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Education The Internet News

Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts 230

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 @11:45AM (#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 @11:50AM (#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:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:53AM (#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.
  • Re:Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:59AM (#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 :).
  • Re:Heck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:13PM (#34451004)

    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 in those fields without some sort of formal education.

  • First things first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:19PM (#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.

  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:28PM (#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.

  • Re:Heck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @12:54PM (#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:5, Insightful)

    by Kijori ( 897770 ) <ward DOT jake AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 05, 2010 @01:54PM (#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.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @02:24PM (#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.

  • Re:Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Palshife ( 60519 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @06:11PM (#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.

  • Re:Heck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lessthan ( 977374 ) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @10:05PM (#34455646)

    A diploma is easily verifiable, whereas "3-5 years of relevant experience" is not. Not that it matters, these days they ask for a diploma AND three to five years of experience.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham