Abundance in Education – The Hole-in-the-Wall

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“The Hole-in-the-Wall” (174-177) talks about a man who was concerned about students in areas that were higher poverty and where good teachers didn’t want to go. He mainly carried out his experiments in India, but his methods can be applied all over the world. One thing he did was have a computer station (theift-proof) out where children could get to it. Children that have never seen a computer or browsed the internet before. Children that didn’t even speak English. They played with the computer and even taught each other how to click on things and get on the internet and look things up.

In one of these towns, he challenged a group of students to learn biotechnology in English. These children were using a device they have never seen before to learn a subject they have never heard of in a language they didn’t speak. They did it. With two months of unsupervised study, this group of kids was able to get a 30 percent score on a test about the subject in English. Over the next two months they had an older girl act as a “tutor” even though she didn’t know any biotechnology. She just encouraged them and asked them questions to further their own learning. Their scores rose to 50 percent.

After doing more experiments to refine his method, he determined that schools could install computer stations – one computer for 4 students to collaborate on – give students specific questions to look into (ie “Was WWII good or bad?”) and offer Skype with older ladies who would encourage the students. When students were tested on what they learned, the average score was 76 percent. Even better, because they figured everything out on their own, the information was retained. When the students were tested again two months later on the same material, even though they had moved on to learn new material, their scores were about the same as the first time.

I love this. It uses the natural curiosity of children to get them to learn without a teacher. They have someone asking questions or giving them specific topic and someone occasionally encouraging them along the way, and they are able to educate themselves. I really like how this concept can be used with any group of students, no matter the location or the language. Of course, I don’t love the idea of not having a teacher, but the point of this method is to use it in places where there are no teachers, or there aren’t many teachers. I think, though, it could still be beneficial in the classroom. Many teachers give a group of students specific research topics with questions for them to answer and have them figure out how to find the answers online. I know I have done this. Have you? What are your thoughts and observations on this concept? Do you think this could be an effective method to bring education to students who don’t have access to good schools or teachers?

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