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A School in the Cloud

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the take-a-parachute-for-recess dept.

Education 126

gurps_npc writes "Recently there was a poorly designed study that claimed computers don't help teaching. Here with the opposing viewpoint is Sugata Mitra in his recent TED talk. He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.' At heart, his argument is that the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats, so it creates minimally competent people that know how to read, write, and do math in their head. He wants to update our teaching methods with more creative and technological solutions." One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that. Mitra won the $1M TED prize this year for his work. He said in an interview, "We spent 7000 years debating this issue of how do we educate everybody. We have never lived in a world where one standard educated everyone. And given that we have failed for over 7000 years, perhaps we will never have one standard. Maybe the right conclusion is that we do away with standard education. Maybe the convergence of technology and curiosity will solve this problem."

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lol (4, Insightful)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about a year ago | (#43028831)

We didn't spend 7000 years trying to educate everyone, we've been trying to educate everyone for maybe 400.

Re:lol (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43028965)

We didn't spend 7000 years trying to educate everyone, we've been trying to educate everyone for maybe 400.

For extremely small values of "everyone."

Re:lol (3, Insightful)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about a year ago | (#43028985)

Last I checked lots of countries now require a minimum state approved education paid for by tax money. That's much better than only educating the aristocracy and putting all the peasant children to work.

Re:lol (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about a year ago | (#43029103)

We have been trying to educate "everyone" since the second world war (ie about 1945). For a very limited value of "we".

the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats No .. British education was originally designed (by ancient Greeks) to create politicians. This was copied by people wanting to teach people who wanted to know stuff (preferably what the Bible says), or possibly wanting have a life style more like the politicians. It is only in the last 10 years that teaching in Britain has even pretended it has anything to do with employment, and it has never even been slightly good at that.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029275)

"the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats No .. British education was originally designed (by ancient Greeks) to create politicians. " Is there any difference between a bureaucrat and a politician?

Re:lol (1)

harlequinn (909271) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029651)

Yes. Go look it up. The end result is that a politician is often a bureaucrat, but bureaucrats are mostly not politicians.

Re:lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029155)

Or extremely small values of "educate".

Re:lol (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43029041)

why you don't google your false facts before posting is beyond me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education [wikipedia.org] , but it's a bit more than 400 by a few thousand years. You might be thinking > the history of the red bricked school building or something.

Re:lol (2)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030383)

You mean the article that states, among other things, "Providing literacy to most children has been a development of the last 150 or 200 years, or even last 50 years in some Third World countries," and "In many early civilizations, education was associated with wealth and the maintenance of authority, or with prevailing philosophies, beliefs, or religion" ?

It hasn't been thousands of years that education has been available to just about everyone in most nations/regions.

"Education" is itself flawed (2, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#43029067)

There are times I cringe when "educate" is used as a substitute to "learning"

Did someone educate you on how to walk on your two feet, or did you do that by your own, learning through trials and errors?

Did someone educate you on how to speak whatever language that you are using, or did you somehow learn it by listening to the sound made by the adults?

It's mindboggling nowadays when people forget the most basic thing that makes each and every one of us who we are - that we are "learning machine", that "education" in itself a flawed concept

You do not educate students - you share with whoever you want to "teach" what you know, show them (if it's possible) the process, and they pick up on that, just like they pick up, by themselves, how to walk, how to talk, et cetera

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (2)

harlequinn (909271) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029739)

I think it can be taken for granted that educate and learn are intertwined.

Learning ability differs from person to person - this can be measured and educational material can be altered to maximise the learning of any given individual.

My children learned to communicate by listening and watching, but if I didn't correct their errors their communication skills (listening and speaking) would be at a lower level today than they are.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029885)

My children learned to communicate by listening and watching, but if I didn't correct their errors their communication skills (listening and speaking) would be at a lower level today than they are

Your effort in correcting your children's errors is a process whereby you, a person, share your experience with your children, by showing them the right way to use the word (pronounce it, grammar, et cetera), and on the other side of the coin, your children pick up on what you have shared with them and they learn
 
In other words, what you did wasn't "education", but mere sharing of experiences
 
Going back to what I said on the original comment, if there is no learning , or if there is nothing new to be learned , no matter how much emphasis one puts on "education", it will ultimately be an exercise in futility
 
That is why we must focus on the "learning" part of the equation, not the teaching part
 
This world puts so much emphasis on "education", so much so that most have forgotten about what makes the whole thing works - the LEARNING part

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (2)

narcc (412956) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030765)

In other words, what you did wasn't "education", but mere sharing of experiences

Education is just systematic instruction (given by the teacher and received by the student).

To be educated requires that you have learned. To educate requires that you teach. This isn't exactly complicated.

So, what exactly are you babbling on about? Why post this ridiculous (and shamefully incoherent) rant? What did you hope to accomplish?

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031363)

So, what exactly are you babbling on about? Why post this ridiculous (and shamefully incoherent) rant?

Some people have a hatred for education. Sometimes it's because they experienced it done wrong, and can't imagine it done right; that's sad but understandable. Others have a preference that people remain ignorant. That, I don't understand.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032223)

And mostly it's because they lack education themselves and feel inferior when confronted with someone who actually knows something.

It's a common reaction to hate what you want but can't have because you are too undisciplined, too unskilled or too lazy. That's why we have a generation of people now entering adulthood who genuinely think they are a couple khanacademy lessons away from brain surgery.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030103)

You do not educate students - you share with whoever you want to "teach" what you know, show them (if it's possible) the process, and they pick up on that, just like they pick up, by themselves, how to walk, how to talk, et cetera

But that is the very definition of education. Education is transmission of knowledge. Learning is its reception.

Yes, someone educated me on how to walk. They held my hands, supported my weight, and wobbled me back and forth, transmitting to me the sequencing of walking. Yes, someone educated me on how to talk. They spoke to me and showed me pictures of things and told me the words that matched the pictures. Teachers educated me on how to form the letters, how to combine the letters to form words, and how to string words together to form sentences. Would I be able to speak, write, and type English if I were not educated in the language? Of course not.

We may be excellent "learning machines", but we will only get so far without a teacher to teach us. Education is what brings us beyond simple grunts and gestures to poetry; and brings us from finger counting to trigonometry. Yes, some are better learners than others, and yes, some are better teachers than others, but make no mistake: education is vital to modern society.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (0)

tibman (623933) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030105)

Self-taught is almost dirty to say though. "How did you learn that?" Oh, i taught myself on weekends. "Welp, we'll get someone with training in here soon." : /

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030581)

I don't like when people say "educate" when they mean "certify I can get a well paying job".

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031555)

You do not educate students - you share with whoever you want to "teach" what you know, show them (if it's possible) the process, and they pick up on that, just like they pick up, by themselves, how to walk, how to talk, et cetera

In a word: bullshit.

Walking is a pre-programmed function of the human nervous system. So is, to a large degree, talking.

OTOH things like integral calculus or advanced martial arts require stacking one skill upon another upon another over a long period. Complex cognitive and psychomotor skills require a long-term plan of study. You don't learn to read and write, or smash concrete with your hands, by trial and error. Developing and implementing such a learning plan is what we call education.

Now, an determined autodidact may, to some degree, be able to learn how to develop and implement such a plan for themselves; they'll still need someone to give them the base education that makes that possible,

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032613)

Bullshit. Helen Keller wouldn't have flourished if someone hadn't taught her symbols.

Same goes for a child who was never taught how to read. It would take an exceptional child to learn by herself/himself how to read from scratch without a teacher.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (1)

wisty (1335733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032627)

While there's lots of good self-taught musicians, generally educated musicians are better. The same is true for lots of things. People *can* teach themselves, but only if the skill is very easy, or they are hell-bent on learning.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (1)

baffled (1034554) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032793)

Your definition of 'hell-bent on learning' is not necessarily the same as others'. I've continued to impress myself with the vastness/complexity of bodies of knowledge I can assimilate myself. With the right mindset and determination, the quality/comprehensiveness of your own skillset is unlimited.

Re:"Education" is itself flawed (1)

pnutjam (523990) | about a year and a half ago | (#43034069)

Having someone provide constant demonstrations, whether it is talking, walking, or something else is a form of teaching. Google up some information of Feral children and you will see what happens when kids are not taught.

Re:lol (1, Interesting)

WarJolt (990309) | about a year ago | (#43029121)

Arguably we still aren't trying very hard to educate everyone.
Should we or are some people destined to do nothing with their lives?
Additionally, it's arguable that most people will learn on their own given adequate access to resources and education.
I know tons of self motivated people, but I also know tons that will not get off their butts.

I tend to believe with a little encouragement that many people will learn on their own.
Based on my own educational experience, I believe most teachers lack the ability to give the proper type of encouragement.

The teachers excitement on a subject is usually the upper bound to the excitement level of the class and honestly with a few exceptions my public school experience was not full of many enthusiastic teachers leading to classes full of uninterested students.

Public educational standards tend to leave schools with a very dry and boring curriculum which you couldn't make interesting to a high school student even if you tried. With that said it's a uphill battle against trying to develop an interesting curriculum.

Many /. readers are engineers and probably would love the chance to incorporate engineering principles into classes. I've volunteered with a high school program with that very intent. The funny thing is that all the students are engaged and learning something, but it's a constant worry about trying to prove that what they are doing is meeting the educational standards. Fortunately the program is well funded and there are people willing to fight those battles.

Centralized educational systems like those in the U.S. lead to stagnant educational models that don't evolve with new technology, information and educational needs of society. The skills and tools that students need to learn to succeed in the U.S. is different than those from even 5 years ago and it takes too long for these things to adapt in America. Students should be encouraged to decide what they learn and how they learn. Teachers should be responsible inspiring students and for insuring adequate progress in whatever educational goals students may have and not for dictating them.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032389)

Centralized educational systems like those in the U.S. lead to stagnant educational models that don't evolve with new technology,

Wrong. The education system has changed dramatically when called on to do so. What leads to US failures in education is the constant attack on teachers and schools by union-busting, constantly dropping budgets, propaganda teaching kids they don't need school anyway because facts are just liberal myths etc.

Re:lol (2)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029527)

Your reference is culturally prejudicial. We have spent millions of years trying to educate humanity. Can you track wild animals, and know the animal by it's tracks and it health condition and age? Can you fabricate all the hunting tools you require to survive? Can you fabricate your clothing and accommodation? Due you know all the natural remedies available in your environment for the most common maladies? Can you communicate within your social group? Do you know the social mores of your group?

Of course now our society has far more complex educational needs to fulfil many more specialised roles. This is beyond factory workers, the image of which has been distorted by greed being a factory worker is not so bad subject to the remuneration you receive.

So random trial and error education whilst likely the most personally enjoyable would produce very poor results when considering the specialised knowledge required to fill the many specialised roles with in a modern society.

Early education starts general and then becomes more specialised over time as that individual commits themselves to fulfil more specialised roles. The quality of that education makes them more competitive in gaining those roles and receiving the best possible remuneration.

Re:lol (0)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031825)

We've been educating pretty much everybody throughout history. Only recently has the selection of who was your teacher was and your range of options in topics changed.

2013 - 1850 = 163 years. Nowhere near 400 (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031937)

1852 saw the first compulsory education law introduced in the US, the last US state would follow in 1917. England got its in 1870.

So... where do you get 400 years from? 2013 - 400 = 1613 that is still in the middle of the reformation.

And considering a girl recently got a bullet in her head for wanting to go to school, I would say that we have NOT been trying to educate everyone for 400 years or whatever but more that for thousands of years people have been actively trying to NOT educate all.

The danger of education is that people start to think for themselves. Disease caused by mutations in the genes? My my, what heresy is this, everyone knows it is god that cures disease if you listen to your local cleric and don't question why the pope sits on a throne of gold while millions starve, I read about Jesus Christ, I fail to see how he could ever approve of Catholicism.

And modern education is not really about creating anything but more in trying to prevent the kind of people who burn witches (last case happened very recently) or shoot girls in the face because they want to be able to read and write. It is not about making people smart, it is about making them slightly less stupid and maybe if you are lucky allowing a few bright ones to climb their way out of the cesspool that is humanity and improve all our lives. But make no mistake, school is NOT efficient or productive, it is a sausage factor that relies on random chance for a fine steak to get through at times.

And other systems have been tried. They never ever worked.

Lock kids in a building, force them to sit up right and 50% will come out a bit less stupid, 45% will remain as stupid as ever and vote Republican and 5% go on to shape the world for everyone else. Statistics pulled entire out of my ass but we don't need millions of Einsteins. It would be nice but we managed to do with just one. The rest of you? Like me? By-product. Just try not to stench the place up to much with your wasted life and let the smart people do their stuff.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032005)

The assumption of curiosity and a willingness to learn is flawed.

Re:lol (1)

PiMuNu (865592) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032351)

Universal education was an invention of the enlightenment, so started coming in mid-18th century e.g. universal primary education was introduced in, say, Austro Hungarian empire by Empress Maria Theresa during 1740/50s.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43028839)

"his argument is that the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats"

Without context this is utterly meaningless drabble and serves no place in any summary.

couldn't that be done with books, too? (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43028843)

I learned a ton on my own as a kid by reading random articles out of an encyclopedia, and some of those "How Things Work" series of books. I imagine kids in India could do so, too— except that they don't have access to such books. So it seems overall more a matter of access to knowledge, in any form, than of something new and magical about technology-based learning as a specific form.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (1)

El Micko (118401) | about a year ago | (#43028881)

Absolutely.
Please mod this parent comment up.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43028955)

On September 22, 1984, Colonel Haji Fakir with his An-26 defected from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Except his plane wasn't an An-26, it was a prototype unmanned drone. The drone was flown remotely with Fakir in the cockpit in order to stage an international diplomatic incident. Now they're working on the F-35 Lightning II. Coincidence? Possibly.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (2)

Life2Short (593815) | about a year ago | (#43029123)

Actually, based on your comments and the findings of numerous other studies, it sounds like education has a lot to do with motivation, and relatively little to do with forms of education delivery. Look at the history of education, do you see enormous growth spurts tied to the printing press, movies, radio, home video, the internet? In as much as they make information more readily available they increase education. But it's not like there's some magic mode for learning. How many people would sit and watch a Disney film on Differential Equations, no matter what the production values were or how applied it was, etc.? So yes, whatever we can do to make information available is good, but we should stop thinking that we're going to come up with a magical sugar coating that will make everyone want to learn everything.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43029127)

Books are heavier than electrons. These things matter.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (2)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about a year ago | (#43029215)

What's easier for them though: building huge libraries and shipping in millions of books, or getting access to the same information by getting a broadband connection and a computer?

I don't understand this glorification of ink-and-paper books when digital text is exactly the same thing except orders of magnitudes cheaper.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43029353)

Sure, electronic delivery might make it cheaper; I have no particular attachment to ink-and-paper. I'm a bit skeptical of the interactive learning stuff that this article is also pushing, though. Even with electronic delivery, you don't have to delivery fancy e-learning platforms and educational games and whatnot. You can just give the kids access to Wikipedia or similar.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (1)

harlequinn (909271) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029783)

At most levels the best text books are exclusively published in paper.

Getting this same quality of text into digital form won't happen unless either the current publisher can monetise it, or someone writes an equally good new text and publishes it in digital format.

Getting this material into the hands of people with little or no money requires someone to give a quality text away free of charge or for very little money.

Re:couldn't that be done with books, too? (1)

asliarun (636603) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031691)

I learned a ton on my own as a kid by reading random articles out of an encyclopedia, and some of those "How Things Work" series of books. I imagine kids in India could do so, too— except that they don't have access to such books. So it seems overall more a matter of access to knowledge, in any form, than of something new and magical about technology-based learning as a specific form.

I am a kid from India and did exactly the same things. I wasn't dirt poor or anything but I used to buy books for a couple of rupees (old books that were destined to be recycled). In India, people will pay you money for old newspapers and books that they will recycle later and many of them will sell these old books and magazines to others as a side business.

I used to buy tons of business magazines and stray volumes of encyclopaedia, mainly because I was bored and loved knowing anything about anything.

Children will figure out a way to learn if they want to. Access to information is sometimes the least of the problems, most often it is inspiring them with that sense of awe and wonder.

Ubuntu (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43028873)

Ubuntu £inux is in the cloud and it knows you. With Microsoft on the verge of collapse and Apple relegated to the server market only Google is left to defend privacy and freedom from Canonical. Ubuntu is a NSA plot to install custom firmwares on everyone's graphics cards to track you in a post-PC world. Ubuntu phones have an experimental black specs tracking ribbon that doesn't need electricity (its the same ribbon found in $20 bills) and cannot be isolated from the hardware. The HOSTS FILE in Ubuntu has hidden data streams to track your routing and to open up side channel attacks by agents. It is now commonly accepted that Canonical gives the NSA orders on who to arrest and when. The Ubuntu Tycoons have you by the balls. I challenge you to disprove my claims. Personally I've installed Windows 8 for a worry free, safe, desktop and never looked back.

A computer is a tool (4, Insightful)

wolvesofthenight (991664) | about a year ago | (#43028895)

A computer is a very versatile tool. Used correctly it will help with an amazing array of tasks, including education. Used incorrectly they are either worthless or counterproductive. And, like many other tools, if you let kids play with it, they will learn something (which might or might not be what you wanted them to learn).

Asking if computers help education is too broad of a question. A better question is "'When do computers help education and when do they hurt?" You can find good examples of each.

Re: an amazing array of tasks, including education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43028981)

and porn

Re: an amazing array of tasks, including education (3, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#43029035)

and porn

Think of it as sex ed

Re: an amazing array of tasks, including education (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029361)

It's pretty shitty sex ed. It's mostly biased to what men want, and not so much about what women want (although I'm sure there is stuff catering to women, it is just far less common than the stuff catering to men), also most porn I see the men aren't using a condom which sets a bad example, most porn doesn't teach anything relating to sexual health, like the dangers of STDs or the importance of contraception. Yes, you can use porn as part of sex ed, but it shouldn't be used as the only sex ed someone gets.

Re: an amazing array of tasks, including education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032311)

You ever used a condom man? Those little latex bastards suck. I won't wear them, that's also why I'm monogamous, I don't want my swizzle stick to rot off.

-s

Re:A computer is a tool (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43029177)

A computer is a very versatile tool. (...) A better question is "'When do computers help education and when do they hurt?" You can find good examples of each.

In my experience, when you use that versatility to do more fun, distracting and immediately rewarding things than learning anything which is most of the time in a forced learning situation. I don't know exactly when I went from an unwilling pupil to a willing student, but for many years I was in school because I had to be in school while I'd rather be out and play. A pretty common sentiment among kids and young teens, I would think. Textbooks don't really leave much room for doing anything other than reading, while every computer class was full of non-curriculum related activity. If you're teaching from the blackboard you see if people are paying attention, if they're all staring at their own screens you don't. It's a great tool to learn when you want to learn, but I rather see why schools are struggling to make good use of it. Natural curiosity only gets you that far.

Re:A computer is a tool (1)

wolvesofthenight (991664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031575)

Yep, you have a good point about the distractions. When I was in 6th grade there was vague discussion that I would benefit from a laptop to do assignments on. Back then the cost put it way beyond being a serious consideration. But I know what I would have done, had I had one: use it to play games. Yea, a laptop would have been used and helped a little on assignments, but games would have been most of my use.

What I really needed (and only figured out 13 years later): For the school to realize that in 3rd grade not everyone's hand / eye coordination and fine motor skills are well developed. At age 8 some students can not learn good handwriting, but a few years later they can. Instead, no serious handwriting practice was done after 3rd grade. Serious handwriting practice in 6th grade is about the best change I can think of (and I am sure some other students needed it, too). That would have been far more useful than a re-run of how Columbus discovered America.

However, not all the use of computers in the schools was misguided. My programing class in high school was one of the most valuable classes I took. The instructor cleverly forced all the students to do his job for him. They had to read the book and then work on the assignments; no lectures. Most of the work was done at the computer in the lab, but advanced students could connect from home via telnet or ssh. During class the instructor was available for questions. And he distinguished between legitimate questions and "I did not read the chapter and don't want to go the effort of thinking so please spoon feed me the answer" questions. Being in a computer lab there was enough supervision to prevent wholesale goofing off (at least when the teacher was not goofing off himself). By far the most chaotic class I had, but also the single most valuable. In this class, the benefit from having computers far outweighed the problems with them. And, while it was a programming class, I have no doubt the same could be done in some (but not all) other classes.

His 'counter study' is supposed to be better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43028949)

There is a diminishing return to providing people with books and computers.

The first few books and blackboards are what really matters. As does a teacher that can fill the gaps, drive students in the right direction, and raise thought-provoking points.

But at some point, additional technology just distracts. Instead of learning, the kids end up spending their time on Facebook, browsing prOn, and updating/re-installing/fixing the computer instead of actually learning.

Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (1)

iceaxe (18903) | about a year ago | (#43029027)

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk, and especially appreciated Mitra's open minded approach to educational possibilities.

I am the parent of a child who is pursuing her education outside of a physical school setting, and I certainly recognized correlations with our experiences.

Mitra is asking for people to expand the research, and materials are available [ted.com] to participate.

I'll be fascinated to see how this develops.

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029073)

Your child has no future, and you are a horrible parent. The military laughs at home schooled kids even for the most basic jobs, so you're screwing your child out of that career. Most employers also laugh at home schooling, so there goes a huge chunk of civilian employment. Getting your kid into college will be nearly impossible and will probably require connections (start making friends). Even academia laughs at home schoolers, especially ones that have theories. Send your kid to school so she can have a future instead of making more proof that hippies have no idea how the world works.

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029219)

I was homeschooled and am going for a M.S. in an engineering field. I haven't experienced any of the things you're talking about. I haven't tried to get in to the military, but most people don't have any desire to be in the military, and they have pretty low standards for admittance (that is, there are some great people the the military, but actually getting in isn't much of an achievement).

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (2)

iceaxe (18903) | about a year ago | (#43029287)

Hi Anonymous, thanks for your concern.

As a matter of fact my daughter is not "home schooled" in the sense you imagine. She is enrolled in a fully accredited online school, with classes, assignments, teachers, lectures, exams, and all the trappings of traditional schools except for the hours spent waiting in lines to go to the potty, waiting for the slower kids to finish their assignments, doing busy work so the overworked teacher can have a little time to grade a few papers, and so forth.

She works harder, does more, learns faster, and is excelling, as measured by the same standardized tests and the same curriculum requirements as set forth by the state in which we reside. The program leads to the same diploma received by any public school student, although I dare say she'll have learned more and accomplished more than most.

In the meanwhile, she's free from the foolishness and stupidity rampant in physical schools, and has the flexibility she needs to pursue the career she's already engaged in - so her "future" is quite secure. (The developing career is why she had to leave traditional schooling in the first place.)

As for friends, she has a number of close friends with whom she spends time regularly, and we make a priority of providing social experiences. Furthermore, she's actively engaged in multiple community organizations (as are her parents) and is a remarkably poised and well adjusted human being.

As far as being hippies (Hey, you understood my sig! Bonus points!) you'd be hard pressed to recognize us as anything of the sort, being hard working, tax paying, home owning, church going, normal dressing, unobtrusive, productive citizens.

I hope that alleviates your concerns for my daughter's welfare.

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (1)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029811)

Most likely, he made the (in your case) incorrect assumption that you were a highly-devout fundamentalist with an anti-government/evolution platform who home-schooled. Sadly for the home-school movement, those exist by the tens of thousands.

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030871)

Ignore that idiot. I was home schooled, but in a much less rigid way. At 14 I was already studying college level textbooks (my worst subject at the time was math -- only at 10th grade level). So from age 13, I was permitted to study/learn whatever I wanted. I basically 'played' with computers daily until I was 18/19. At which point I started my own company (that has been running for over a decade now). I get paid far more than any of my peers (hell, I get paid more than Harvard grads working on Wall Street, doctors, and lawyers). I've never once had someone laugh at me.. I'm told I'm intimidating. I love my job. I basically get to 'play' with computers just like I did as a kid. And unlike most kids, I never got burnt out on learning (which is sad that the educational system does that to some people).

Point is.. your kid will be fine. Make sure they learn something interesting that they like, and everything else will work out.

Re:Fascinating talk, with open ended questions (1)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032911)

Got anything else you want to pull out of your ass?

-jcr

What a terrible 'study' (0)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year ago | (#43029071)

I hope his study wasn't as terrible as the slashdot summary makes it sound. Or are we really suppose to believe that a computer disconnected from the internet with ONLY information on DNA replication is equivalent to a computer on the internet with a wide variety of educational and non-educational material easily accessible in seconds. Or maybe we're suppose to believe kids would choose to read information on DNA in a language they don't speak instead of playing angry birds?

Re:What a terrible 'study' (1)

avandesande (143899) | about a year ago | (#43029313)

Not to mention how does teaching in a Indian village (I assume is poor) act as a relevant anecdote for the average US citizen. I suppose it is easy to argue that a computer is better than nothing, especially in a place that probably can't afford to buy books.

internet? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029079)

clearly they didn't have uncensored internet. /sarcasm

this whole "give a kid a computer and they'll become a genius" thing is a bunch of feelgoodism, IMHO.

there are much larger obstacles to getting the poorest uneducated (at least in the US) to a level of curricular competence.

at the root is an instilled desire to be better. let's get that figured out first. hint: it has way more to do with family than it does resources, social status, or income level.

Where do they get this pontificating morons? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029113)

What kind of idiot do you have to be to not realize that "One Size Fits All" is not going to work when it comes to something as different as educating other human beings?

You'd have to be blind to not realize that most human beings diverge from the norm, and that trying to cram everybody into the same mold just breaks a bunch of people, and doesn't get you great results.

That's not worth a million dollars. I wouldn't give somebody a penny for that insight.

Re:Where do they get this pontificating morons? (3, Insightful)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about a year ago | (#43029263)

If that insight is so trivial, why hasn't most of the western world realized this, why do we still cling to our ways of sending kids to jail-factories to cram their brains with data in a carefully planned industrial process?

Re:Where do they get this pontificating morons? (1)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032921)

Because it serves the purposes of the rulers who inflict it, obviously.

-jcr

Teaching (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about a year ago | (#43029179)

Computers will not magically make a poor teacher a better teacher. They are a tool to augment teaching but will not make a poor teacher gifted. To improve teaching, we need to start with teacher education without the bells and whistles. Once the teacher learns and becomes proficient, he or she will understand how to use technology to reinforce the material. I had a very poor chemistry teacher that made frequent use of computers because he was unable to explain much of the material to a high school level. He had a masters degree in Chemical Engineering and was brilliant but knowing how to teach is a skill to be learned. It does not necessarily come innately.

Re:Teaching (4, Insightful)

iceaxe (18903) | about a year ago | (#43029407)

Actually, Mitra's point has little to do with computers except inasmuch as they make access to information vastly more available. The point is about how children, given access and motivation, learn quite remarkably well on their own. Think of it as a "Free Market" theory of education.

Our teachers, bless them for their nearly thankless efforts, are as trapped as the students in our out of date education system. Freeing them is every bit as important as freeing the children.

Anyway, the point is to find out how to make learning work better, not to throw out the good things about what we have.

Cheers :)

Long overdue (4, Insightful)

XB-70 (812342) | about a year ago | (#43029199)

Academia has been over-managed into a snarled knot of self-serving rules and regulations. Go to any School Board meeting and the discussion will centre on almost any topic except improving students' uptake of information. The cost of university has little to do with the actual outcome vis-à-vis employment. In short, much of the educational sector has lost focus.

What to do? In my humble opinion, gaming is the answer. Not the gaming we're used to, but real-world, immersive, progressive gaming where students go into virtual grocery stores and learn to shop on a budget. Where trucks are loaded with goods and students have to figure out the optimal route to transport the goods to market. Where students are confronted with tax forms and have to figure them out (and be scored on them). Where a grandparent takes ill and they have to figure out what to do to care for them. Where they are given a virtual puppy/horse/ox and learn to train it. Lastly, they need a program which takes them through numerous scenarios of wealth creation. This last is probably what is most lacking from our present educational system.

We are doing little if anything like this and yet, this is the world that we live in. If every school board on the planet put 0.05% of their budget towards the development of true AI-based educational gaming, our students would learn at a prodigious rate. Granted, we would have to adjust for region and language, but the essence of education is the same the world over.

Re:Long overdue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43029305)

I don't even want to know what your education was like if you think that is the real stuff people ought to be taught in school...

Re:Long overdue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030079)

> I don't even want to know what your education was like

An incomplete one -- like everyone else's.

I'd like to add a virtual training scenario -- time management, and goal setting.

Re:Long overdue (1)

melikamp (631205) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030283)

You are right about students' uptake of information being important, and that games should be given a prominent share of the curriculum, but some of your game examples are bizarre. People already have the real life to teach them real life skills like shopping, filling out forms, and caring grandparents and pets. Building transport networks [wikipedia.org] is super-cool though. What kids mostly need the school for is to teach them skills that are impossible to obtain from the real life in one human lifetime, like rudimentary statistics, physics, history, or creative writing.

Re:Long overdue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43031241)

Where I come from, we used to call those "word problems."

Maybe you could explain how adding lots of pixels will help.

Re:Long overdue (1)

bidule (173941) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031607)

The cost of university has little to do with the actual outcome vis-à-vis employment. In short, much of the educational sector has lost focus.

Well, I sure hope universities aren't trying to make employees, that's a technical college's job. The primary goal of going to university is to learn how to think. The secondary goal is to add future movers and shakers to your circle of contacts, that why you pay real money.

There's already a working system. (4, Interesting)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43029261)

It always annoys me when people claim to have discovered something new when all they're really doing is reverting to a past method that was recently discarded in the name of "new" and under the pretense of "better". It shows both ignorance and arrogance.

For thousands of years, people learned through apprenticeship. People learned their trade from one person, and when they gained mastery over their craft, taught some small number of individuals who would hopefully go on to do the same, to varying degrees of success.

Schools, where twenty to thirty students sit in a classroom and learn from some books and a teacher can only provide a baseline. The system is designed not at all to educate, but to make literate. And because of this, they tend to race to the bottom, especially if managed poorly.

Today, the only place anything even remotely similar to a master-apprentice relationship could be found is at the doctorate level. One advisor, several candidates, and then they get their degree and become journeymen. Eventually, they may or may not become masters. This is the system that needs to be propogated back down to primary education.

Yes, today's needs are different. There's a much greater emphasis on working with abstractions (oblig. xkcd [xkcd.com] ) than on developing skills. There are also a far greater amount of knowledge needed in far more disciplines to be considered marginally competent. But I'm certain that the tried and true model of master and apprentice can be adapted to today's quantity, quality, and societal requirements of knowledge.

The only hindrance is the attitude towards school (especially teachers' attitudes towards school), and towards teachers. People go into teaching because they like working with children. This is already a failure. Parents see teachers as their daytime (or full time, in the case of boarding schools) babysitters. This is also another failure. If the parent does not respect the teacher, then the children will not. If the teacher does not have anything worth respecting, then there's no reason for the parent or even the children to respect the teacher.

The teacher needs to be the third parent. This is the core of the master-apprentice relationship. At home, the child has parents. When in a place of learning, the teacher is the parent. Children actually want to see their teacher as a parent. But there are social elements that discourage this thinking. Changing teachers every year, for example (mostly because teachers competent at teaching first grade may not be so good at teaching sixth grade) is instability, and children are most comfortable when things are stable.

Testing, especially paper-based, multiple-choice, sit-at-your-desk-and-don't-cheat testing, is also very bad. Current testing separates students from each other. If the teacher is a third parent, then students in the same class are siblings. But if they are separated from each other during a test, then they cannot form the sibling relationship properly. Tests also do not show competency. They merely show interest in taking the test and perhaps patience. Yes, abstractions comprise mostly what is taught today. But comeptency can only be shown in the doing. That is why to get a doctorate, the candidate must further the field.

Technology plays very little role in education--in fact, the same one as a calculator would play. It does not solve the education problem. Culture does.

Re:There's already a working system. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#43029393)

Well, yes, PhDs have that sort of relationship. And masters students. Also trades - you know, all those things that were always taught though a master-apprentice method. That includes physicians, by the way. Oh, and there's every child, through the parent-child relationship.

Primary school is an adaptation of various institutions, some very old, that we've used to teach all or most children do do basic things like read and write, since we don't currently need to send them to work in the fields (at least not all the time).

Re:There's already a working system. (1)

radtea (464814) | about a year ago | (#43029463)

It always annoys me when people claim to have discovered something new when all they're really doing is reverting to a past method that was recently discarded in the name of "new" and under the pretense of "better". It shows both ignorance and arrogance.

Our knowledge of pedagogy has improved considerably in the past century, which makes it worth revisiting the question. Masters who are ignorant of pedagogy, as the typical master of an apprentice was, are not good, efficient or effective teachers, as demonstrated by the lengthy terms of apprenticeship and the rather high failure rate.

That said, modern "teacher education" is almost completely free of pedagogy. We know how to teach, and we know a number of methods that have been proven again and again under a wide range of circumstances to work. They all look vaguely like the Montessori method, although there are lots of variants that, again, are known to work.

What they don't look very much like is either an apprenticeship program or a modern classroom, neither of which are primarily intended to teach. Apprenticeships are fundamentally about creating barriers to entry for the protection of existing tradespeople. Modern classrooms are about warehousing children for whom society has no place.

As such it is no surprise that we do a bad job of education, because no one is very much interested in educating using empirically valid pedagogical methods. They are rather interested in promoting their political and ideological interests, as you have done here.

Weapons of Mass Instruction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030051)

You sound as if you've read: Weapons of Mass Instruction [amazon.com]

I haven't read it, but my wife did - and we recently just pulled our kids out of school and started home-schooling all three of them (pre-school, K, and 2nd grade) It has been a challenge, but has also been very rewarding. The computer does help, but a lot of the learning at this stage is pretty basic. But they really get excited about learning and aren't exhausted by the end of the day due to all of the non-learning they used to have to endure around school. School isn't bad, and their school was really good. But now we are more involved with them, and we are hoping it really works out for the best. I know home-schooling has a stigma attached to it, but we are doing it for all the right reasons.

Re:Weapons of Mass Instruction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030601)

but we are doing it for all the right reasons.

And let all of those other kids just burn. All that matters is what's yours.

What ever happened to civic spirit? If you think you're "fixing" the problem by saving your own kids, you're wrong. Bad schools are a community problem. But you live all alone on a island and produce your own food and everything so that's not your problem.

But college level apprentices are still the wrong (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030735)

But college level apprentices are still the wrong way to go for lot's of fields that can be better off with more or tech / trades school apprentice system.

College level has to much theory and lot's of filler and fluff.

Re:There's already a working system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43031253)

i got kinda lost with the child has parents who are teachers who are also parents of children who are teachers of parents ... oh i think i got mixed up again.

You are partly right (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032025)

Indeed yes, education is about making people literate and numerate. AND THAT IS IT AND THAT IS ALL IT SHOULD DO.

Nobody can make you smart or interested in learning. THAT is something you got to do yourself. Developing a questioning mind "why is it so" is impossible to enforce.

Your parents can make you learn to ride a bicycle but only YOU can win the Tour de France.

Your father can teach you how to weld but only YOU can build the Eiffel tower.

Your mother can teach you how to read but only YOU can write the next great American novel.

Modern compulsory education is about forcing everyone to be given a chance to at least develop the basics from which maybe the individual him or herself can take off. But it is NOT designed, cannot be designed to make everyone into a scientist. THAT is what is wrong with American and Western education, the idea that we can press all kids into a school factory and produce insurance salesmen and ad-women.

Individuals themselves make this mistake too. I work in web-development PHP, which is the ass end of IT, 1st line tech support kids look down on us. But as easy as it is, you STILL can see who is not going to make it very simply. They are the ones who ask "what must I do". "What course should I take" "What book should I read".

Those who do make it just DO IT! There are two ways to complete a long march and that is by YOU yourself taking the first step, not asking someone else to tell you how to march. The basics "reading/math" you should have picked up in school. The skills, you have to master on your own AND ESPECIALLY on your OWN initiative.

If you, given the tools of reading and the internet can't learn PHP on your own, you will NEVER ever become any good at it because it is that DRIVE to learn, to examine, to explore, to experiment. If you ask, you are to lazy AND HERE IS WHY!

THE QUESTION HAS ALREADY BEEN ANSWERED: with google, you can easily find the question you are asking, that has already been answered. REMEMBER that if you want to see furthest, you should stand on the shoulders of giants. No great scientist worked in a vacuum, they STARTED by seeing the world, asking themselves a question and the finding an answer at least in PART by reading what others had written about it.

So asking on say yahoo what is a good PHP book shows that you lack even the basic skills of finding the answers to a previous question: you basically want knowledge to magically enter your brain and that just doesn't work (says a guy who has bought way to many language course books and still can't write a proper sentence because apparently you actually need to read the books not just buy them).

It is amazing we think of education as we do. Most schools in Holland teach swimming but we don't magically expect all kids to become olympic swimmers. Why do we expect all kids thought basic reading to be great writers then?

School swimming is there to make you slightly less likely to drown. The rest is up to you.

School education is there to stop you chewing the books, reading them, understanding what is inside, is up to you.

I can make you read say "Anne Frank's diary" or listen to MLK speeches but I cannot make you understand them. And frankly for all those who wish for schools to be MORE then literacy factories... do you REALLY want your school system to tell people what to think? What to understand?

Our school system might seem like a waste and horribly inefficient but I for one am more afraid of what an efficient school system would look like. Remember that in say Public Transport, if a train is filled to capacity, it is efficient. Factory farming is efficient, I do not wish to be a factory animal thank you very much.

Re:You are partly right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032319)

You are absolutely wrong in the worst possible way.

School is there, primarily, to make you numerate and literate, true. It has a -vital- secondary importance which is to socialize kids and teach them to socially orient themselves in relation to a semi-random sampling of other people (ie. kids from richer/poorer neighborhoods than their own).

Additionally, you absolutely positively NEED to get some "rote work" done. I've met homeschooled american teens who believ Hitler was bad because he killed Jesus. You need to be forced to learn some names, dates and such to be able to orient yourself historically.

THEN, you get to do "home schooling" which I gather from some of you fanatics is just another term for sitting down and actually learning something outside of the school system. The thing is, so many kids lose out on how fun some fields can be because the initial rote work is too difficult and not rewarding enough the first hours/days/weeks of learning. Mathematics come to mind. Kids grow up today thinking they will never need to use mathematics in real life because (bad) schools allow them to essentially skip it.

A school has many more functions than you seem to think and they are all important. They are not supposed to replace reading stuff on your own. You are supposed to do that anyway, something the fanatical homeschoolers just don't seem to get.

Re:There's already a working system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032747)

Well put!

The children in a classroom are mostly siblings though, for good and bad. What the current system do however, is alienate the system itself from the siblings.

Great ideas, but cannot be applied (1)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about a year ago | (#43029345)

When he talks about the "SOLE"s he put in classrooms, specifically when he mentions that the teacher just stands back and says "it just happens all by itself", you immediately see that all of those great ideas will be extremely hard to adopt on a mainstream level, almost impossible I fear.

As he said, the British model of education is so well-designed and so firmly embedded into society, protected by political capital, laws, teacher unions, social norms, etc. that I don't see this happening in my lifetime, or the lifetime of the generation after me.

Yes, we should be driven to learn instead of legally obligated to be educated. Yes, learning should be motivated by fun and curiosity and desire to learn. Yes, Maths should be visualized, intuitized, computerized, and made fun. Yes, History should be a bunch of stories and not a table of dates and events. Yes to all of his and Khan's calls to modern learning that bets on creativity and individuality.

But none of this will happen, and for that reason, I won't bring another human being into this world to suffer through our schools and education system.

Re:Great ideas, but cannot be applied (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029865)

Yes, we should be driven to learn instead of legally obligated to be educated. Yes, learning should be motivated by fun and curiosity and desire to learn. Yes, Maths should be visualized, intuitized, computerized, and made fun. Yes, History should be a bunch of stories and not a table of dates and events. Yes to all of his and Khan's calls to modern learning that bets on creativity and individuality. But none of this will happen, and for that reason, I won't bring another human being into this world to suffer through our schools and education system.

Ok.....so who says it is the responsibility of the schools and the government to give that to your kids? Give it to them yourself. Either home school them, or encourage them to learn outside of school. Send your kid to Space Camp, or take them to an interactive science museum or a living history center. Foster their desire to learn, and they will find ways to learn, both in and out of school. In elementary school I read and reread a multi-book series on the Vietnam War that we had in the library. Did we have to read it? No. Was it shown to me by a teacher or librarian? No. I found it myself and read it myself. In classes that bored me, I read other books hidden behind my textbook, and not children's books either. I was encouraged and supported by my parents, and by the 5th grade was in an advanced track that I continued with all the way to college. You just sound like your either lazy or can't stay in a relationship and using this to justify why you'll never have kids.

Re:Great ideas, but cannot be applied (1)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030251)

Well, good for you, sounds like you had a nice time in school when you were younger. Where I went, they put little colored stickers on books to indicate the "reading level" of a book, and you weren't allowed to take a book that was at a higher level than the one corresponding to what year of school you were in. How's that for encouragement.

I will admit that I am also quite lazy and quite unwilling to even enter a relationship, but that's not really my point here, though I guess it probably discredits everything I've said and will say on the topic. I'm not trying to convince anyone, I'm just saying that all of my hopes and ideals are crushed.

Beware of The Cloud (1, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029549)

There's no telling what innocent young minds might stumble across out there. I mean, everyone knows that diseases are caused by the Wrath Of God, not DNA replication errors.

That's why we [skepticblog.org] have to maintain control of the curriculum.

Okay, So What You're Telling Me Is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43029557)

He left some reading material lying around, and the kids read it, and it left an impression.

Why is this suddenly an OMG COMPUTERS FIXED EVERYTHING article? You could get the same effect by dropping a satchel of illustrated books off in the same village. Oh, wait, no audio? No video? No multimedia? Okay, how about some film reels, and 8-tracks?

Presto! The same exact effect, but no computers!

But wait! None of that is "interactive"... Guess what, you don't need complex electronics to design and enforce interaction. And by the way, clicking on a button isn't necessarily more complex than turning the page of a book, and sure, books present data in a paginated order, but they're also flexible enough for random access.

So what's the take away here? The novelty of electronic devices is the cookie that "encourages" a "more efficient learning"? Hmmm... I'm not convinced.

wrong question (1)

slew (2918) | about a year and a half ago | (#43029869)

Instead of asking how to educate people, I think we need to come to grips with what people want when they say they want education.

At a personal level, although there is a vague notion that somehow education is important, it's likely that the thing most important to individual people about an education is not the fact or skills that are obtained, but certification that is conveyed and the value of that certification in societal status. If this is indeed true, the root desire for most folks in obtaining an education is differentiation (presumably from the "uneducated" masses). Could this differentiation be achieved by simply learning a set of facts and/or skills? Or does much of the value come in the form of the certification?

At a societal level, there are some economic benefits to having masses know enough facts and learn enough skills to create value in the economy and to allow the citizenry at large to reap the benefits of a relatively better economy (even those that don't know the facts or nor learned the skills).

So to this end, governments often invest in elements of a certified education to assist in the efficiency of the economy (e.g., allow more optimal allocation of workers to enterprises, and a more learned workforce in general). But to whom specifically does it confer most of the value of this investment? Bestowing rewards to the "smart", and "motivated" are perhaps easy calls for the highest levels of certification, but what about the masses? Or the motivated parents (wealthy or not) that wish to buy status for their children? Things get a bit dicey and politically incorrect from there since it is not possible to grant differentiation to everyone (by definition of differentiation).

For the masses, the conventional wisdom is to create a process we call education where the people can be taught the facts and skills and be certified for their accomplishment. This has the unspoken assumption that most anyone can be taught and that the certification has value.

Hopefully we can all see the flaw in this. If everyone can be taught, there is little to no differentiation and the certification has little value (other than the recipient has already been taught). You can see this today in the mainstream job market: HS diplomas are almost meaningless. Does that mean everyone can be taught, or does it mean the certification of the facts and skills indicated by a HS diploma are non-differentiating. Does improving teaching improve this situation in either case? Probably not.

The real value in improving teaching is not to help us individual students learn, but at a societal level to improve the economy. How do you measure this? Probably this is only measured in aggregate which is an evaluation mechanism that students, teachers, and people who study the education processes tend to discount as they concentrate on the achievement of the individual.

So do we do away with the notion of a certified education? My feeling is that will reduce the efficiency in the economy. All enterprises would need to develop their own training and evaluation criteria and job seekers will probably be less likely to present meaningful credentials to prospective new employers.

If we stick with the concept of a certified education, what are we certifying? If you believe in "tests" as a sole means of evaluation, that might be easy to answer, but if you believe (as I do) that learning is more than the sum of facts and skills, it's hard to say that you can successfully replace teachers with ipads and present a meaningful certification result.

For example, when I interview a college graduate that didn't drop out, I know that at least they could put up with a hierarchical institutional environment for 4 years and were able to do sufficient amount of learning to make academic progress. Since I desire them to stay in my company and contribute for more than a few years if I hire them and spend the resources to train them, that's an important nugget of information right there independent of any specific facts or skills they gained along the way.

That's not to say that all teachers are equivalent, but that technology can't replace a good teacher. As for actually getting a good teacher, as with many things in life, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get...

Love the concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030023)

I love the concept but the problem is the implementation.

Also, I disagree that the current teaching style is a result of "... Victorian England's need for bureaucrats...". IMO, broadcast teaching of standardized curricula came about to allow:

1). Fewer teachers can teach more children. The main cost of education at primary and secondary levels is in the teachers so the system optimizes for this;
2). Children get a known, baseline set of knowledge;
3). Unmotivated children can be motivated coercively. Not pleasant but true.

In my "forget the practicalities, let's blue-sky an idealized system", here's what I'd like to see. Children are allowed to follow their interests and learn connected areas of knowledge, following the logical connections. This should increase their interest and motivation. Eventually their interests reveal to them an important truth: All knowledge is connected.

Eventually they will tackle subjects not of initial interest to them precisely because they come to understand that, even more difficult topics (to them) connect and support the things they love. They cannot fully understand their main interest without knowing something about many secondary topics.

I view it as a revisiting of the old Socratic teaching method, assisted by technology. Just a dream.

Absolutely meaningless summary (1)

Harvey Manfrenjenson (1610637) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030685)

"He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.'"

And this is supposed to prove WHAT, exactly? Am I supposed to be impressed by the depth of knowledge that the Indian children achieved?

Re:Absolutely meaningless summary (1)

nbauman (624611) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031257)

You're right. I don't believe it. There's no way that children from a rural village in India could understand DNA. Even well-educated western children can't understand DNA even in middle school or high school (unless they have parents who are very well educated).

At best, you could teach them to parrot phrases that they don't understand, like "mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases."

You could just as easily teach them to parrot phrases like "Disobeying God causes disease," and it would mean as much to them.

Re:Absolutely meaningless summary (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43032595)

Exactly. In five minutes, I could have taught them that phrase, with a pretty picture, and they would know it to the same depth.

Five minutes of directed education therefore would be superior to months this "undirected" education.

Children, by default, have a huge desire to learn. But it will be focused on precisely the things that cause them to fail in later life unless directed. And dulling the enthusiasm is most easily achieved by NOT USING THE KNOWLEDGE or NOT LEARNING for a while.

If you want to see what "undirected education" really looks like, grab the kids who are bunking off school all the time, have parents who have no interest in teaching them, and then follow them for 20 years. You'll find the odd "success", but mostly they will be below average on just about every metric.

I work in schools. The kids who don't WANT to learn, learn nothing. The kids who DO want to learn can be hindered by those who don't to the point that they become one of them.

Hell, if anything, modern education systems are rigorous, structured and focused ENOUGH. We should be separating out the time-wasters and layabouts into their own classes and let the kids who want to learn excel at what they do, like we used to allow to happen.

"Children will learn on their own?" (3, Insightful)

Harvey Manfrenjenson (1610637) | about a year and a half ago | (#43030759)

From the summary: "One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that."

Well, great. Nobody explained that to the inner-city teenagers I deal with in my clinic. Just about all of them have access to the full resources of the Internet, either at home or down the street at the library. And they are wonderfully free from the evils of "interference and too much direction".

Their general fund of knowledge is shockingly limited. Many of them can't find Europe on a map. A remarkable number of them can't name a single city outside of the United States/Mexico. They struggle with basic arithmetic and reading comprehension.

If you want to see how well-educated a child becomes when you give him "resources" and no direction, just look around you.

Re:"Children will learn on their own?" (1)

nbauman (624611) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031265)

Interference and direction like explaining the scientific method.

Or how to use the library.

Re:"Children will learn on their own?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43031285)

The American preoccupation with individualism has become so intense that we now celebrate the virtue of growing up with an alcoholic father in a filthy shack in a swamp willfully disjoint from civilization because of the unique perpective it offers.

how have we failed over 7,000 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43030833)

I'm making money with my education, so is most everyone I know (whether traditional schooling, appreticeship, trade school, etc.)

DNA? I'm skeptical (3, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031229)

He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.'

I don't believe it. Young children can't understand DNA -- or even molecules. I particularly don't believe that young children from a rural village in India could understand anything meaningful about DNA. You might be able to teach them to parrot phrases like "mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases" if you repeated it to them a lot. But they won't understand what they're talking about. You could just as easily teach them to say, "Disobeying God causes diseases." It certainly has nothing to do with teaching science.

I did some research into elementary and high school science education, and read what the teachers with hands-on experience said. A friend of mine had lots of stories about how he taught science in the Peace Corps in Africa.

Surprisingly, even high school kids have a difficult time with science concepts that seem to be simple and basic -- for example, molecules.

Think about it. Science is hands-on. The main lesson of science is that you make a hypothesis, and then test the hypothesis against the real world to see if your hypothesis actually works. How can you demonstrate to a high school student that molecules exist? I read in my history of science books the saga of how chemists finally figured out and proved what molecules and atoms were, starting in about the 18th century. It's a great story. It would be very difficult for high school students to replicate those experiments, and even more difficult to understand what they were doing. We don't have mercury barometers any more. How do you prove that atoms and molecules really exist? In my niece's middle school science class, it was an appeal to authority -- the book says so.

I was particularly interested in the efforts to teach elementary school students about DNA. What's the point? You're not demonstrating the existence of DNA or genes to them. You're not showing them anything in the real, testable world. You're just showing them pictures and animations. The Harry Potter movies also have animations. Why should they believe your animations any more than Harry Potter movies? Or creationist Bible movies? The American Museum of Natural History had a show on DNA. They had exhibits for children demonstrating DNA. I asked the kids to explain it -- and they couldn't do it. They had a big, colorful, impressive exhibit for kids on DNA, and none of the kids understood it. Although you could get a grant for it.

In the world of pundits and foundation grants, there are lots of people who make extravagant claims about what their thing can do, their technical trick or their computers.

There are lots of things about science that you can teach kids, hands-on, starting as young as 3 years old. Seymour Simon http://www.seymoursimon.com/ [seymoursimon.com] had books for 4-year-olds that taught them how to discover for themselves principles of engineering using paper and clay to build arches. Science teachers take their kids out into the woods -- or a vacant lot -- and show them what you can find there.

But teaching rural Indian children to understand anything about DNA? With materials in a language they don't understand? I don't believe it.

Re:DNA? I'm skeptical (1)

Cato (8296) | about a year and a half ago | (#43033145)

I listened to Sugata Mitra talk for an hour about his approach, and his story is quite true. Listen to his TED talks before you are so quick to say he's wrong.

Re:DNA? I'm skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43033283)

an hour of gab is a superb stand-in for citeable reseach, I'm sure.

sigh... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43031903)

Out with the poorly designed studies, in with the anecdotes!

But do we need it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43032205)

I thought we didn't need schools.

For two decades now in the easy-money IT industry, young entrepeneurs have been chanting again and again that schools only dull the mind and since THEY didn't need schools to succeed, nobody else does.

So do we suddenly need schools again now that someone has something to sell?

India? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43033861)

Who gives a *FUCK* about India!!!!? They smell like shit and are taking over our country. It was "cute" when they had Apu in Simpsons episodes over 20 years ago but we didn't have the Indian problem we do now. That shit is EVERYWHERE!

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