Mark Twain famously said that schooling should not be allowed to interfere with education and a number of people have tried to put this idea into practice. And yet secondary education in the way it’s structured and imparted hasn’t changed much since the 19th century. Does “old school” deserve the regard and respect we attach to this term? To discuss this, Oksana Boyko is joined by prominent Indian educator, Prof Sugata Mitra.Read more
Mexico City – Mexico has found a new heroine: A 12-year-old math whiz from a state plagued by drug violence who was dubbed “The Next Steve Jobs” by a US magazine. The youngest of eight children from a modest family, Paloma Noyola was thrown under the media spotlight since Wired magazine featured the black-haired girl on its cover two weeks ago.
She has appeared in national newspapers and on cable news, redubbed “La Nina Jobs” – “The Jobs Girl” – with photographers and cameramen chasing the girl nicknamed after Apple’s late founder. This week, she travelled from her hometown of Matamoros, in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, to the hustle and bustle of Mexico City for a mental math competition.
“I’m very happy. If you want it, you can do it,” said Noyola.
With so much attention on the girl, Tamaulipas state officials who flew in with her shielded Noyola from the press pack. She sat alone at a large table and was whisked away after the contest organised by the Tecnologico de Monterrey University ended. But she did not win the contest.
Last year, the girl whose school lies next to a dump across the US border wowed the country when she scored the maximum 921 in the national standardised exam, the best in Mexico. Her father died of lung cancer last year and her family earns an income from selling scrap metal and food in Matamoros, a city tormented for years by a turf war between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels.
Minimally invasive education
While Noyola made the cover of Wired, it was her teacher’s radical methods that featured prominently in the magazine’s story. Sergio Juarez Correa, aged 32, saw his entire class’s Spanish and math scores dramatically improve after he implemented a new approach, allowing students to tap into their own curiosity and self-learning to solve problems.
Juarez Correa took inspiration from the “minimally invasive education” concept of Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Britain’s Newcastle University. While Noyola garnered attention for acing the national exam last year, nine other students scored more than 900 in the math test.
The school is located in a “punishment zone” for education, dubbed that way because no professor wants to be there due to the high level of crime and dismal infrastructure. The school lacks basic services such as running water, drainage or a telephone line – an all-too-common problem in Mexican classrooms.
“If Paloma had the same opportunities or open doors as Steve Jobs, she probably would be a genius in this subject,” Juarez told AFP.
Two of Noyola’s classmates disappeared midway through the school year without anybody knowing why.
“The Mexican education system is like a bus with broken seats, wheels in bad shape and a broken engine that must climb a hill,” Juarez said.
The education system of Latin America’s second economy ranks last among the 34 nations of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, pushed through an education reform in a country where less than half of high school students are expected to graduate.
Juarez lamented that the government’s reform lacks plans to improve school infrastructure. The Wired article noted how his school lacked computers.
source: AFP / News24Read more
The educational innovator receives $1 million to seed child-driven, Internet-enabled learning centers in India and around the world.
Today Dr. Sugata Mitra became the eighth winner of the TED Prize, which now consists of $1 million presented to social entrepreneurs to make their dreams huge. Past winners include Bono’s ONE campaign, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and artist JR.
Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment, begun in 1999 and detailed in this Ted talk, has been on the minds of educational innovators ever since. He provided access to a computer connected to the Internet through a literal hole in the wall of his office in a Delhi slum and saw how children who didn’t speak English–and may have never attended school–taught themselves the basics of Googling information they needed, and even stumbled into interests like genetics.
He later built on the experiment, realizing the importance of creating a “granny cloud” of adults who could encourage and enable children in their self-directed intellectual journeys by asking them great questions, whether or not the adults were themselves subject matter experts.
With the prize, Mitra plans to build a “school in the cloud,” essentially a computer lab in India staffed with one adult and open to children 8 to 12 to explore their interests. This will be achieved with the help of retired online volunteer mentors who will Skype in when needed–the “grannies in the cloud.” He’s also releasing a toolkit for others who want to adopt the setup themselves to create Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) anywhere in the world.
“My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together,” Mitra said.
In the world of education reform, Mitra’s work falls squarely on the side of the conversation–along with longtime TED Talk all-star Sir Ken Robinson–that says what schools need most is to enable new kinds of creativity and learner-centeredness, without trying to micromanage the outcomes. The move to create “maker spaces” in U.S. schools equipped with 3-D printers and the like is another example of this line of thinking, which stands in stark contrast to innovators like Sal Khan of Khan Academy, who focuses on enabling students to learn traditional subjects like math more quickly and efficiently, with outcomes measurable on standardized tests.
In addition to the million dollars and international exposure, the TED prize this year brings with it a grant from the Sundance Institute: $125,000 for anyone who wants to make a documentary about Mitra’s work.
[Images courtesy of TED. Sugata Mitra Photo: James Duncan Davidson]
source: fastcoexist.comRead more