Your classroom and a hole-in-the-wall

I don't know if it is obvious or not, but I am thoroughly enjoying blogging.  I can barely put into words how alive, refueled and invigorating it is to me.  For all those times or situations where I felt I didn't have a voice, I am making up for them now.  I feel like a lion - ROAR!

I hope little O feels like this during her life.  Happy.  Although, it looks like she's doing a decent job of that below.  Perhaps, I should concentrate on world peace instead.

Yesterday's Theories on Thursday introduced (or "reintroduced" -  for those of you who already knew of Dr. Sugata Mitra's work) the idea that sometimes less is more in education.  Less teacher dialogue, less sage on the stage, less lecture loser.  Yep, I just referred to myself as a lecture loser.  I am holding a big "L" hand gesture to my forehead right now.  Let's face it, sometimes we teachers talk and talk and talk and talk. 

Life is about balance.

As promised in yesterday's post - by the way, if you missed the post yesterday, you must click here and watch it.  Yes, this one is a watchable post (I just had to make certain "watchable" was truly a word in the English language).  Whew, we are safe.  As I was saying before I interrupted my own self (see, talkie, talkie, talkie....), today's post will summarize some of Dr. Mitra's research findings.  How will you use these findings in your classroom (or for our parent readers, with your children)?

Dr. Sugata Mitra's research findings:
  1. Children will learn regardless of income level and the presence of teachers. 
  2. When given the opportunity, children will self-organize their own learning groups.  Four learners in a group seems to be the optimal number, from Dr. Mitra's studies.
  3. For each group, a learner will emerge as the "group leader" or expert.  This would be a great opportunity to use our metaphor, Captain, Crew and Cargo to discuss those important roles.
  4. Allowing ample time for learners to observe the expert and/or the other group mates is paramount.  This is one of the cornerstones of my beloved Montessori education.  More on Montessori education another day.
  5. Children in self-organized groups need plenty of time to learn by discovery.  Trial and error, rehearsal and practice time all contribute to optimal learning and growth.
  6. Children gain much from capable peers (sorry, lecture losers....).  I am sweaty at the armpits.  Am I unneeded teacher?
  7. When teachers (and parents) take on the "grandmother approach" - admiring kids' work and asking reflective questions - children learn more.  OK, now I have something to work towards.....
  8. There is no room for bullying when children are self-organized and working collaboratively.
  9. Carrots and sticks (rewards and punishments) are unnecessary when the above conditions are present; children intrinsically and innately want to learn.  Does anyone else hear the sirens singing?
If you are like me and you want fancy charts and graphs of Dr. M's research findings, click here.  You might also like to review some of the international published studies on the Hole-in-the-wall project.  Click here if you do.

As we take off for the weekend, the question is this, "What will you do with these research findings?  How will they impact teaching and learning (or child rearing, working with colleagues, etc)?

Food for thought.  My head is spinning with the possibilities.

All the best,

PS - Will I see you next week for our first giveaway?  Come on and join us!


  1. Jen,
    I am sharing your blog at NACCTEP in San Diego in the Building your Professional Learning Network. CE

  2. CE - The more who visit Upcycled Education, the better. Please spread the word and I'd love to collaborate with fellow educators.


  3. Wow. I watched Dr. Mitra's video. Wow. I was most impressed when he went to Turin and allowed students to find their own answers in groups. I wish I had ready access to computers in my classroom (I'm getting them eventually.....?), because it seems that the possibilities are ENDLESS when students gather around something they are excited about. What I wouldn't do with this research....

    Some thoughts:
    -I would like the students each take turns being the class "guru" AKA the person that has the computer ready so they can look up answers to any students' questions in real time (right now I tell them to google it when they get home, aka probably not happening).

    -I would love to introduce student teachers. In the sense that students pick a topic or question that interests them (and is related to our unit), research it, and present their findings to the class in a mini-lesson. Just think 20 minutes a day of students sharing something they are passionate about! Exciting

    -I have been told by numerous people that my teaching style is tiring. I talk too much and center the lesson a lot around me and what I'm saying. I would love to give the small groups the powerpoints and have them teach and explain the concept to each other! Or maybe have them create powerpoints as a group as to how THEY would explain the concept to themselves and to the class (hmmm this gets me thinking, would I even need to lesson plan anymore?)

  4. well, prof, i must be (subconsciously) going thru withdrawl from our saturday classes, already! i swear, i have checked your blog 5 times since saturday for a new posting! anyway, i will def keep following your blog, despite our class having ended, and, fyi, links to this blog are all over my fb page. seriously! i have many teacher friends who have been told that they HAVE to check it out! see you again, soon, i hope! thanks for a great class! and, although i have not commented on your blog postings, i have been reading them and greatly appreciate the insight!

  5. Kim - I love that you keep checking back to Upcycled Education. Thank you for spreading the word to your teacher-friends. I generally post new content Tuesday-Thursday (plus some Fridays). I am going to miss our Saturday class, too. You and your classmates were dynamic together. Keep coming back to U.E. and we can keep connecting in cyberspace.

    Eliza - I love your ideas to incorporate Dr. Mitra's research. Though you won't have to lesson plan as much as you will be more of a facilitator, you will need to "train" students how to take on the roles you described and work collaboratively. Once you do that, you will be good to go. Starting this "shift" and process on the first day of school is always a bonus (though, it is never too late to try new ideas). It is something to aim for next fall. Do check out the post on the "Captain-Crew-Cargo" metaphor under the tutorial section. That would be helpful to your students, I imagine.

    Best, Jen

  6. As I reread this post for the second time I am now seeing some parallels between Dr. Mitra's findings and Daniel Pinks theories on motivation. As I read it, I see autonomy and children who are self-motivated to learn! Our students really need to see this TED talk! They really need to see what they are capable of! It is so inspiring.

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