“The Hole in the Wall” that opened up new ideas

As many friends and colleagues know, I am an avid TED talk fan! Last week I stumbled across a TED Talks book expanding on one of the videos I had seen. The title of the book is Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning. Sugata Mitra is the author and Nicholas Negroponte wrote the forward. Wow! You may have heard of the project that placed a computer literally in a hole in the wall of a concrete building in India and watched in amazement as slum children not only learned how to use it, but became very proficient at running applications, going online to download games, music and video – and all in English (not their native language) and with NO adult assistance or intervention.

Talk about an inspiring read! I was hooked from the forward when Negroponte noted “Learning and teaching are not symmetrical. They are not the flip sides of the same coin.” And “What kids know is just not important in comparison with whether they can think.” The book went on to combine many of the ideas that have intrigued me and inspired me for the last couple of decades. One idea is that the “the nature of learning is hidden in the new science of self-organization and emergence.” He also used a term that he called Minimally Invasive Education. That is certainly a notion that is in stark contrast to the sometimes brutal way we insist on telling kids what to think and when to think it. Even when the message is delivered by the many caring, concerned, dedicated teachers I know, it is still anything but minimally invasive.

I also started to think about Dan Pink’s work on motivation and the way in which it ties in to the notion of self-directed learning. I began to reflect more seriously on how one might go about causing learning to occur for kids in an environment based upon these and other key ideas. Self-directed learning is not a threat to teaching – it is a way to continue efforts to redefine it and opens up incredible new avenues to help learners grow and develop into what they should become.

I would love to hear what anyone else has been thinking about self-directed learning. Keep in mind, I am differentiating this from what might be thought of as self-directed efforts to learn what someone else has said someone should learn. This is not the same as saying “Here is the curriculum, now you figure out on your own what the answers are.”

In fact, I’m enthusiastic enough to hear your thoughts that I’ll even “gift” a copy of the book (it’s only $2.99 to download from the Amazon Kindle store) for up to 100 of you. All I would ask is your initial reaction to the concept and this post, and your email address.
Here’s a link to the TED Talk video:

If you want to download the book on your own (although I really would enjoy gifting it to you), here’s a link to the Kindle store page:

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