The Future of Learning

sugatamitriI have written and pounded the pulpit long and hard on the issue of teachers “getting out of the way”.  Ranted and pleaded with teachers to be more inductive in their approach, more sandbox about the learning environment.

No greater compliment to my own constructivist and technology enabled vision can I find than Sugata Mitra. He’s a wonder and I’ve been writing about him for the last 3-4 years.  I try to spring him into any of my lectures, on as many occasions as is possible. He really makes it clear, usually through the voices of children – that they can learn on their own. That indeed, one of the biggest obstacles to student learning is the teacher (and by default, the administration and curriculum).

I’ve now found the perfect presentation by Sugata – The Future of Learning. It outlines in lively form, all his research and thoughts. You got to take a look. Yes, his other talks are wonderful but here, he lays it all out succinctly and of course with his trademark giggle.  A gem.

Things I found particularly important, even revelatory:

1.  The discussion at the 1 hour mark is the major highlight. Sugata rightly suggests that we should un focus from content – the content can be found easily. We need to ask the right questions and turn into question based curriculum experts. Also a great part about designing the right classroom….

2.  Students CAN obtain educational objectives on their own. Sounds impossible? Well, watch/think/listen.

3. Students CAN create the curriculum. This is especially important to note for language teachers. We shouldn’t straight jacket how students process information and interact with information.  We must remove the doctrine, the brainwashing of our curriculum – make it active.  The answers are available and the students know how to get to them. Teachers have the job of making the information relevant, that’s all.  (and turning the curriculum upside down).

4. Technology provides tools that enable students to become self directed learners, life long learners.

5. Learning is self organizing, social and even organic. It is for teachers to assist this process and allow its creation through arranging the proper learning environment.  There doesn’t need to be outside intervention (by teachers, staff, admin, parents) for emergence to happen. Learners are their own way.

6. The  “I’m going away” methodology. He reminds me that the cause of all learning is desire/hunger. “When learners have interest, learning just happens” says Arthur C. Clarke and Sugata.  Reminds me of my own experiment collecting student’s questions – What’s Worth Knowing.

7. A new discontinuity has arrived. We’ve profoundly underestimated how fast, what, how high students can learn.Students need strong reading skills, strong search skills and a belief system that says anyone can learn anything, any time.

So much more….

If I’d been there though, I’d really have liked Sugata to talk a bit about the difference between “knowing” and “understanding”. Students can learn facts, information – but I still think they need to learn the “nuance” of information.

What are your thoughts about the implications of Sugata Mitra’s research and findings? How might we change our teaching, our own “system”?

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Torn Halves says:

    “We must remove the doctrine.” But it is interesting to see that Mitra does not remove the doctrine. He still insists that education is one thing and not another, and he even thinks he can prove it once and for all if only he can get his hands on a million dollars and be given 5 years sabbatical.

    So do we attend to what Mitra does or only to what he says?

  2. David says:


    Point taken about dogma and doctrine. But I think anyone and any “stance” is prone to fall that way. It is just a case of how much …..

    I think you are wrong about the money and all that jazz…. he also is a lot less extreme than how people present his ideas. I’ve spent hours listening to him live and that does come through whereas his simple videos or write ups might not suggest it. He’s not at all anti-teacher too. Just wants teachers to have a different role. And be warned – grannies have a lot more intelligence and teaching skills than you’d ever think – more teaching sense than a good majority of teachers I run across. As a teacher trainer/educator, there is something that age does bring to the teaching “wisdom” set…

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