Thursday, May 9, 2013

TED Talk 1: Sugata Mitra - Build a School in the Cloud

This was the Talk that inspired me to start this project. I listen to podcasts often when I'm cooking or shopping, and one of them (PRI: To The Best of our Knowledge) referenced this Talk. I un-lazied myself long enough to look it up and I've now watched it three times. Right now I'm listening to it for the fourth.

Everyone has things they say which accidentally turn out to be trendy, every now and then. Mine is this: I do not care if my children learn what year Columbus landed somewhere, or the date when we first went to the moon, or memorize a list of names or places or cities. I care of my children are passionate about thinking, about learning, and about doing. I want them to be better than I am. I want them to be just like my husband, in this way. He spends every evening learning, teaching himself something new, working on his skills, following his interests.

This Talk was about experiences that Mr. Mitra had in India, installing computers into slums where children had no prior experience. Not only did they figure out the computer but in some cases taught themselves English to better work the machine. In his most extreme example, the children were able to teach themselves a great deal about DNA replication in English, working together with no teacher.

Favorite quotes from this talk:
“The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a [schooling] system that was so robust that it's still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”
“It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken — it's not broken, it's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated.”
I'm sure I am butchering his work, but I see these main points from his work:

1) Knowledge, as in rote learning knowledge, is obsolete. We can so readily access the year that Columbus landed somewhere that it simply isn't worth the time to memorize facts anymore. Do you know anyone's phone number anymore? I do not. My phone does. I significantly agree with this point.

2) Children working together with passion can learn more readily than in a traditional setting, and have more fun doing it. I whole-heartedly agree with this point.

3) Traditional schools are outdated. I whole-heartedly agree with this point.

My takeaway is that I want to learn more about his SOLE learning environments and start researching schools for when we return to DC. Are all schools mandated to "teach to the test" (as in the No Child Left Behind rules)? I really don't know or understand this, but I know that I do not want my kids doing rote learning. I want to find a school where the kids work on projects and pursue the interests they're passionate about. I will spend 15 minutes tonight learning more about No Child Left Behind, and what our school options in DC might be.

For tomorrow's TED Talk, I will watch one of the videos that Mr. Mitra recommends on his page. TBD.

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