Thursday, June 16, 2016

What next after 'hole-in-the-wall' experiment?

Hole-in-the-wall experiment was great and brought forth some interesting observations. Children can learn on their own if they have right tools and environment available to them. They can learn from one another and can teach themselves too.

The experiment was performed by placing a computer through a hole in a wall facing the slum. This was something new for them and caught their imagination. They did not have access to computers, forget internet, did not have choice except to go for this computer that had some educational content. They interacted with the computer and learned. After seeing encouraging results from these children, idea of “self-organized learning environment” (SOLE) emerged.

Stories of human nature mixed with machines are interesting. But, humans have been evolvig and kids learn from one another anyway.  Earlier, children used to play with marbles, business games, etc. Now, with computers. There is other category of kids who have so many devices in their homes but that also brings another set of problems, they may be playing all the time sitting on sofas and may even face lifestyle related problems such as obesity. They miss out on real life connect with others of their age group. Most of their time is spent playing games on the devices than learning.

Therefore, it has to be facilitated by real people. Recorded videos can add their bit in this matter. Also, for all-round development, it would be required to make educational recommendations considering what all happens 24x7. What needs more emphasis is that children also need to be told about other stuff such as values and good lifestyle which is mostly ignored in established education system and seems will be ignored even with technology enabled education systems.

Value of a teacher can never be underestimated. More than facilitators, they are knowledge personified if we see through the eyes of young students. They are motivators and give values to children, are live examples of knowledgeable and provide reasons to learn and grow. Children learn more by observing preferences of elders, much less by putting loads of information in their head which they forget anyway when they move to next grade. Children feel inspired with someone live than machines. I doubt that only facilitators, aided by machines, can do that.

I do believe that learners should have their own non-monitored time to explore, learn and grow. However, this should be complemented by planned components of motivation, inspiration, guidance to generate significant results. Technology is a great enabler but without any direction it is just a knife in the hands of a monkey.

Another example is of adults, two illiterate persons, who have access to devices with the ability to send text messages. They invent their own communication codes to text each other but only they understand it. Question is what we would want to replicate from this example? We probably, will not want people to form such isolated communities. So, the systems have to be connected and exposed as they connect people as well.

Can we extend these ideas to online adult learning? The environment here too can be organized by learners, aided by technology. In addition, learners can be anywhere, co-location is not required in case of eLearning.

Use computers, use internet. But, we will have to consider different aspects of life in totality. Every training is a contribution to the learner's life also. I wish that the idea of SOLE evolves beyond, from "self-organized learning environment" to "Self-oriented learning environment". The 'S' here will be capital 'S' referring to inner self, adding the element of direction to keep the learner in sync with his or her true interests, aspirations or sense of purpose.

If we can teach and allow learners how they can remain connected to their core, they will be able to find direction from within themselves. This will keep a check that the direction of learning is driven by aspirations, not by just short term desires and impulses. And then, it can evolve into “Self-driven learning environment” (SDLE). The onus of SDLE will be on the learners.  SOLE will remain the responsibility of educators.

With the advent of Experience API (xAPI) specification, technology is available for learner centric education systems. Learners can showcase their learning and at the same time, companies will also be benefitted as they will be able to see the learning and growth charts of the individual.

Learners should be able to track and retrospect how learning is impacting them, throughout their life. xAPI provides options for learning to be learner centric. Learning analytic does not need to reamin confined in the closed database of institutions and corporate. Learning can happen anywhere and the learners should have access to analyze their own learning data. Learning is a lifelong process.

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