[FoRK] Autodidacticism, Self Organizing Learning Environments, Hole-in-the-Wall

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Apr 24 19:46:51 PDT 2011


> /"Autodidacticism <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodidacticism> — self-education or self-directed learning — is nothing new, but 
> the Internet holds the promise of taking it to the masses. Sugata Mitra 
> <http://sugatam.wikispaces.com?responseToken=07cfcac5f3bde07e4ea8605fc1b35d11f>, an Indian physicist whose earlier educational 
> experiments <http://sugatam.blogspot.com/2007/10/hole-in-wall-experiments-current-status.html> inspired the film /Slumdog 
> Millionaire/, is convinced that, with the Internet, kids can learn by themselves 
> <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704584804575645070639938954.html> so long as they are in small groups and have 
> well-posed questions to answer. And now, Mitra's Self-Organized Learning Environments 
> <http://solesandsomes.wikispaces.com/A+bit+about+SOLE+%26+SOME?responseToken=071f9090c142d0f23e6ad0d0973d774f9> (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."/
See /. comments below.

> *How it all began: *
> At first it was just a germ of an idea, born of observations way back in the mid 1980’s, at home and around, in conversations with 
> other people interested in how children learn and their education that made Sugata Mitra want to see just how far and where this 
> ‘self-organized’ learning could go. There are many tales to tell of how all this came into being and you could access many of 
> these on the net. But, for the time being, let’s cut a long story short....
> *The work before SOLE & SOME: *
> Sugata Mitra’s earlier work through the Hole in the Wall experiments, showed that groups of children, given shared digital 
> resources can learn to use computers and the Internet and go on to learn almost anything on their own that they have an interest 
> in. They do not seem to require adult supervision.
> Further work showed that groups of children with access to computer and related technology are capable of successfully answering 
> examinations without traditional schooling. Since successfully completing school is such a widespread concern, the project took on 
> the task of studying whether such self-organised learning can enable groups of children to successfully answer government Board 
> final examinations and be helped to obtain their school certificates using such “Minimally Invasive” methods.
> SOLEs have been specially designed and these continue to be modified. These have been built in several locations to facilitate 
> self-organized learning – a place where children can work in groups, access the internet and other software, follow up on a class 
> activity or project or take them where their interests lead them.
> The key in all this is “open and free access”. Of course there are lot of hiccups along the way.... In most of the places there 
> are so many children, so little time, just one ‘room’ and some resistance to the idea!
> But we have moved along and the response of the children and many of the schools & teachers has been insightful and heartening.
> New discoveries made and shared everyday, skills practiced and mastered, confidence and self worth levels rising; we see all this 
> and much more.
> One of the other key concerns that many parents, educators even the children themselves had to do with learning English. So, from 
> the beginning, there was specific software uploaded for the children to be able to learn the English language and use it on a 
> regular basis. By the way, that is where the idea of ‘Grannies’ reading stories to the children came in! Most of us learnt our 
> mother tongue so naturally through stories told to us in our childhood, by loving parents and grandparents and we wanted for these 
> children to have some of that experience too!

/. comments on: Using the Web To Turn Kids Into Autodidacts

I am a member of and drop into Hack Dojo periodically. And I'm a member of Tech Shop for the physical hacking.

        Princess Nell is ashamed of all of you <http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34456382> (Score:2

by The Master Control P (655590) <http://slashdot.org/%7EThe+Master+Control+P> Alter Relationship 
<http://news.slashdot.org/zoo.pl?op=check&type=friend&uid=655590> <ejkeever at neCOLAr ... m minus caffeine 
<mailto:ejkeever%40neCOLArdshack.com+minus+caffeine>> on 2010-12-05 21:22 (#34456382 
<http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34456382>) Homepage <http://ejksdesktop.homelinux.com/>
Ctrl-F... not a single result for /A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer/ or related terms? This is Slashdot, isn't it?

This comment looks interesting:
> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-October/005379.html [listcultures.org]
> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-November/006005.html [listcultures.org]
> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-November/005584.html [listcultures.org]
> Maybe the whole point is to waste your time and dumb you down and keep you locked up in a mirror maze?
> And failing that, to neuter you politically? See Jeff Schmidt's "Dsiciplined Minds":
> http://disciplinedminds.tripod.com/ [tripod.com]
> http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/01BRrt.html <http://www.uow.edu.au/%7Ebmartin/pubs/01BRrt.html> [uow.edu.au]
> "How to survive? Well, how can captive soldiers survive what is commonly called "brainwashing"? The US Army has a manual on 
> resisting indoctrination when a prisoner of war. As Schmidt amusingly notes, this manual wasn't written for students, but 
> "students in graduate or professional school should be able to put such resistance techniques to good use." (p. 239). A person who 
> maintains an independent, nonconforming outlook in any institution, including a prisoner-of-war camp, is seen as deviant and 
> threatening. The keys to resistance are knowing what you're up against, preparing to take action, working with others 
> (organization!), resisting at all levels, and dealing with collaborators by cutting them off from key information and attempting 
> to win them over. Schmidt gives a revealing account of his own difficulties in graduate school and how he survived as a radical."
> Undergrad is not quite as bad though. But remember, all the professors and assistants whose salaries you are paying (even by 
> incurring debt) -- they have all gone through this brainwashing process.
> http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199710--.htm [chomsky.info]
> Something else I wrote on this:
> http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle/browse_thread/thread/3dd2b7e6648da125/231e63e966e932df?hl=en#231e63e966e932df [google.com]
> And on how things may change, by me:
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/post-scarcity-princeton.html [pdfernhout.net]
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p14bAe6AzhA [youtube.com]
> Or by someone else:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=related <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=related> [youtube.com]

Other good links:
>         Mentor, not teacher... <http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34455332> (Score:3
>         <http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/12/05/1542231/Using-the-Web-To-Turn-Kids-Into-Autodidacts#>)
> by Paul Fernhout (109597) <http://slashdot.org/%7EPaul+Fernhout> Alter Relationship 
> <http://news.slashdot.org/zoo.pl?op=check&type=friend&uid=109597> on 2010-12-05 18:10 (#34455332 
> <http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34455332>) Homepage <http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/>
> And such relationships can work both ways.
> You've made an excellent argument for learning from knowledgeable other people with hands on experience about some area of 
> interest, but, sadly, such people can only rarely be found in conventional schools...
> http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201003/when-less-is-more-the-case-teaching-less-math-in-schools 
> [psychologytoday.com]
> http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html [ted.com]
> And you ignore the other baggage professional teachers come with:
> http://www.newciv.org/whole/schoolteacher.txt [newciv.org]
> http://www.the-open-boat.com/Gatto.html [the-open-boat.com]
> http://disciplinedminds.tripod.com/ [tripod.com]
> Why not just watch a video series instead, and ask questions online?
> http://www.learner.org/ [learner.org]
> http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org]
> http://www.explorelearning.com/ [explorelearning.com]
> Of find some other alternative arrangement, including knowledgeable mentors among family, friends, or in the community?
> http://www.educationrevolution.org/ [educationrevolution.org]
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling [wikipedia.org]
> Is that really going to be that much worse than trying to learn from most "teachers" (who if you've ever been aroudn teacher 
> training programs, you would see generally know little about math, science, and technology), as well meaning as most of them may 
> be? The first thing most schools do is destroy a child's natural ability to learn and natural creativity:
> http://www.amazon.com/Scientist-Crib-Early-Learning-Tells/dp/0688177883 [amazon.com]
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=related <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=related> [youtube.com]
> Here is an alternative funding model for hiring private tutors or having neighborhoods again where people have time to share their 
> knowledge freely, based on just giving public school funds directly to the parents:
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/towards-a-post-scarcity-new-york-state-of-mind.html [pdfernhout.net]


>         That would be me. <http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34451560> (Score:2
>         <http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/12/05/1542231/Using-the-Web-To-Turn-Kids-Into-Autodidacts#>)
> by Anonymous Coward on 2010-12-05 10:28 (#34451560 <http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1896832&cid=34451560>)
> I'm 17 and I've been doing this since I left public school in third grade. So I think I'm pretty qualified to say that, in fact, 
> self-directed learning almost purely via the internet Actually Works. I'm familiar with calculus and a multitude of fun areas in 
> abstract algebra, have taught myself to fluency in several programming languages, have built a 3D game from the ground up, and 
> --as far as I can tell-- have a much broader general range of knowledge than almost everyone I talk to. Two years ago I taught 
> myself the basics of modern cryptography and successfully explained Diffie-Hellman key exchange to a group of 12-year-olds. I've 
> won debates with political science professors on the importance of WikiLeaks. And I got high-fived the other day by somebody I've 
> never met because he overheard me working linguistic relativity into ordinary conversation. Pretty much everything I know I've 
> learned from Wikipedia, specialty websites and comment threads on various blogs (including but not limited to Slashdot, thankfully).
> There's a lot of information out there just waiting for ready minds to come find it.

>   A 'hole in the wall' helps educate India
> By Pat Orvis <http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Contact-Us-Feedback>, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor / June 1, 2006
> Free computers placed where children play could help bring basic education to India's 200 million boys and girls under age 15. 
> That's the hope of the man behind an Internet learning experiment called Hole-in-the-Wall.
> Sugata Mitra, physicist and chief scientist with India's international software giant NIIT Ltd., launched the experiment in 1999 
> by embedding a kiosk housing a high-speed touch-screen computer into the wall that separates the company's headquarters from New 
> Delhi's biggest slum. Dr. Mitra was surprised to see how quickly the children had mastered navigating the Internet - within hours.
> Since then, Mitra has installed more than 150 computers - with keyboards, touch pads, and Web cameras - in some 50 locations from 
> New Delhi slums to points in rural India. In each location, with no supervision or instruction, the children "download and play 
> audio and video, send and receive e-mail, chat, and so on," he says. They quickly move on to learn some English from 
> English-language websites, read Indian newspapers, and even "look for jobs for their fathers," Mitra says.
> Widespread implementation of his experiment could help bridge the gap between India's 600,000 primary schools and the 1 million it 
> needs, observers say.
> "In India, this has not been achieved and is not expected to be achieved in the near future," Mitra says. "There are not enough 
> schools and not enough teachers."
> Hole-in-the-Wall has already helped thousands of previously nonliterate boys and girls teach themselves not only about computers 
> but also "several pieces of primary education," Mitra says. Within nine months, the boys and girls achieve, "the proficiency level 
> equivalent to the skills of most modern office workers."
> During a recent visit to the slum's cyber wall, a group of boys took turns, two and three at a time, at each of the wall's four 
> computer kiosks. A group of girls nearby quickly volunteered their reasons for coming here. Rubina, a tall teenager with a heavy 
> braid and no head scarf, explains that, from the day the first computer was installed, she wanted to know what it did. Once she 
> reached the age when Muslim girls are supposed to stay cloistered and well covered, she says, her mother bought her a computer to 
> use at home. "But I still come here with the other girls," she admits.
> Mitra is unfazed by western skeptics who suggest that his computers will expose young children to pornography. In five years, 
> across all locations, he says, Hole-in-the-Wall computers have experienced "less than 0.5 percent pornographic access," adding 
> that the computers "are clearly visible to passing adults." The fact that both boys and girls have access "completely eliminates 
> pornographic or other undesirable access," he says.
> To western parents he advises: "Don't lock up your child with a computer in a study. Keep the computer in a public place, like 
> where the TV is, and most of the evils associated with isolation, addiction, and pornography will disappear."
> As for the possibility of vandalism, Hole-in-the-Wall's design is such that one "would need a sledge hammer to get at the 
> computers or the keyboards," Mitra says. He cites just one case of vandalism at its 23 rural sites.
> Despite this unconventional, unstructured setting, Mitra claims that, in the past five years, participants have been tested in 
> controlled studies "many times," and passed the government board examination with no other assistance, with the results documented 
> in scholarly journals like the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.
> Another positive note: These children seem to take sharing for granted, which cuts down on competition for the keyboard as it 
> becomes, in Mitra's words, "very apparent to them that the ones who are the quickest to learn are the ones that should get time 
> and be teachers to others." Thus, "teachers and leaders eventually emerge."
> Hole-in-the-Wall has awakened new aspirations in some participants, who have gone on to take courses in preparation for high-tech 
> careers, Mitra says. Many have changed their goals from say, rickshaw driver to engineer, and most now want to go to college.
> Another fan of the experiment is Robert Hetzel, a Milwaukee, Wisc., native who directs the American Embassy School here. Like 
> Mitra's company, the school shares a wall with New Delhi's biggest slum.
> "What is being learned with Hole-in-the-Wall is how much kids can just figure out without adult assistance. The question remains 
> as to whether the rate of learning could be accelerated with the aid of a teacher," Mr. Hetzel says. "At the same time, I am in 
> awe of how much these poor kids have taught themselves about computers."
> But for quality education, some experts insist the focus should be in having trained teachers for every class, not high-tech 
> tools. "All the gadgetry in the world cannot equal the impact that a skilled and dedicated teacher has on a child, even in the 
> most rural or slum of settings," contends Abraham George, a native of India and founder of The George Foundation, a not-for-profit 
> organization in Bangalore that seeks to eradicate poverty in India. "Is this computer on the concrete wall near a slum area going 
> to do something for the kids that the teachers have failed to do in conventional schools in India?"
> Such remarks, whether in praise or condemnation of Mitra, are all just business as usual, suggests Ritu Dangwal, a young 
> psychologist who serves as Hole-in-the-Wall's head of research. "People either think he's crazy, or become fanatic fans," she says.
> Mitra holds numerous awards for such Internet innovations as NIITNetVarsity, the first virtual university, which went online in 1996.
> The World Bank gave $1.6 million for Mitra's initial experiments in 23 rural locations around India, with various Indian 
> government agencies, an Indian Bank, and one international agency offering additional assistance. Mitra estimates that 
> Hole-in-the-Wall could go nationwide in less than five years at a cost of $1.2 billion for computers, miscellaneous expenses of 
> $120 million, and recurring annual costs of another $120 million - or, as he puts it, less than 2 cents per child per day.
> While the World Bank showed "some interest" in helping meet those costs, Mitra says he doesn't believe that the money, "if it ever 
> comes, will be from the United States," as "primary education is not a priority in the US at the moment."
> Equally scathing about the Indian government, Mitra speculates that, "in its slow and ponderous way, it may one day think about it."
> Meantime, as a result of his success here, the innovator has been asked to bring Hole-in-the-Wall to Cambodia and South Africa, 
> which means that, altogether, it has "been verified by 40,000 of the world's poorest children."

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net stephendwilliams at gmail.com LinkedIn: http://sdw.st/in V:650-450-UNIX (8649) V:866.SDW.UNIX 
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