Saturday, 22 October 2011

Learning from Each Other

sugata mitraI first came across Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” work about ten years ago. This work has been summed up in the term Minimally Invasive Education. I previously mentioned his work back in February. As pretty much an IT auto-didact, I’m predisposed towards his viewpoint that children will learn many skills without the intervention of formal teaching. So this week, having finished a unit of work and not wishing to start another until after half term, I thought I would see what groups of students would do with a tool they had never used before. I decided on Glogster which I am planning to be part of the MAD project next term. I was pretty sure most had never seen the interface before.

We watched a video about the “Hole in the Wall” project together and discussed how the children in the video had learned so much about computer use without any adult help.
I’ve complained before about the dictatorship of classroom infrastructure.  The first groups worked alone at their own machines as the room layout suggests. Despite seeming to understand the importance of discussion and learning from each other, once seated at a machine they needed to be told to get up and go and look at others' work.
After this experience I asked students to work in threes around one computer. The effect was immediately apparent: the noise level went up steeply. I was suddenly reminded of the “bad” old days when students were always expected to work this way because of a lack of computers. Children working in groups round one machine made noticeably faster progress than those working alone. The added excitement was tangible. It helps of course that Glogster is a well-designed and user-friendly application, but almost all students were able to demonstrate how to add images, text, video and sound to their Glogs in  well under the 40 minutes I gave them.
Thinking about this it’s perhaps not surprising – it closely resembles their natural informal learning mode (aka: play).  The experiment was far from rigorous but quite enough to convince me to drop instruction time and work in groups much more often.
Professor Mitra dicusses this method at 34.40 in the video below. But do yourself a favour - watch the whole thing. It could just change the way you think about education.