Podcast Summary & Analysis

645 words | 3 page(s)

This paper provides a summary and analysis of “How Much Can Children Teach Themselves?”, a Ted Radio Hour podcast. First, it summarizes the key things in the podcast. Second, it analyzes the material in the podcast and assesses its value for learning and education.

Sugata Mitra, a Professor of Educational Technology at the Uiversity of Newcastle, Great Britain, discovered unique things about learning that, if proved true, would transform the very understanding of how people learn. He is being interviewed while in Calcutta, India. India has been the site of Mitra’s research for decades. His hypothesis is that learning does not have to be taught, in other words, this is “unstoppable learning.” This refers to learning through our minds and bodies’ assimilation of the world around us.

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Mitra’s experiments started around two decades ago. At the time time, Mitra was working for a computer firm in New Delhi and his boss asked him to research how computers work in public spaces. So in 1999, Mitra, who had dreamt of teaching poor children computer science, installed a computer three feet off the ground in a wall of a building slum, “with no running water, limited electricity,” and children who did not know English. After hours of being static, the computer started working, the Microsoft Word appeared on the screen, etc. The children learnt using it without a keyboard but using a mouse, without any external instruction. And Mitra was observing all these efforts from his remote computer networked to the experimental one. After a wave of skepticism from colleagues, he repeated the experiment in a distant village where the chances of having someone computer-educated to help children learn the computer were zero. Just as in the first experiment, he saw how children started using the computer and worked with Word. When asked how they were doing that the children answered, “You gave us a computer that worked only in English. So we had to teach ourselves English in order to use it” Mitra refers to this as the first time in his teaching career when the words “teach ourselves” sounded too casually.

To prove that his hypothesis about the word the self-teaching was right, Mitra convinced the adults in eighteen various villages across India to allow their children participate in the experiment. Everywhere, children left for nine months with computer, without any computer instruction, would reach the same high level of computer literacy as in an office secretary. This and further experiment has helped Mitra conclude that “learning is a product of educational self-organization.” If a person self-organizes for learning, it happens. Hence, this all is about not making learning happen, but letting it happen. Therefore, as the learning happens just by being there, the teacher should step back and watched in awe.

Now let’s analyze Sugata Mitra’s discovery. If to apply to the context of modern education, it is about teachers letting students do more independent work rather than serving as the chief sources of learning and instruction. It is also about organizing students’ classroom learning environment in the way that will foster enquiry and interaction with knowledge as well as discovery of new knowledge. Similarly to Mitra’s findings, the learners will be motivated by their own need to know something or master some skill. Yet, if teachers wish to apply Mitra’s ideas to practical teaching they should adapt them to classroom learning. In particular, focus on self-discipline, reflection, and systemic work should be promoted (Mishra 34). It seems distant learning is the best environment of self-education, where the teachers is only a facilitator enabling students’ function as independent learners and regulate the process of learning by themselves.

In summary, this paper has summarized the podcast about learning “How Much Can Children Teach Themselves?” It has also analyzed the material in the podcast with regard to the modern trends in education.

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