Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Exploring children’s power of self-organized learning to reduce the achievement gap in education

An urgent issue in the U.S. is the wide and growing gap between low and high achieving students(1). Young African Americans are only about half as likely as white students to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 29, and young Latinos are only one-third as likely as whites to earn a college degree(2).

The achievement gap issue has been studied by various authors and has been the reason behind a number of special education projects(3). One additional strategy that could be explored and adapted to the American situation is the Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) strategy.  MIE was developed by Sugata Mitra of India as part of his world renowned “Hole in the Wall Project.” Sugata’s strategy focuses on creating a SOLE (Self Organizing Learning Environment) where learning  happens naturally.

The three main components of a SOLE are 1) computer/ broadband, 2) collaboration, and 3) encouragement/ admiration. SOLEs need a computer with internet connection, a spirit of friendship and collaboration among those involved, and a role model( not necessarily a teacher) to be there offering encouragement and admiration to the students.

The “Hole in the Wall” Project found that  when provided a computer  to groups of children, they are able to organize and teach themselves. Mitra has found this to be true in various parts of India as well as Australia, England, Italy, South Africa, etc.

Mitra found that the children’s ability to teach themselves seems to be independent of their educational background, literacy level, social or economic status, ethnicity and place of origin. As well as their gender, geographic location (i.e., city, town, or village) or intelligence(4). If low American achievers are placed in a Self Organizing Learning Environment from a young age, there is a possibility that the current size of the achievement gap in schools could be significantly reduced.

In an American experiment, students in a gang-ridden  middle school were provided laptops.  There was a concern that there would be “too much play and not enough work.” However this was found not  to be true(5).  The laptops actually made the students more “engaged” and “more attentive.”


To watch “Sugata Mitra TED 2013 Winning Talk,” click here.


Posted by: Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

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