Sunday, October 05, 2014

Technology, Education and Poverty

In Ontario, there's a plan to provide every kid from grade 4 to 12 with access to technology (iPad, tablet etc). There's this idea that with technology in the classroom, school is going to be the "great equalizer" at last.
We are not so naive as to believe that access to technology in education will level the playing field and poor kids will miraculously have the same opportunities their wealthier peers have.

But while handing out ipads will not overcome poverty, access to technology will empower poor students in learning. Access to technology via ipads will offer opportunities for children to work together, research, and collaborate in areas that interest them.

Take for example Sugata Mitra’s experiment in Indian villages. Mitra installed a computer in a wall and documented illiterate slum children figuring out how to use it, and then actually using it to learn and share knowledge.
Mitra has since designed ‘School in the Cloud,’ a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other —no teachers present—using resources and mentoring from the cloud. Mitra proposes Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), which he defines as “broadband, collaboration and encouragement put together.”

Fact is, school, as we know it is history. School is obsolete (especially relevant for poor kids). Done. Terminated.  Can I say it any more succinctly?
Today, students are called on to be the drivers of their own learning.

The internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to do so. We can find out what we want to know in seconds. We can connect in groups and across the world, with others who share similar interests and concerns.

Open Source Learning

Another way to understand where education is heading, what’s stirring in the Zeitgeist and taking hold of the imagination can be understood as ‘open-source learning.’
We have heard of the concept 'open-source' in internet circles; anything can be learned over the internet. There is a new openness to educational resources. Institutions of higher learning are offering free online course materials. MIT (Open CourseWare) has over 2000 gratuitous course materials, their motto being "Unlocking knowledge, empowering minds."
Open source learning is based on extending this idea to all learning, to everyone. It's a term that I believe was coined by none other than John Taylor Gatto.
Technology is lowering the costs of education: expensive textbooks will no longer be a barrier to education.

Joint Collective Agencies and Communities of Practice

It is happening everywhere; learning in communities, work groups and collaborations. ‘Communities of practice’—a term coined by John Seely Brown—is the new learning spaces and places representative of this new culture of learning.
Kids getting together and pursuing their passions in joint collective agency, is the revolutionary wave in education. Learning in community, engaging one another, practicing 'deep tinkering' 'marinating in the experience' are some of the ideas for a new culture of learning that Seely-Brown is popularizing.

My teen has been participating in virtual communities for years now, first following her interests in the arts and now focusing on anti-oppression, social justice activism. Exchanging conversation, picking up ideas, reciprocating with her fellow bloggers, the amount of learning she is doing through social media like tumblr is astounding.

Here’s where she goes to dialogue, critic, share, challenge and be challenged. Her virtual community supports the work she does and she in turn supports the work of its members. I never realized how powerful this tool for learning is until I saw the comments and feedback she gets from fellow ‘social justice warriors’—spurring her on to further work.
Online communities can provide the support that a kid might not otherwise be able to access (for example, children questioning gender). Shared experiences all factor into building the self-esteem that is critical in order to overcome abuse and injustices and yes, the trauma of poverty itself.

Not what you know but who you know.

Do you have a linkedin account? I do. We all know that developing personal networks is invaluable for professional growth. Who knows? We might get discovered or at least, land a job.
There’s the concept of personal learning network’ (PLN) to describe the cultivating of personal networks for learning opportunities. PLNs are those connections individual learners make to suit their specific learning needs.

Connections are being made on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Google Hangouts and more. Ahead of the adults, young people connect online in a social context as well as a more strategic, intentional way in order to share, grow opportunities and stay involved and connected

For younger children, it is important to have the guidance and support of caring, knowledgeable, and trusted adults.

To wrap this up, I’d like to offer a quote from Mitra who says, “we need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. If you allow the educational process to self-organize, then learning emerges. It's not about making learning happen. It's about letting it happen. The teacher sets the process in motion and then she stands back in awe and watches as learning happens.”

Hand kids the technology, guide and counsel them, support their interests, facilitate their networking opportunities, and poverty will become less of a barrier to being educated.
Education is something that you have to want to pursue; no one can do it for you. But educators can pave the way.


Erica Lee said...

Useful relation between technology, education and poverty

LAW 421 Final said...

Fantastic work accomplished by site Author.

Sara said...

Great article! If only colleges found a way to give college credit for self-taught knowledge... Besides a few things like CLEP tests, I haven't seen anything like this, so I'm guessing it would threaten the system too much.

Alex bilodeau said...

Great post indeed. Thanks for sharing.New era kids are as smart as the devices are going. But it's limited for those who vail all facilities to be smart.

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