough nature that they get exposed to a wide variety of subjects/topics and then can dive into what ever interests them.

    My parents didn't have an internet but we did have a library at home and access to a public library.

    They fostered curiosity, inquisitiveness and risk evaluation (should I or shouldn't I?) by example.

    NO KNOWLEDGE IS BAD, BUT HAVING NO KNOWLEDGE IS BAD.

    The end result is that I am sitting here in my home-office on my

  • On their own, children can get about 30% of the knowledge required to pass exams

    This quote is very telling. Education isn't (or at least shouldn't be) focused on passing the exam. It should teach students how to think on their own, how to recognize and solve problems they've ever seen before.

    So much today is oriented toward answering the test or interview questions. I see many programmers who are experts in a particular IDE and programming language, but who are helpless once they get outside that specific tool set. These people tend to be terrible designers as well, they simply can't g

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @01:14PM (#34451968)

    When you are ready, study the more formal parts of modern philosophy
    (epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science), to acquire the
    meta-level skills necessary to understand what knowledge is, and what
    its properties are, before you try to load up on too much specific knowledge.

    Also, study some westernized writings on Zen philosophy, to the level at which you
    understand its relationship to the other above-mentioned aspects of modern
    philosophy. When you understand the significance of the dividing of the world
    by the cutting strokes of the knife, you may be ready to start learning a few specifics.

  • Free education is promising and should be extant in the US already. It can replace schools completely with a few exceptions and that includes colleges. Part of the problem is that once this catches on single parent and poor families will be angry as there is no one at home to supervise their kids and a computer and electric and phone service may not be in place as bills often go unpaid. For example think not only of not supporting buildings and school buses but also the concept that a single eighth

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @01:44PM (#34452300) Homepage Journal

    I would recommend keeping the kids offline as much as possible. Wikipedia and Google can lead you to a wealth of information, but the distractions online are endless. Also, the information on most sites is questionable. Besides, the library will have many kid activities that helps socialise them with others which is just as helpful as the books they have in helping shape your child's mind. So while the internet is a tool, it should be kept as a secondary utility for watching informative how-to videos on youtube and getting cliff-notes from wikipedia and other sites.

    So here's what to do: Get your kid to the library, provide them a library card and let them go to the library whenever they want.
    Here's what not to do: DO NOT FORCE them to go, DO NOT give them assignments, DO NOT make yourself a part of it

    If you want to assist them or steer them towards self-education fine, but do it by LISTENING to them when they choose to talk to you, then ASKING them intelligent questions about what they are talking about. Try to get them to run out of answers about what they talking about so they are hungry to learn more FOR THEIR own edification. But, take it no further. Structuring it, controlling it or tampering with it in any way takes the "self" part and throws it right out the window and will likely kill whatever interest your kid has in it because now you're a part of it and their freedom is diminished. When the parent becomes directly involved, no matter how good the intention, what was once a fun hobby for the kid can quickly become yet another form of "school" or chore.

    Also, their interests may come and go or change entirely, I know they did for me. Entire subjects would change after I exhausted them or they became boring. Sometimes entire months would go by where I would only read fiction and play with friends and watch TV. But, then I'd get going on something and take up that interest. So don't expect it to be consistant.. let the kid guide his interests freely.

    Most importantly, if your kid just isn't into it and would rather play with friends or watch TV, so be it. Let it be.
    Remember: The majority of people are not inclined for rigorous self-education, in fact, I'd say it's a trait of a select minority.

  • More or less, this is how homeschooling works for thousands of students nationwide. Parents aren't really teachers, they're facilitators.
  • From the article:

    We notice that new educational technology is always piloted in the affluent schools of cities where good students and good teachers are present. As a result the educational gains from such technology are marginal and educational technology is considered over-hyped and under-performing. We propose that the highest technology should be developed for and piloted in the remotest areas first.

    Wow. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    How does the old saying go? The best school in the world is a log

  • http://patapata.sourceforge.net/WhyEducationalTechnologyHasFailedSchools.html [sourceforge.net]
    "Ultimately, educational technology's greatest value is in supporting "learning on demand" based on interest or need which is at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to "learning just in case" based on someone else's demand. Compulsory schools don't usually traffic in "learning on demand", for the most part leaving that kind of activity to libraries or museums or the home or business or the "real world". In order for compulso

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