Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
This week, Sugata Mitra was awarded the TED Prize for his work in education. His most recent project, The Granny Cloud, recruits retired teachers in England to Skype once a week with classrooms in India. This revolutionary idea -- giving classrooms a virtual mediator to encourage them -- creates a consistent and positive feedback loop for students. More importantly, this system bypasses education's traditional hierarchy, instead placing power with the student.
The Granny Cloud represents a timely change in how children need to be educated. In 2011, scholars speculated that the population of India was growing so rapidly that it would be physically impossible to provide every classroom with an able teacher. Mitra has taken innovative steps to address this problem by approaching education from a fresh perspective. More on Sugata's formative thoughts on this topic can be found on his blog.
Sugata's efforts have shown that the traditional model may not be the only road to success. His Hole in the Wall and SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) projects illustrate that kids can learn quickly from each other with minimal adult involvement, motivated solely by curiosity and peer interest. His approach embraces child-driven learning where educators encourage these urges. If we have kids crowdsource the best content for their peers, other committed educators will be inspired to upload more content, helping fuel a robust self-organizing system.
Technology impacts teaching through low-cost delivery and access models plus cheaper hardware devices like smartphones, tablets, low-cost laptops. New curated resource sites like Gooru Learning are indexing resources ranging from online textbook materials, pedagogical content to quizzes and lesson plans. Sugata's method relies on both innovative teaching methods and young people's ability to adapt and learn at a rapid pace using technology. Virtual mediators in the "Granny Cloud" provide reliable support and feedback thereby enriching the student experience.
Though these early results are exciting, it is still too soon to say how and what kind of learning outcomes we can expect. We must measure the impact and develop assessment methods (like peer grading and review) and analytics to know how effective this can be at scale. The cloud's low delivery cost and wide reach will present many attractive opportunities to iterate and refine Sugata's model, much like any other web service.
Though many possible solutions are being developed now in secondary and higher education, the focus should remain on early and primary education to make this exciting TED wish a reality. Sugata's vision and passion combined with the TED Prize and the support of TED community will be a clarion call to propel this initiative forward and bring his wish of accessible education to millions of young kids around the world.
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