E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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The Child-Driven Education: Where Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Collaboration Come Together!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the Spring Through my good friend, Harold Jarche, I bumped the other day into one of those TED Talks that will surely leave an unforgettable mark on all of those folks out there who may want to go through 17 minutes of pure gold inspiration around the topic of Learning and Education. Now, I do realise I don’t get to talk much over here about Learning in general, despite it being one my lifetime passions (Having graduated myself as an English teacher many moons ago!), but perhaps that talk will change things quite a bit. After all, who is going to neglect and ignore such powerful statements as this one: “Education is a self organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon“.

Harold tweeted a recent blog post by the always insightful Will Richardson under the heading “Sugata Mitra’s New TED Talk” where he puts together some very thought provoking arguments as to why we now may be in a good position to re-think the way learning and education happen with our young ones. And perhaps also not just with the not so young ones anymore …

Here are a couple of interesting reflections from Will’s post after watching Sugata‘s talk which I think would set, quite nicely, the stage of how that change would probably need to happen and not too far into the distant future; to be honest, this looks like something that could happen today:

“[…] It’s no secret that I lean toward seeing a future where self-organized learning rules, and that the role of school is to develop the passion, motivation and skills necessary to help kids become amazing learners as opposed to pretty good “knowers” […]

Not too bad to spark a great conversation on where learning and our education systems should be heading to, don’t you think? I surely agree with Will’s statements shared above on the role that school should be playing, as well as Sugata’s on the power and strong influence that technology, in general, could have to help shape up how people learn today. It would be interesting as well to see how we shift from that individual learning experience that our education systems seem to have forced upon our students quite effectively for decades, when we all know that learning is a collaborative and knowledge sharing activity amongst individuals. Mind you, I am not saying that learning on your own is wrong or should be avoided or forbidden. Not at all. It’s still very much needed and should be encouraged…

What I am saying though is that learning should be a collective activity, one where learners (And perhaps I am not using the right term in here…) should be capable of contrasting with others what they have learned to see how they could apply it accordingly to themselves and their environment. More than anything else, because I suspect that collaborative activity of wanting to question and validate what one learns is what helps bring forward a healthy discussion on how to immerse themselves into that overall learning experience. If you contrast it with others, you are helping build, what I think, is one of the main characteristics that the role of school should be playing beyond developing the passion, motivation and skills that Will mentioned in his post: that is, the ability to promote and engage in critical thinking.

I am not sure what you would think, but after seeing Sugata‘s TED Talk one cannot help, but think if there is anything that made incredibly successful the various experiments that he carried with those young learners was their ability to collaborate, throughout that learning experience, through plenty of critical thinking and determination to solve a problem, for which, in most cases, they didn’t seem to have the right resources to do so in the first place. Technology.

Truly fascinating, to say the least!, to witness how that determination to accomplish a task, not matter how cumbersome it may well be, was easily accomplished by that collaborative nature we all seem to have when applying that critical thinking through collaboration and knowledge sharing and, eventually, learning. If there is a way for our current education systems to incorporate such kind of wonderfully explosive mix I just can’t wait for it to happen!

In fact, if I were a teacher, which I am, but, you know what I mean, if I were teaching nowadays, it would be a learning and a education model I would feel very comfortable with embracing; I wouldn’t neglect it, why should I? Why should I want to keep having the control over the education of those learners who already seem to have the motivation, the determination and an unprecedented willingness to think for themselves and collaborate amongst peers, to eventually get the job done with the tools they already have at their disposal: i.e. find and apply a fix for that problem!

Yes, why should I still have the control? I mean, Sugata puts it quite nicely with one of my favourite quotes from the entire talk: “If children have got interest, then education happens“, which I think reflects, quite nicely, on one of the main activities I would propose to do every single day of the school year: watch a TED Talk of their choice!

Now, would you think they (And I am not referring to the learners, by the way) would allow me to do that? If so, and I surely hope so!, I would start with this one:

The Child-driven Education by Sugata Mitra

Now, can you imagine what it would be like having all of this applied successfully in a business environment? Yes, I surely can! We just need to make it happen. Today! We have got the technology, we have got that critical thinking, those problem solving skills, as well as that innate collaborative spirit. So what’s stopping us from making that jump? I will tell you; it’s just one single key word and probably one with a rather easy solution, too! … Ourselves!


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