Sugata Mitra’s new TED talk — creating environments for emergent learning
Sylvia Libow Martinez

No one should mistake “Minimally Invasive Education” (love it) or Self-Organized Learning Environments with getting rid of teachers. They do, however, change the role of the teacher dramatically. Rather than “giving” learners what adults have decided they need to know, the adult takes on many roles, such as curator of enriched learning environments. The adult also acts as mentor, guide, facilitator of learning, questioner, and cheerleader!

One of the most difficult thing for traditional educators to accept is that not all children need to “know and be able to do” the same things (outside of a few TRUE essentials such as literacy, numeracy, thinking skills, etc.). And even with those, there is no “age” at which every child must achieve those skills. There is no “average” pace at which students must learn in order to be “successful.” (See Todd Rose’s book The End of Average.)

This article describes the critical role of adults in authentic learning. The human interaction in the “granny” movement is a great idea for countries where there are no teachers…or public schools where there classes are large or, as you say, overburdened. But a computer cannot model social and emotional behavior — it can’t give a child a hug when s/he needs one — it can’t analyze a student’s non-verbal communication to provide the exact word or suggestion that student needs at that moment in time.

If Mitra has proven one thing, it is that children can learn on their own, given the opportunity. Learning doesn’t REQUIRE teaching. THAT’S the message that traditional teachers and policy makers aren’t hearing. Given the fact that all the knowledge of humanity can be accessed at the press of a button, “teacher as teller” is an anachronism. The question we should be asking is what can teachers/adults do for children that they can’t get from their computer or smart phone!

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