The school systems we have now are obsolete. In the inspiring (and thankfully funny) TED talks of Dr Sugata Mitra and Sir Ken Robinson, we can get the idea of why the Victorian-style industrial education system is outdated.
“Schools as we know them are obsolete... I'm not saying they're broken. It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken. It's not broken. It's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated.” – Sugata Mitra
Dr Mitra even argues that ‘Knowing is obsolete’ in the age of the internet. In his lecture for EDU 8213 on 18 Oct, he used a beautiful metaphor which describesthe purpose of education is to pack the suitcase for the learners to go through the life journey. The industrial education focuses on producing "identical people." Thus, most of our children and especially ourselves have spent years packing things we don’t need. But the world no longer needs identical people.
In today’s dynamic technological landscape, static knowledge is losing value. None of us can predict the kind of future that awaits, so how do we create learning experiences that prepare our students for an uncertain future? What to pack in the suitcase for the future journey?
SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments) might be the right answer.
How are SOLEs More Relevant in the digital age?
‘Big Question’ as the starting Point
In a world where everything is in flux, it is essential to update, change, replace, or adapt whatever knowledge we have. Considering most of the human knowledge is accessible on the Internet, it is more important these days that we can keep learning—and keep questioning everything, ask and pursue answers to ‘big questions’.
SOLE inspires students by asking ‘big’ questions while empowering them to find the answer (and more questions). Sometimes the big question is one that no one in the world has the answer to, such as “Why Sapiens are important?”. The questions are worded to sparks curiosity and excitement amongst the students. Students then set out to self-organise the learning process.
Photo copyright @ SoulPancake "Little Kids. Big Questions." hosted by INGRID MICHAELSON
Student as the driver while teacher takes the backseat
SOLE approach focuses on the discovery, sharing and spontaneity of individuals and groups, makes the students feeling empowered and they are encouraged to take ownership of learning. This approach creates learning opportunities that satisfy learners’ innate desire to educate themselves, develops their independent thinking skills, build models, and solve challenges.
By encouraging students to be the driver in their own learning process, the teacher takes the backseat and plays the role of an observer. In the blog post (https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2016/06/21/students-lead-their-learning/), a science teacher Jennifer was impressed after visiting a SOLE school in New York, by how the student is self-driven to learn and how the teacher simply “Let the Learning Happen” instead of taking full control to manage the classroom and students.
In the real-world scenarios, the most successful workers will be creative, be able to work with internet access when problem-solving and be able to collaborate with others.
SOLE encourages students to learn in small groups and to work collaboratively and creatively on digital devices. They are free to choose a group, report findings, walk around and share information between groups. This educational approach allows all students to interact face-to-face and to collaborate with others. They can practice negotiating and develop better social skills while being constantly exposed to other people’s perspectives.
The future of learning?
As educators, we seek to develop robust learning experiences that prepare students for an ever-changing future. However, does the education in future need teachers? Recently, I had an interesting experience playing Minecraft with the 6 and 11 years old. They could create amazing buildings and objects which exist in real life (from the toys in their bedroom to the Tyne Bridge) at a speed that makes me feel dizzy. They can even create portals that take them to other worlds in Minecraft.
To me, Minecraft is a SOLE: Children play and learn together or individually on digital devices to create their own learning journey. They can collaborate in real time, send messages to each other and take the initiatives to teach themselves how to be better in Minecraft from online tutorials. As an adult, this is something that we don’t need to teach, in fact, even if I want, I don’t know how and I cannot compete with their learning speed!
What should teachers do then, if the students can learn anything by themselves?
Or, as Dr Sugata Mitra puts it: “Are the teachers prepared to teach what they don’t know？”