What do we do when we can see that the best schools and teachers don’t exist in the places children most need good schools and teachers? This is the question Sugata Mitra faced, and his answers have led to some of the most innovative education in the world. I first learned about his work in his 2010 TED talk. In it he described his experiences providing technology in isolated areas—not in schools, but embedded in impoverished communities so that young people could explore and learn at will. The results were amazing. If you have never seen the video, and can invest 17 minutes, you won’t regret it. I’ll post it at the bottom, because there’s more.
Three years later, Mitra gave another TED talk (see even further below), hoping to expand his work. He proposed the creation of a “School in the Cloud,” allowing students all over the world opportunities to learn independently using technology. He was the winner of the 2013 TED prize, which has allowed his vision to come to life. School in the Cloud has grown to a world-wide experiment in self-organized learning. Here’s a brief introduction.
I’m an admirer of Mitra’s work, but I wondered how it might be adapted in schools structured more traditionally. The School in a Cloud website can help. In it, you can learn to structure a SOLE (Self Organized Learning Experience) in your classroom. In a SOLE, educators post “Big Questions” and students work together to find answers in “purposefully chaotic environments” (sounds like creativity, doesn’t it?). Big questions are intended to spark curiosity, connect multiple disciplines, and focus student research. You can explore ideas for Big Questions or contribute one of your own at The School in a Cloud’s site. While a SOLE is not teacher directed, it is also not without resources. Of course you can serve as advisor, but your students also can have access to the “Granny Cloud” of mediators around the world who encourage and support SOLE activities through Skype.
Want to learn more? At the School in the Cloud library, you can download a free SOLE Toolkit to help you get started, or information on getting started as a Skype Granny.
If you want your students to develop independence, collaborative skills, research capacity, and flexible thinking, making SOLEs a regular part of your school (or home) routine can be a path. For an investment of about an hour, your students may begin to see themselves as learners in a whole new way. Of course it is a journey, but it seems worth taking. I’d love to hear about your adventures, and so would the School in a Cloud.
To see where it all began, here’s Sugata Mitra’s original TED talk.
And here’s the talk that sparked School in a Cloud. Amazing. Don’t you want to be a part of it?