Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning

Posted by nliakos on April 1, 2012

by Sugata Mitra (TED Books 2012)

This is my first TED Book. TED launched TEDBooks recently: “an imprint of short nonfiction works designed for digital distribution. Shorter than traditional books, TED Books run fewer than 20,000 words each — long enough to explain a powerful idea, but short enough to be read in a single sitting.”  Each book (there are currently just 13, but presumably more will be added) costs just $2.99 and can downloaded for the Nook, the Kindle, or the iPad/iPhone (I think; available from the ITunes store, anyway). I envision the day (pretty soon) when I can have my students purchase a few TED books to read on their iPads, iPhones, Kindles, or Nooks. The fact that the books are so short and so inexpensive, that they are nonfiction and that students can be turned on to their subjects by watching the related talks, is bound to make them popular. I just have to wait until everyone has the capacity to download the book somewhere. (I suspect that it may already be the case, as I think they all already have iPhones, and there are apps for eBooks available for those.)

Sugata Mitra was an invited speaker at the last WiAOC  (Click on “Keynotes for 2009” at the top); this may have been where I first learned about the “Hole in the Wall” project, or I may have listened to his 2007 talk, “Sugata Mitra Shows Kids How to Teach Themselves,” or perhaps “The Child Driven Education” in 2010. Mitra is described as “an education  scientist.” His big idea was to make a computer with internet access available to poor children in the streets of New Delhi and to watch what happened. What happened was that the children rapidly taught themselves/each other how to use the computer and how to get online. From this starting point, Mitra tried out his experiment in different places and in different ways, always finding that children are seemingly hard-wired to learn from each other. They naturally organize themselves into learning communities and need very little (if any) adult supervision or actual instruction to do so. Mitra praises MIE, or “minimally invasive education,” as a way to ask groups of kids a “big question” (e.g., Who was Archimedes and what is he known for?” or even better, a question to which even the teacher does not know the answer) and then stand back and let them use the computer to find the answer.

I found Mitra’s descriptions of what he has observed to be very interesting, his predictions about how things will work 50 years in the future, using a fictional child named Rita, much less so. We really have no idea what technologies will be invented between now and 2062 nor how they will affect our lives. MIE and SOLE (self-organized learning environment) are interesting enough!

The book is only 56 pages; I finished it during part of a bus ride from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. I am looking forward to reading more TED books! See here for more information about TEDBooks and a list of books that are currently available.

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