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A School in the Cloud 126

gurps_npc writes "Recently there was a poorly designed study that claimed computers don't help teaching. Here with the opposing viewpoint is Sugata Mitra in his recent TED talk. He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.' At heart, his argument is that the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats, so it creates minimally competent people that know how to read, write, and do math in their head. He wants to update our teaching methods with more creative and technological solutions." One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that. Mitra won the $1M TED prize this year for his work. He said in an interview, "We spent 7000 years debating this issue of how do we educate everybody. We have never lived in a world where one standard educated everyone. And given that we have failed for over 7000 years, perhaps we will never have one standard. Maybe the right conclusion is that we do away with standard education. Maybe the convergence of technology and curiosity will solve this problem."
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A School in the Cloud

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  • lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:39PM (#43028831)
    We didn't spend 7000 years trying to educate everyone, we've been trying to educate everyone for maybe 400.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:39PM (#43028843)

    I learned a ton on my own as a kid by reading random articles out of an encyclopedia, and some of those "How Things Work" series of books. I imagine kids in India could do so, too— except that they don't have access to such books. So it seems overall more a matter of access to knowledge, in any form, than of something new and magical about technology-based learning as a specific form.

  • by wolvesofthenight ( 991664 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:46PM (#43028895)
    A computer is a very versatile tool. Used correctly it will help with an amazing array of tasks, including education. Used incorrectly they are either worthless or counterproductive. And, like many other tools, if you let kids play with it, they will learn something (which might or might not be what you wanted them to learn).

    Asking if computers help education is too broad of a question. A better question is "'When do computers help education and when do they hurt?" You can find good examples of each.
  • Re:lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:54PM (#43028965) Homepage Journal

    We didn't spend 7000 years trying to educate everyone, we've been trying to educate everyone for maybe 400.

    For extremely small values of "everyone."

  • Re:lol (Score:4, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @06:56PM (#43028985)
    Last I checked lots of countries now require a minimum state approved education paid for by tax money. That's much better than only educating the aristocracy and putting all the peasant children to work.
  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:04PM (#43029067) Journal

    There are times I cringe when "educate" is used as a substitute to "learning"

    Did someone educate you on how to walk on your two feet, or did you do that by your own, learning through trials and errors?

    Did someone educate you on how to speak whatever language that you are using, or did you somehow learn it by listening to the sound made by the adults?

    It's mindboggling nowadays when people forget the most basic thing that makes each and every one of us who we are - that we are "learning machine", that "education" in itself a flawed concept

    You do not educate students - you share with whoever you want to "teach" what you know, show them (if it's possible) the process, and they pick up on that, just like they pick up, by themselves, how to walk, how to talk, et cetera

  • Long overdue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XB-70 ( 812342 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:21PM (#43029199)
    Academia has been over-managed into a snarled knot of self-serving rules and regulations. Go to any School Board meeting and the discussion will centre on almost any topic except improving students' uptake of information. The cost of university has little to do with the actual outcome vis-à-vis employment. In short, much of the educational sector has lost focus.

    What to do? In my humble opinion, gaming is the answer. Not the gaming we're used to, but real-world, immersive, progressive gaming where students go into virtual grocery stores and learn to shop on a budget. Where trucks are loaded with goods and students have to figure out the optimal route to transport the goods to market. Where students are confronted with tax forms and have to figure them out (and be scored on them). Where a grandparent takes ill and they have to figure out what to do to care for them. Where they are given a virtual puppy/horse/ox and learn to train it. Lastly, they need a program which takes them through numerous scenarios of wealth creation. This last is probably what is most lacking from our present educational system.

    We are doing little if anything like this and yet, this is the world that we live in. If every school board on the planet put 0.05% of their budget towards the development of true AI-based educational gaming, our students would learn at a prodigious rate. Granted, we would have to adjust for region and language, but the essence of education is the same the world over.

  • by Azure Flash ( 2440904 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:30PM (#43029263)
    If that insight is so trivial, why hasn't most of the western world realized this, why do we still cling to our ways of sending kids to jail-factories to cram their brains with data in a carefully planned industrial process?
  • Re:Teaching (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iceaxe ( 18903 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:52PM (#43029407) Journal

    Actually, Mitra's point has little to do with computers except inasmuch as they make access to information vastly more available. The point is about how children, given access and motivation, learn quite remarkably well on their own. Think of it as a "Free Market" theory of education.

    Our teachers, bless them for their nearly thankless efforts, are as trapped as the students in our out of date education system. Freeing them is every bit as important as freeing the children.

    Anyway, the point is to find out how to make learning work better, not to throw out the good things about what we have.

    Cheers :)

  • by Harvey Manfrenjenson ( 1610637 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @10:48PM (#43030759)

    From the summary: "One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that."

    Well, great. Nobody explained that to the inner-city teenagers I deal with in my clinic. Just about all of them have access to the full resources of the Internet, either at home or down the street at the library. And they are wonderfully free from the evils of "interference and too much direction".

    Their general fund of knowledge is shockingly limited. Many of them can't find Europe on a map. A remarkable number of them can't name a single city outside of the United States/Mexico. They struggle with basic arithmetic and reading comprehension.

    If you want to see how well-educated a child becomes when you give him "resources" and no direction, just look around you.

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham