Sugata recently appeared on BBC World Service’s The Forum programme to talk about SOLEs and his idea for school exams in the future. We thought you might like to hear some of what was discussed on this blog.
“It’s important to understand the sense in which I use the word ‘self organising system’,” says Sugata. “It’s not organisation of the self. I find increasingly that people mix it up with self-regulated or self-directed learning and that’s not what I’m talking about.
“A self organising system is basically a concept that comes out of maths and physics which is that if you allow a system to be chaotic then, under certain circumstances, you get spontaneous order.
“I think I’ve seen that happen with children quite accidentally; initially I had not a clue that was what was happening. Yet over the last 15 years, in instance after instance, I’ve seen groups of children who simply don’t know any English confronted with the internet in English and making sense of what they see.”
Sugata also talked to BBC host Bridget Kendall about how hole-in-the-wall developed into School in the Cloud in a way that would not have been possible before the Internet, and how it has changed the way children learn.
“When a group reads together they somehow read at much higher levels of comprehension than an individual child,” he explains. “This was not something I’d seen before. The limitations of reading in print means you can’t easily read the same book at the same time in a group, but you can on screen.
“We’ve seen instant amplification of comprehension – as soon as one stumbles, another one steps in to help, creating this spontaneous order.”
Sugata says that this instantaneous feedback from peers, not teachers, taps into the universal idea of emergent order out of a chaotic situation.
His 60 second idea to pitch to the presenter and fellow participants Sir Ken Robinson and Professor Scott Klemmer was for the internet to be allowed into exams.
He argued that schools need to be able to assess children’s ability to live in the world today, not the Victorian age. “For probably the first time in their lives they have to enter an exam room and demonstrate that they can live without the Internet. Why?”
Sugata went on to point out that if the internet was allowed into exams, this would cause the whole education system to change to better reflect the world we live in.
“If you need to know something you can now know it instantly– today’s children have not seen another world,” says Sugata. “The standardised education system of putting facts into their brains and then examining to see if has been retained doesn’t mean anything to them. ‘Why do I have to know how to multiply by hand with pen and pencil?’ they ask me.”
This special Forum edition Cloud Education: The Future of Learning was about the big challenges facing education today and how we ensure everyone can learn to the best of their ability. It explored these questions and more with future learning, educational and creative leader Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, UK and Scott Klemmer, Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science and Engineering, University of California, USA.
Listen to the full programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02qm95w