SAT: You can run a SOLE session over Skype... or can you? (Mike Lyons)
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11 December 2017
This presentation will explore some aspects of Self Organized Learning Environments, or SOLEs. It will include overviews of how a SOLE session is run, how self organization manifests in nature, and how Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom initiative can be utilized to expand the scope of a session. Finally, the feasibility of self organized learning over distance will be questioned and discussed.
In self organized learning environments, groups of children are given an inquiry based learning task in the form of a "Big Question". The children work together looking for answers on the internet, and then report their findings. The teacher‘s role is non-essential; it is limited to posing the Big Question and providing encouragement. In other words, self organized learning is a pedagogical method where children construct knowledge without the intervention of a trained adult (Mitra & Crawley, 2014). That such a thing is possible is a controversial assertion, and it has quite naturally been the subject of debate, especially since Sugata Mitra won the TED prize in 2013 for his work on SOLEs. It may be that the popularity of the method has been driven by exposure on TED and social media (Harmer, 2014) rather than supported with significant research. The position of this presentation is that SOLEs do work, and the potential of self organized learning is enormous: but that there are also limitations.
We see self organization commonly occurring in nature. Emergent systems by definition take on new properties independent of the chaos from which they emerge. Something can come from nothing. Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiments, and the research that followed, indicate that self organized learning is indeed an emergent phenomenon (Mitra & Dangwal, 2010). We will give an introduction to the SOLE method and will then look at other examples of emergence in nature, how it happens and what it implies.
While SOLEs have been tried in communities and classrooms around the world, these are local environments where the participants are in proximity to each other. The method is largely untested in virtual environments or over distance. This presentation proposes that connecting students from different cultures can further enrich the pool of ideas that lead to learning. We will consider how Skype can be used to connect students and the practical problems in doing so. There will be a brief introduction to Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom initiative which can expedite the process of connecting students (Education.microsoft.com, 2017).
Self organization can be seen happening over distance in the form of social media. Learning over distance is also possible, as evidenced by the success of the Open University. But it is unclear whether the SOLE method is feasible when the students are not in proximity to each other. We will pose our own Big Question: “Can self organized learning happen over distance?” The conference audience will be invited to share their knowledge and opinions.
Harmer, J. (2014). Angel or devil? The strange case of Sugata Mitra. [online] Available at: https://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/angel-or-devil-the-strange-case-of-sugata-mitra/ [Accessed 9 Dec. 2017].
Education.microsoft.com. (2017). Introduction to Skype in the Classroom - Microsoft in Education. [online] Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/GetTrained/skype [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
S. Mitra and E. Crawley, (2014), “Effectiveness of Self-Organised Learning by Children: Gateshead Experiments,” J. Educ. Hum. Dev., vol. 3, no. 3, 2014.
S. Mitra and R. Dangwal, (2010), “Limits to self-organising systems of learning - The Kalikuppam experiment,” Br. J. Educ. Technol., vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 672–688, 2010.
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