For some, the effects of technology on the future shaping of education and the instructor began with a single hole in a New Delhi slum wall. You might wonder how a little hole in a wall put to question the effectiveness of the modern day instructor. Before evidence is provided, I ask you to first consider a few questions. Do students really need instructors? Where is your place as an instructor in education today? Finally, what do you foresee as your educational role in the near future?
With rapid innovation in technology today, we cannot know how to anticipate or prepare for education or workforce, or even what education or workforce might look like in the next twenty years (Mitra, 2013). As education quickly evolves in conjunction with technology, how we approach it and utilize teachers in the process, becomes a leading topic of debate. One such individual attempting to translate future education is educational technologist Dr. Sugata Mitra. Through poking a hole in a slum wall and exposing children who have never had experience with technology to a computer, Dr. Mitra’s extensive research has been challenging the notion of instructor as sage on the stage and whether children are able to achieve sophisticated learning without instructor influence (Costa, 2014).
Numerous trials were conducted in remote areas where access to technology was unquestionably obsolete. As part of the process, Dr. Mitra established a “hole in the wall” kiosk, complete with a computer and mouse. He then informed curious children that he did not know what the device was, and leaving the kiosk under observation of camera, returned after so many weeks to evaluate learning. Key to the experiment is that children must be provided unsupervised use of the technology, and thus far, the results have indicated surprising learning achievements by children (Costa, 2014). Outcomes to this point have in fact demonstrated that students who have participated in self-organized learning environments (SOLE) compare at the same level or above those students who have learned in a school.
Researchers of SOLE have generated several arguments that support minimally invasive education. First and foremost, even the most dynamic schools today are preparing children to work in the past (Costa, 2014). Employment trends and predictions today are not aligned with graduation requirements. A second argument is that students are accessing learning materials though mobile devices on their own and in the absence of an instructor. With social networking and the cloud, students are far more engaged and eager to learn independently than what instructors have programmed for them (Costa, 2014). A final argument is that humans have finally approached a time when the individual who knows information is not at an advantage. The advantage now belongs to the individual who knows how to access and incorporate information into preexisting knowledge (Costa, 2014). For Dr. Mitra, the SOLE process of learning is not about making learning happen, but rather, letting it happen (Mitra, 2013).
What happens to the instructor in the SOLE scenario? Instructors, according to Dr. Mitra, are not necessarily obsolete, but have a deeper and more meaningful mission. Children may learn better in less invasive environments, but the learning is deepened and more relevant when the instructor takes on a new role (Mitra, 2013). Within the SOLE, instructors take the role of the care-giver by encouraging, applauding, and asking why. Therefore the instructor does not necessarily teach, but encourages and advocates imagination and thought (Mitra, 2013).
If you have an interest in minimally invasive learning, I highly recommend the following links:
Sugata Mitra’s 203 TED Prize Speech: https://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud
The Work Wonders Project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRE1eBptVy8&feature=youtu.be
Whether or not you support the stance of the minimal learning environment, what is certain is that education as we know it does not meet the needs of the modern day learner, and educational explorers such as Dr. Mitra should be genuinely considered as a potential candidate in the place of the new educational era.
Costa, M.J. (2014). Self-organized learning environments and the future of student-centered education. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 42(2) 160-161. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20781
Mitra, S. (2013). Sugata Mitra: Build a school in the cloud [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud