The “Hole-in-the Wall” Project on TED by Sugata Mitra

In this TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) presentation, Sugata Mitra, Ph.D.,  Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK, and Chief Scientist, Emeritus, at NIIT in Gurgaon, India, proves with his “hole in the wall” experiments, carried out in some of the poorest parts of the world, that children “will learn to do what they want to learn to do” regardless of who or where they are in the world.  He discusses children’s ability to learn without instruction given the opportunity, computers, and learning companions.  Furthermore, he suggests that teachers who understand and value this concept of learning will be able to unleash amazing amounts of learning energy in their students.

How can we unleash this learning energy in our adult ESL students?  In our classrooms and workshops,  let’s recreate a form of Dr. Mitra’s SOLES (self-organized learning environments), and ask our students to collaboratively find answers to questions by capitalizing on each other’s knowledge without any intervention or interference by the teacher.   I don’t propose that this be the daily lesson plan, but it can be an activity to accompany almost any lesson if structured appropriately.  Will the students improve their English-language, problem-solving and technology skills simply by being given the opportunity, the resources, and the cohorts?  You betcha!    Just as In Language Learning, Silence is Golden on the part of the teacher, also golden is allowing our students to be at the center of their learning rather than the instructor!  Can these SOLES also be set up to have students develop a project, be it a video, glog, audio file, story, or other creation demonstrating the technology, language, and problem-solving competencies they have achieved through these  “hole-in-the-wall exercises? Let’s find out!

Another thought…Dr. Mitra talked about the “Granny Cloud” from which kindhearted souls would Skype into the classroom to help and encourage the children in their learning.  Why aren’t we using Skype in our classes to give our adult students contact with kindhearted volunteers who might not be able to be physically present in the classroom but who could, nevertheless, offer language and cultural assistance to our students through tutoring, guided conversation practice, and/or by simply by being on hand to answer questions or to ask them, “how are you doing today, my friend?”

Thanks to Adam Burke for his post, Lessons in the Absence of Teachers.

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