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LostInParadise's avatar

What do you think about this approach to teaching?

Asked by LostInParadise (23969points) November 2nd, 2012

I just heard about this project done by the non-profit One Laptop Per Child organization. They gave out laptops with leaning apps to each child in an Ethiopian village without giving them any instructions. The children figured out how to run the apps and gave indication that they are learning from them. The head of the organization, Nicholas Negroponte, is curious to know if the children will eventually be able to teach themselves to read.

My reaction is one of cautious optimism. I think that there is much that the children can teach themselves. I particularly like that they seem to be collaborating with one another. What happens when they get older and the novelty of the laptops wears off? There is a degree of self-discipline required for learning. Some children may have it, but I am skeptical if the majority do.

Suppose a single teacher were placed in the village. There are too many children to put them all in a single classroom. Instead, the teacher would be a resource, motivator and a coach. The teacher would answer questions and guide students in the right direction. It could be something as simple as saying that in order to learn one thing it will be necessary to learn something else. If there is sufficient interest, the teacher might give a lecture on a particular subject.

I feel a little uneasy about the idea that technology can solve everything and that we can eliminate humans from the equation. Technology should be viewed as a an aid to education, a way of multiplying the effectiveness of a given teacher.

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7 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

The issue is not so much technology or teachers but where can kids get the knowledge they need. Some or a lot could come from static sources like computers or books or even the world around them. Some will come from people like their parents and siblings and community members and teachers, if they have them.

All can work together to help kids learn. It’s a matter of resources. Are there resources to hire teachers? Are there resources to provide computers? Or smartphones? And what is the best and most sustainable use of resources?

Kids can teach themselves a lot. But then, so can teachers. On computers, you learn by exploring. A teacher can tell you to look for something it wouldn’t occur to you to look for if you didn’t know it existed. So a teacher can make learning more efficient. Although a teacher’s prejudices can cut off avenues of learning as well.

I agree that a teacher is very helpful. But if you don’t have a teacher, a computer is good.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I feel a little uneasy about the idea that technology can solve everything and that we can eliminate humans from the equation. Technology should be viewed as a an aid to education, a way of multiplying the effectiveness of a given teacher.

You do realize that many homeschooled kids go to a “virtual” school via their laptop in the USA, @LostInParadise?

I see this as an immense opportunity for kids in extremely rural locations to have access to the same books, technology, and information as kids in expensive private schools.

I’m willing to bet the children learn to read quicker than children in conventional schooling. When children have questions and no one is able to answer them, they search for their own answers.

LostInParadise's avatar

Virtual schools still provide some human contact. There are advisers, people to grade tests and people to perform evaluations. In Pennsylvania, where I live, there is a virtual charter school I would be interested in seeing how effective it is. I have my doubts.

An interesting model is provided by Summerhill Even though this is a private school for rich kids, it is similar in that students are responsible for their own education. Summerhill still uses teachers. Setting up something similar to Summerhill in a rural village would in some ways be simpler, since non-educational issues like food, clothing, shelter and discipline are handled by the parents. There would need to be far fewer teachers per student, but I think that even one teacher could make a big difference.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Not all virtual schooling work with a staff. Many are just log in and do homework. Many other homeschoolers use places like Khan Academy to supplement the books in their home…But no matter comparing homeschoolers to rural Ethiopians is comparing apples to oranges.

These are tools as a substitute for no schooling at all. The tablet project makes perfect sense to me. Starting a school takes a lot of financial resources. Tablets are fairly cheap. They are tools to learn, as proven here. And further, OPLC can collect research to see how the kids are learning and how long it takes on average for the kids to teach themselves to read. <—I love this aspect!

This is a great resource for “unschoolers”, too. More proof that children know how to learn all on their own.

LostInParadise's avatar

I will be watching this project with great interest. If it is successful, it could have an impact on learning in all countries. As you mention, there is no shortage of feedback data.

lifeflame's avatar

Check out this TED talk: The Child-Driven Education
It’s amazing what a child can do by him or herself given access to technology and curiosity.

LostInParadise's avatar

You have given me something else to follow. There seems to be a benefit in having the children share computers, so that they learn from one another. It is all very encouraging, but I think they will find that there is still a role for a teacher, especially as the children get older. The teacher’s role will not be to stand in the front of the class and lecture, but to act as a guide and a resource.

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