Uncomfortable learning

My previous blog talked of 3 words. This one begins with three questions.

In an age of universal information why do we need teachers? What do students think learning is? Why do so many of us, not just our students, avoid the very activities most conducive to learning?

In a survey I recently conducted, when asked “What is learning” over 90% of the A level students , answer in terms of gaining information or increasing knowledge. A minority also mention understanding. An even smaller fraction mention developing a skill (and this includes students on physical programmes such as A level dance). Whilst there can be little doubt that knowledge is a key element of much learning, it strikes me as significant that A level students, even those now in their second year, privilege information and its recall above all the various other aspects of learning.

This leads back to my first question, if learning is just gaining knowledge, and access to knowledge for anyone with an Internet-enabled device, whether mobile phone, tablet, computer or TV, is almost ubiquitous, why do we need teachers? Sugata Mitra, who became famous following his ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiments with computers in remote villages in India, would argue that we hardly do. And his model of ‘child-driven’ education has great emotional appeal to some of us who have become critical of centrally imposed curricula. I don’t wish to deny the importance of the questions that Mitra’s work poses. I believe his and others’ work on developing self-organised learning environments (SOLE) deserves attention. Indeed I am writing this blog precisely because I take these questions seriously.

(to be continued)

Further viewing and reading:

Mitra, S (2013) School in the Cloud TED prize wish: https://www.ted.com/participate/ted-prize/prize-winning-wishes/school-in-the-cloud

ALTC blog (2012) The Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) School Support Pack:
https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2012/02/the-self-organised-learning-environment-sole-school-support-pack/

The school in the cloud experiment: https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/

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