Monday, March 11, 2013

Use computers to facilitate learning, not teaching

Learning cannot be 'forced', it can only be 'enabled'

I think everyone knows this rule of learning, but we simply ignore it. Teachers ignore it because they have to catch up with the syllabus, Parents ignore it because they are more worried if their children can  reproduce what they have been 'taught' and get more marks and degrees, Principals ignore it because they are concerned about the school's reputation, and Students ignore it because they do not 'know' how to learn better.So is there anyone in the education system who cares about whether the student learns or not?

However learning always gets self-organised by students. It cannot be 'forced' by any teacher, howsoever brilliant he or she is. A teacher can force students to 'remember something by rote and repetition' and help the student to 'upload' the 'subject data' in his/her 'memory'. But a student has to learn himself to use that 'data'. He/She has to learn to use the 'memorised data' in different situations, across different logical events. This is what develops intelligence. A student has to 'drive' this learning process of using 'data' by his own efforts. A teacher can only 'hasten/retard' this process by putting in enablers or diablers.

Sugata Mitra has found a brilliant way of using computers to hasten the learning of student. I am sure you have heard about Sugata Mitra's Self organised learning method. It is also called SOLE. He has developed a wonderful method of using computers+benign mentors to enable the student to learn themselves. Please read more about his method. You must also read about his experiments - some of which have produced shocking results - in his TED talks.

In this method, you will find that four enablers are used for making learning happen in children students in a school:
  1. Children must chose the topics of learning - the questions - on their own. This is because learning happens when cognitive efforts required for learning are personal and voluntary. This is therefore better done in a school class which is once/twice a week initially.
  2. Children should be guided by 'benign mentors' to discover the answers by using internet smartly, separating hearsay info from the evidence, and asking 'what then' questions. Teachers can get trained in using this method by downloading this SOLE KIT, or ask our assistance. 
  3. Children should work in teams so that they learn from each other's interpretations. More importantly, students learn to ask help from each other, instead of asking help from teachers. Trained teachers guide this process. 
  4. Children develop their 'emotional regulation' ability - which is perhaps the single biggest factor in making learning happen - while they are discovering the answers to their questions in a sustained manner. Trained teachers once again guide this process.
I have seen many schools using e-learning classes where teachers teach subjects through computers. This is 'teaching'. Although e-teaching is useful to 'facilitate fast and purposeful downloading of subject content', a lot more has to be done to ensure that it can also facilitate learning. (We will talk later how this e-teaching classes can also be altered to facilitate learning of students!) 

Instead, just by using the computer lab in the school once a week ( the frequency of this class can be increased depending on the demand of students!), a school teacher can enable learning in students. Isn't that a brilliant way of using computers to facilitate 'learning', not teaching? 

If you do want to use computers to enable learning in your school, you can also contact us for help. We can help you if your school is in Nashik, Pune, or Mumbai.

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