a line of screens, originally uploaded by phitar.
Note: this was mostly written last Friday, and I only write here a small fraction of what I wanted… But I do not want to hold this post hostage until I get it right.
I do not have the time, bandwidth (technological, cognitive), or battery life to properly respond to this week’s sessions at the UOC’s Open EdTech and UNESCO Chair in E-learning Fifth International Seminar: Fighting the Digital Divide through Education conferences. Though again, I am pleased to point you to Ismael’s incredible liveblogging performance – and I believe the video archives will soon be available.
I will say that I was as provoked and moved by Dr. Sugata Mitra’s session on his Hole in the Wall project (also here) and subsequent work as by any session I have ever attended. I won’t attempt a synthesis, but will suggest that watching his TED Talk will be twenty minutes very well spent.
And two sets of related questions that I can’t get out of my head:
- If we can so rapidly mobilize a trillion dollars or more to rescue a financial system from the incompetence, greed and depradations of the people who are still in charge of it, is it not in our self-interest to spend a small fraction of that amount for the countless millions of extraordinarily deprived and vulnerable children of the world? Dr. Mitra estimates a cost of 3 cents US per student per day for his method. If we won’t do it because it’s the humane thing to do, let’s do it out of our own self-interest and self-preservation (if nothing else, think of the global conflict and security implications).
- What are the broader implications of “minimally invasive education” and “self-organizing educational systems”? Dr. Mitra is convinced that these methods cannot work for adults. Based on my own instinct and experience, I have to reluctantly agree with him. Why not? And what would adults need to unlearn in order to learn the way these kids do? I again find myself thinking that the teaching of skills is less important than changing attitudes – but I have no idea how best to do so.
Finally, thanks to the scale and intimacy of this week’s events, I (and members of my family) had the privilege to spend time interacting socially with Dr. Mitra in a casual environment. He was unfailingly kind, generous, irreverent and immensely amusing, evidently more or less devoid of ego… Funny how so often the most impressive people I meet in this field seem to share those attributes.
Hopefully I’ll have more reflections on this remarkable week in future posts.