BLOG PAGE: A View from the Bridge
By Mr. Clayton
By Mr. Clayton
As you may have heard we welcomed Sugata Mitra to school last week where he worked with students, parents and teachers in helping them understand his Self-Organized Learning Environments. (SOLE) The theory and the practice behind SOLE are very interesting. During a SOLE lesson the teacher starts off by working with the students to formulate a question. Something which is interesting, it could be curriculum or syllabus based or indeed not. Once the question has been agreed upon, the students then work in groups of around 4 people. They have access to one computer screen per group. They have typically about 25-30 minutes to formulate an answer to the question. They are encouraged to use the internet judiciously and also to collaborate both within the groups but also outside the groups. The students effectively learn from each other. Once the time is up then each group presents its findings to the question to the whole of the class. Ideas are built upon and improved, questions are asked and answered usually by the students themselves with little input from the teacher: minimally invasive teaching. The results are quite amazing in many areas. Motivation levels are high as the students are placed at the centre of the process, not at the periphery. Engagement levels are high as the questions set are usually interesting, authentic and relevant. Understanding is also very high. And this is where the technique wins out in three key ways according to his research. The first way is that in control tests against groups taught in the more traditional way the SOLE groups score more highly. The second way is that when the SOLE groups are tested later they often actually score higher than when they were first tested, remarkable results! The third positive is that students start to perform at levels way above their age. For instance he has worked with year 3 students who were able to understand and retain work aimed at IGCSE students (age 16).
Watching him in action was great, but picking his brain while he was talking to the teachers and at other down times was equally edifying. He put forward some interesting ideas. He said that teachers must think more widely about their students. He claims that students are as knowledgeable as them plus their phone or device. He gave two examples. He said that 5 years ago when he came to HK, he did not know the way to the airport. Now he said that he, plus his phone, now knows the way to the airport. He gave a second example of a phone app which when you point your phone at say Japanese can translate the Japanese into English. Therefore he postulated that you plus your phone can read Japanese. He also said that he had had an encounter with Arthur C Clarke who had basically told him that a computer should be seen as a prosthetic for the brain, as glasses are a prosthetic for the eyes. It would be unimaginable for students to be told that they couldn’t wear glasses for an exam, therefore why do we stop students from being able to access the internet for examinations. He quoted the example of Denmark whose system allows the use of internet during exams. He went on to say that the exam system is an outdated concept as it currently stands, as a construct of the 19th century it is no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. He also said that one of the problems that educationalist face is that everyone has been to school and therefore has an opinion, and people want it to be the same as when they went to school, but he made a very good point by asking this question. Would people want to drive around in the same cars that their grandads did? People have got to embrace change and be open to the fact that the world has moved in the most fundamental and profound ways.
Having him in school provoked lots of discussion and ideas. He was very giving in terms of his time, ideas and we would be delighted to welcome him back should time allow. The next trainer we will have in to school will be Ian Gilbert who will be working with some upper primary and lower secondary groups.
On a totally separate note I would like to thank Dr. Alastor Coleby for teaching geography in Mrs Hall’s absence and to Mr Ross Burgmann for stepping up and carrying out Mrs. Hall’s IB coordinator duties. Thanks to them and Kung Hei Fat Choi to all!!