Friday 8 November 2013

Hole In The Wall Project

A while ago I watched a TED talk by Sugata Mitra about child driven education and the Hole In The Wall Project, if you haven't seen it, you can watch it here..

Mitra then went on to win $1,000,000 from TED to put towards the Hole In The Wall project. He has been testing his theories for over 12 years, thousands of kids have benefited from his project and now he is re-defining the way that children should be taught.

After studying about Montessori's theories and ideas that education should be child led, not teacher led I am 100% behind the need for change. Traditionally a class has, let's say 30 kids, with the teacher dictating what will be studied that day. This is no benefit to anyone but the teacher, bright kids are held back because the whole class must move forward at the same speed, slower kids don't get all the help that they need and the average kids are never pushed to try things just out of their reach.

That, combined with the learning cycles, where kids are drawn to different ares of interest at different times makes the traditional classroom totally inefficient as a learning tool. Children don't need more educated teachers, more tests, longer school days, more homework - unless we are trying to crush the love of learning out of them, what they need is to be allowed to learn freely.

Mitra's way rely's heavily on technology and there are no teachers. The children are given an open ended questions and work in groups of 4 to discover the answer. Their conclusions may differ from group to group depending where their research took them. It encourages deep learning, communication and group problem solving. Like Montessori, the ages of the children doesn't matter, they learn from each other, they are keen to show off their new skills and things that they have discovered.

One of Mitra's experiments really interested me, he set up a computer containing information about molecular biology in English for a group of Indian children who didn't speak English. After a couple of months the kids had learned enough to score about 30% on a test, after 150 days they were hitting a score of 50%
Mirtra then introduced a mediator, this woman had no knowledge of molecular biology and so she couldn't teach the kids anything, what she did do was ask probing questions to help the kids dig deeper. Again, their test score got to the point where they only got a few questions wrong. Not bad for a group of 10 years old Indian kids, hey!

I decide to try a little experiment of my own, I got on Facebook and asked some friends how to translate a sentence into their native tongue. This is what I got back...

Кто был Галилео Галилей и почему он важен.

And that is what I gave Ebi-kun, no explanation of what it was or what it meant, just the sentence on the screen. Then I walked away...

By himself he figured out how to use google translate, discovered it was written in Russian and what the question was ("Who was Galileo Galilei and why is he important?"). Then he went on to find out who Galileo was, he came across some words he didn't know, philosopher, astronomer and fundamental, so he looked those up too. He took notes and after 30 minutes (dinner was ready) he came back with this...

He really enjoyed doing it and asked if I can prepare him another BIG question for when he gets home from school. The only worry I have about all this is that he will accidentally come across some dodgy website, I have the safe function on the google searches, but stuff does slip through. Having the computer in the living area helps, at least I can keep an eye on him and what he is looking at.

One thing we lack is the aspect of working in a group, I am hoping that we can get together with friends and do it with the kids in the same room and I have also been thinking that we can do this using google hangout party. I will let you know how it goes!

For us, Ebi-kun will still attend a Japanese school, even though I don't agree with the teaching methods. School isn't just about maths and Japanese, he learns so much about being part of the community and the nuances of Japanese culture, that I can't teach him. We will be using more of this method along with Montessori to encourage the love of learning and keep his English fluent.

If you are interested in learning more, there is a very inspiration piece about a slum school in Mexico and one very bright little girl in Wired Magazine, information on how to get involved HERE and you can also download the free SOLE toolkit. You can also get Mitra's book, Beyond The Hole In The Wall for a couple of dollars on Amazon. 

I would love to know what you think about it all, share in the comments...

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  1. I agree, curiosity led learning is what really sticks, hence lessons at our place generally go awry because one thing just leads to another and another. But sadly the school system will take aeons to change, and we do need that for now, to teach a child how to manage interpersonal relationships, to satisfy the very fundamental human need for contact, especially play, and also, the discipline needed in life because things are not what we want them to be.

    1. spot on! Doing this on his own lacks the social skills so I am hoping to get some friends on board :)

    2. Good for you! I think you'll make a success of it too!

  2. Hi! I'm new at your blog, I've been following for some time but this is the first comment I write. I've been living in Japan since April and that's why I started reading you. However I have to say that I love everything you post... and I'm very impressed with this subject... Thank you for teaching us something (for me) new... You should seriously consider the idea of opening an after school class for kids... just like Kumon or something like that, I know I would send my kids!! You should start your own business with this and the rest of us can open classrooms in our cities ;) Think about it :)

    1. Hi! I do think a lot about how we can bring about change - not much hope of that here, you know what they are like! But there has to a better way than force-feeding kids juku!


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