School in the Cloud

Mitra’s experiments were new to me, but after listening to him speak I am profoundly effected. My initial responses included amazement, disbelief, shock, awe, doubt, curiosity, and even fear. Mitra’s main point in wrapping up both videos is that current education is obsolete. He very effectively explains the old use for education in the empire age, where individuals needed to learn the same things across the world to survive-including reading, writing, and simple math. While we still need to read, we mostly read in a different way-on screens. Now, we have computers to write for us. We have calculators on every smart device we own to do math. So why do we need to learn these things in school? Should schools be revolutionized to be different? In the Huffington Post, Mitra says that, “we need schools, not factories.”

“VEB Zardoz the Gravyboat” by Zeiss Ikonta

The implications for modern classrooms as a result of Mitra’s experiments are huge. He brings up strong points throughout both videos-our world is changing, and education should be changing as a result of that. He quotes that, “children will learn to do what they want to do.” This is a concept rarely seen in classrooms today. We have the common core, a set of standards that dictate what is to be learned throughout the year. It is up to teachers to be creative and inspiring in presenting this information. It is hard to motivate children sometimes, and Mitra has a simple solution: let the children motivate themselves by choosing the content. In his hole in the wall experiment, no one told the children to teach themselves to use the computers. They did it without asking, because they were interested in figuring it out. The children in India where he put the computer did not speak English, had never seen a computer, and did not know what the internet was. Yet, they found a way to master it. Before hearing his research, I would have hypothesized that the children would never figure out how to use it.

By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Eye on the Prize Uploaded by Huntster)
By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Eye on the Prize Uploaded by Huntster)

Children are so underestimated in the modern school system, and teachers/adults think that they have to be coddled, forced, convinced, and dragged along the school system in order to gain even the smallest big of knowledge, when they do not even (most of the time) want to be at school. He calls future schools/education to become “self organizing systems (that) start to do things they were never designed to do”. This way, children will want to learn and want to be at school.

“American School Bus” by Ian Britton

Mitra asks the “devastating question”-do we not need schools? My answer to that question is still yes, we need schools. However, perhaps the kind of school that we are used to is “obsolete” as he calls it, or outdated. And he is not the only person to have the idea of obsolete American education. Maybe there are serious updates that need to happen, and after listening to Mitra tangibly in my future classroom, the children will teach each other more and choose their learning material more. However, the idea of a place without schools as we know it today scares me. School teaches more than information- it teaches discipline, social skills, responsibility, caring, how to think for yourself, how to work in a group, and so much more. It scares me to think of not being able to think about something myself, because I have learned to just look something up when I need to know it. What else would we think about, what else would matter if the only valuable thing in our life was a tablet or phone or computer? I love books, and I grew up reading them and treasuring them and looking forward to diving into a new one. What if books disappeared and we only had the internet? In my opinion, that would be a sad world. In my future classroom, while technology is vital, books will never be replaced.

“The tree of wisdom in the garden of good and evil” by JRF

We must change the classrooms of today, if we want to reach the “school in the cloud” that Mitra dreams of designing. As a future teacher, I have been impacted greatly by his research. I now understand the power of children choosing their interests. I understand that children have more knowledge and power to learn than I give them credit for. I understand that children need to work together and teach each other.

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2 thoughts on “School in the Cloud

  1. “We need schools, not factories.” This quote you reference from Mitra exemplifies my fear with Common Core (CC) which you addressed in your blog. CC scares me, and I WISH my kid who is bored to tears re-reviewing materials and waiting for others to “catch up,” could study at his own pace and learn what inspires him personally. I feel like his hungry mind is starving for inspiration and just wasting the potential it could become. It is sad and simultaneously frustrating.

    The US, by adapting CC and forcing the content and pacing of learning as you mention, will not make us “on par” with “students in Los Angeles, and Chicago, and Shanghai” as promised in my elementary school’s CC informational video, but put the US further behind as the world outpaces us Mitra-style as countries like Finland: “Less testing, more learning. Fewer topics, more depth; Less structure, more trust.”

    See article: http://fillingmymap.com/2015/04/15/11-ways-finlands-education-system-shows-us-that-less-is-more/

    I agree that schools are key to socialization and learning how to work within groups. Learning to interpret information is being able to understand another vantage point or perspective. This makes one’s own understanding richer, or the defense of one’s own stance stronger.

    Thank you for also noting that US schools are underestimating the capabilities of our students. Set the bar high and they will meet it. It seems that you agree.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexis, I enjoyed your points about Mitra and education. Like you, I see the lack of motivation in students today to be at school. When you look at how our schools are formatted, I can see why. We are using a system that started over three hundred years ago. Rather than be in that old fashioned setting, our students would rather be at home on their tablet playing an application. However, through those applications they are learning. They are learning real-world concepts that they are choosing to learn at their own pace. As you brought out, we still need schools, but maybe the way our schools are set up needs an update. Even though common core provides teachers with the option to present the information in different ways, it still dictates what students will learn and at what time they should learn it. Mitra suggested that students will learn the needed information, but at their own pace and at a time they choose. He proved this point with his first hole in the wall experiment in 1999.
    I also appreciated your opinion on books and the need for them even in our fast paced, technological world. True we have Wikipedia and the like that has replaced encyclopedias. However, to have books in hand or even on a tablet is important. Man’s history has been written down and preserved for thousands of years. That practice is still in motion today and no doubt will continue. Change will always be the norm. Education is no exception. However, our way of learning continues to change. With those changes our perception needs readjustment. The way our students learn is also changing. Independence is important, but working cohesively as a unit is also important in today’s world. I enjoyed learning your perspective on Mitra’s experiments as well as your view of education.

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