Self-organized teams of 4: The new model for learning?

I was floored by this recent TED talk by Sugata Mitra: Child-driven Education, all about the potential and power of self-organized learning.  Its message has huge implications for learning, no matter the age.  I got wind of this talk via Johnnie moore.  Here’s the video


Experimenting with education

In 1999, Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer, and without any outside intervention, figuring out how to use it, go online, and then teach each other how to do it all! In the following years they replicated the experiment, on a larger scale, in other parts of India.  The results were similar.

How children (can!) learn…

Here’s what Mitra discovered

  • Teams of 4; 4 children to one computer (giving another take on the one laptop per child initiative)
  • In a self-organized learning environment; an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge, minimally invasive education
  • Learning through conversation; the kids learned through talking with each other
  • Supported by mentors/mediators; connected to the children, via broadband Internet and Skype
  • With positive reinforcement; the list of mediators included volunteer grandmothers, sitting in their homes, one day in a week, the granny cloud

We could change everything.


Some corresponding lessons for the grown-up workplace

  • Structure influences behaviour
  • Innovation happens best in small teams; what Judy Estrin suggests is teams no bigger than a jazz band; Teams of 5 or less is also the model for the Centre for Social Innovation
  • People are transformed through conversations
  • Reach out to others; there’s a crowd (via the cloud) available as learning agents
  • Appreciation goes a long way (it may be our greatest psychological need)


More thoughts

One imagines India in many ways.  Maybe the diversity of experience contributes to amazing ideas and innovation?

Your thoughts? Who are the learning agents of tomorrow? Are we up to self-organized learning?

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