Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education

This was recommended by Dr Rocio Garcia Carrion. Thank you. It’s a stimulating piece which offers one teacher’s imaginative and inventive responses to the limiting structures of education as he sees them. I’m not that sold on his answers but I think he’s asking the right questions and I’d be interested to hear what other people think of it? Linda Hargreaves gave a brief comment about the comments that followed the piece to say they suggested reasons why Michael Gove was voted into his post in the first place! Like to say more, Linda?!

In response to Sugata Mitra’s points, I think his comments are rather overstated and make some unverifiable claims and set up false dichotomies. This may be the pressure of producing something for a journalist but I don’t believe that teachers really do have a ‘romantic attachment to technologies of the past’. Indeed, I find that statement is wrong in so many ways I don’t quite know where to start! Nor do I think teachers fail to convey the importance of the topics they teach, as in the Vikings example, and it misrepresents teachers I think to suggest they avoid using modern technology or fail to allow children to be researchers. I don’t think teachers are so Luddite about technology or google as he makes out. And I think his rather flip way of describing the brain’s inclination to nostalgia is nonsense, frankly.
More seriously, I think the factors that ‘may’ lead teachers and their pupils to having to submit to teaching and learning an unsuitable curriculum are vastly more complex than his rather colourful description of teachers beating children into submission, which denigrates the profession and makes it sound as if he is the only critical thinker in the profession.

Doesn’t he also vastly underestimate the importance of teachers as exciting and interesting people to learn with – as initiators and stimulators of worthwhile and interesting enquiry as well as facilitators of and responders to enquiry coming from students, and as engaged interlocutors in the process of learning? After all, in his example, it was the teacher who said, “there’s this thing called electromagnetic radiation that we can’t see; can you figure out what it is?” However, his provocations do make me reflect again on the whole debate of who teaches what and when to whom.

On the other hand, Mitra’s support for making efficient and effective use of modern technologies – largely, though, in his account, as sources of information or as calculators (a rather narrow perception of what modern technologies might afford the process of learning and teaching). His support for encouraging collaborative learning and problem-solving, and alternatives to traditional examinations make – fairly obvious – good sense to me. And I do think his innovative ways of teaching the hard to reach – in India, in his case – are imaginative and pragmatic. Has anyone seen an evaluation of his Hole in the Wall project? Or know anything about the network of teachers sharing with colleagues in the developing world.


One thought on “Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education

  1. An interesting critique of the Hole in the Wall project is here (open access peer reviewed journal).
    The danger of projects like this is that they present technology as an independent ‘solution’ to educational problems; given access to technology, it is claimed, children will spontaneously learn, bypassing the need to train teachers or involve children’s wider communities or engage in other, messier, political and social conversations (what should children learn, who should get to decide this, who should have access to what kinds of educational resources, why do poor children consistently underperform compared more privileged children). In this case, the need for culturally appropriate content – i.e. in a language that the children actually understand – is also overlooked. The article above seriously questions how much children did actually learn through the project.
    Technology companies help to promote work of this nature because it suits their interests. Using it, they can argue that developing countries should invest in technology rather than teachers (see also the One Laptop Per Child initiative). It is also beginning to be used in more developed countries, again, to persuade governments of the need to invest in technology as a solution to low levels of teacher training and autonomy.

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