At the heart of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, was an Indian physicist who 10 years ago installed computers in slum neighborhoods to watch how kids interacted with the technology. Dr. Mitra’s latest brainchild is an idea called Self-Organized Learning Environment, or SOLE. He is convinced that kids can learn by themselves with Internet-connected computers answering well-posed questions in small groups. The small groups are essential to learning in his view.
One child in front of a computer learns little, four discussing and debating learn a lot.
The December 4-5 Wall Street Journal article by Matt Ridley describes how Dr. Mitra poses questions such as, “How do you stop something moving?”. After a week or so, he follows up with a second question more closely tied to the curriculum such as “Who was Isaac Newton?” and then “What’s the connection between Newton and stopping things moving?”. Schools in the UK, Australia, Columbia and India are experimenting with the concept now and he’s been approached by educators in Nevada, Maine and San Francisco.
Regardless of the eventual outcome of these experiments, there is much to be learned along the way.