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401, 401V, 501V: English-Language Reading Diary

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Group 301-401 (Evening) Exam results and a hole in the wall

On Wednesday we watched and discussed these two videos. (Note: transcripts follow the second video.)


I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate Spoken Word from Richard G on Vimeo.



Transcripts:

Transcript for the video by Suli Breaks (introduced by Tarek Chaudhury on Reprezent 107.3):

[Intro: Tarek Chaudhury]
Revolution on Reprezent 107.3 FM
My name is Tarek
Now listeners you may remember not too long ago we had a spoken word artist by the name of Suli Breaks
Came down dropped a live session and a lot of you were excited about that
I was excited this morning when I opened up a package, had no idea what it was
Opened it up, put it in the player, pressed play, and it totally blew me away
It's his brand new piece from his brand new "The Dormroom EP"
I'mma have to let spoken word do what it does best, and let it speak for itself
Brand new Suli Breaks!

[Verse: Suli Breaks]
Right now
There is a kid finishing parents' evening in a heated discussion with his mother
Saying, why does he have to study subjects he will never ever use in his life?
And she will look at him blanked eyed, stifle a sigh, think for a second and then lie
She'll say something along the lines of:
"You know to get a good job, you need a good degree and these subjects will help you get a degree, we never had this opportunity when I was younger".
And he will reply:
"But you were young a long time ago, weren't you mum?"
And she won't respond although what he implies makes perfect sense that societies needs would have changed since he was 16
But she will ignore him, grip his hand more sternly and drag him to the car
What she doesn't know is that she didn't ignore him just to shut him up
She didn't lie because they are just returning him from parents' evening
And an argument in the hallway would look bad on her resume
She won't lie because she had just spent the last one hour convincing a stern face teacher that she would ensure that her child studies more at home
No! She will lie simply, because she does not know any better herself
Although all her adult life, she has never used or applied
Pythagorean theorem, Pathetic fallacy, and does not know the value of "X"
She will rely society to tell her child who has one of the sharpest mind in the school, is hyperactive, unfocused, easily distracted and wayward

Students!
How many equations, subjects and dates did you memorize just before an exam never to use again?
How many "A" grades did you get, which were never asked for when applying for a job?
How many times have you remembered something 5 minutes just after the teacher said: "Stop writing"
Only to receive your results a month later to realize that you were only 1 mark short of the top grade?

Does that mean remembering 5 minutes earlier would've made you more qualified for a particular job?
Well, on an application form it would have
We all have different abilities, thought processes, experiences and genes
So why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?
So that means Cherrelle thinks she's dumb, because she couldn't do a couple sums
And if this issue is not addressed properly, it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
Then every school has the audacity to have policy on equality
Huh, the irony!

Exams are society's methods of telling you what you're worth
But you can't let society tell you what you are
Cause this is the same society that tells you that abortion is wrong, but then looks down on teenage parents!
The same society that sells products to promote nature hair, looks and smooth complexion with the model on the box, half photoshopped, and has fake lashes and hair extensions
With pastors that preach charity, but own private jets
Imams that preach against greed, but are all fat
Parents that say they want "educated kids" but constantly marvel at how rich Richard Branson is
Governments, that preach peace, but endorse war, that say they believe so much in the importance of higher education and further learning
Then why increase tuition fees every single year?
I believed Miss Jefferson when she took me into the office, said that my exams would be imperative to my success
Because we were taught to always follow when Miss Jefferson led
Then I took Jefferson out of the equation and learned to think for myself
I realized, we were always taught to follow when misled
Huh, the irony!

Test us with tests, but the finals are never final
Because they never prepare us for the biggest test which is survival!
And what I suggest is fairly outlandish
So I don't expect everyone to understand this
Except for the kid that knows what it feels like to be worth no more than that D or that A that you get on results day
And the ones whose best stories were never good enough for your English teacher
Because apparently you missed out key literal techniques
Did not follow the class plan,
And the language was too "informal" for him to understand
But then he'd reference Hamlet and Macbeth
And you'd fight the urge to express your contempt by partially clenching your fist with only your medius finger left protruding in the middle of your hand
And asking if he was aware that Shakespeare was known as the innovator of slang
Or the kid at the back of the class who thinks:
"Why am I studying something that doesn't fuel my drive?"
But when confronted with a maths problem his eyes come alive

So this one is for my generation,
the ones who found what they were looking for on Google,
the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter,
Pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.
This one's for my "failures" and "dropouts", for my unemployed graduates, my shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams,
My self-employed entrepreneurs, my world-changers and my dream-chasers!
Cause the purpose of "Why I hate school, but love education" was not to initiate a worldwide debate,
But to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68,
We will not let exam results decide our fate

Peace.

Transcript for Sugata Mitra ("The Child-Driven Education")

Well, that's kind of an obvious statement up there. I started with that sentence about 12 years ago, and I started in the context of developing countries, but you're sitting here from every corner of the world. So if you think of a map of your country, I think you'll realize that for every country on Earth, you could draw little circles to say, "These are places where good teachers won't go." On top of that, those are the places from where trouble comes. So we have an ironic problem -- good teachers don't want to go to just those places where they're needed the most.

I started in 1999 to try and address this problem with an experiment, which was a very simple experiment in New Delhi. I basically embedded a computer into a wall of a slum in New Delhi. The children barely went to school, they didn't know any English -- they'd never seen a computer before, and they didn't know what the internet was. I connected high speed internet to it -- it's about three feet off the ground -- turned it on and left it there. After this, we noticed a couple of interesting things, which you'll see. But I repeated this all over India and then through a large part of the world and noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.

This is the first experiment that we did -- eight year-old boy on your right teaching his student, a six year-old girl, and he was teaching her how to browse. This boy here in the middle of central India -- this is in a Rajasthan village, where the children recorded their own music and then played it back to each other and in the process, they've enjoyed themselves thoroughly. They did all of this in four hours after seeing the computer for the first time. In another South Indian village, these boys here had assembled a video camera and were trying to take the photograph of a bumble bee. They downloaded it from Disney.com, or one of these websites, 14 days after putting the computer in their village. So at the end of it, we concluded that groups of children can learn to use computers and the internet on their own, irrespective of who or where they were.

At that point, I became a little more ambitious and decided to see what else could children do with a computer. We started off with an experiment in Hyderabad, India, where I gave a group of children -- they spoke English with a very strong Telugu accent. I gave them a computer with a speech-to-text interface, which you now get free with Windows, and asked them to speak into it. So when they spoke into it, the computer typed out gibberish, so they said, "Well, it doesn't understand anything of what we are saying." So I said, "Yeah, I'll leave it here for two months. Make yourself understood to the computer." So the children said, "How do we do that." And I said, "I don't know, actually." (Laughter) And I left. (Laughter) Two months later -- and this is now documented in the Information Technology for International Development journal -- that accents had changed and were remarkably close to the neutral British accent in which I had trained the speech-to-text synthesizer. In other words, they were all speaking like James Tooley. (Laughter) So they could do that on their own. After that, I started to experiment with various other things that they might learn to do on their own.

I got an interesting phone call once from Columbo, from the late Arthur C. Clarke, who said, "I want to see what's going on." And he couldn't travel, so I went over there. He said two interesting things, "A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be." (Laughter) The second thing he said was that, "If children have interest, then education happens." And I was doing that in the field, so every time I would watch it and think of him.

(Video) Arthur C. Clarke: And they can definitely help people, because children quickly learn to navigate the web and find things which interest them. And when you've got interest, then you have education.

Sugata Mitra: I took the experiment to South Africa. This is a 15 year-old boy.

(Video) Boy: ... just mention, I play games like animals, and I listen to music.

SM: And I asked him, "Do you send emails?" And he said, "Yes, and they hop across the ocean." This is in Cambodia, rural Cambodia -- a fairly silly arithmetic game, which no child would play inside the classroom or at home. They would, you know, throw it back at you. They'd say, "This is very boring." If you leave it on the pavement and if all the adults go away, then they will show off with each other about what they can do. This is what these children are doing. They are trying to multiply, I think. And all over India, at the end of about two years, children were beginning to Google their homework. As a result, the teachers reported tremendous improvements in their English -- (Laughter) rapid improvement and all sorts of things. They said, "They have become really deep thinkers and so on and so forth. (Laughter) And indeed they had. I mean, if there's stuff on Google, why would you need to stuff it into your head? So at the end of the next four years, I decided that groups of children can navigate the internet to achieve educational objectives on their own.

At that time, a large amount of money had come into Newcastle University to improve schooling in India. So Newcastle gave me a call. I said, "I'll do it from Delhi." They said, "There's no way you're going to handle a million pounds-worth of University money sitting in Delhi." So in 2006, I bought myself a heavy overcoat and moved to Newcastle. I wanted to test the limits of the system. The first experiment I did out of Newcastle was actually done in India. And I set myself and impossible target: can Tamil speaking 12-year-old children in a South Indian village teach themselves biotechnology in English on their own? And I thought, I'll test them, they'll get a zero -- I'll give the materials, I'll come back and test them -- they get another zero, I'll go back and say, "Yes, we need teachers for certain things."

I called in 26 children. They all came in there, and I told them that there's some really difficult stuff on this computer. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't understand anything. It's all in English, and I'm going. (Laughter) So I left them with it. I came back after two months, and the 26 children marched in looking very, very quiet. I said, "Well, did you look at any of the stuff?" They said, "Yes, we did." "Did you understand anything?" "No, nothing." So I said, "Well, how long did you practice on it before you decided you understood nothing?" They said, "We look at it every day." So I said, "For two months, you were looking at stuff you didn't understand?" So a 12 year-old girl raises her hand and says, literally, "Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecule causes genetic disease, we've understood nothing else."

(Laughter)

(Applause)

(Laughter)

It took me three years to publish that. It's just been published in the British Journal of Educational Technology. One of the referees who refereed the paper said, "It's too good to be true," which was not very nice. Well, one of the girls had taught herself to become the teacher. And then that's her over there. Remember, they don't study English. I edited out the last bit when I asked, "Where is the neuron?" and she says, "The neuron? The neuron," and then she looked and did this. Whatever the expression, it was not very nice.

So their scores had gone up from zero to 30 percent, which is an educational impossibility under the circumstances. But 30 percent is not a pass. So I found that they had a friend, a local accountant, a young girl, and they played football with her. I asked that girl, "Would you teach them enough biotechnology to pass?" And she said, "How would I do that? I don't know the subject." I said, "No, use the method of the grandmother." She said, "What's that?" I said, "Well, what you've got to do is stand behind them and admire them all the time. Just say to them, 'That's cool. That's fantastic. What is that? Can you do that again? Can you show me some more?'" She did that for two months. The scores went up to 50, which is what the posh schools of New Delhi, with a trained biotechnology teacher were getting.

So I came back to Newcastle with these results and decided that there was something happening here that definitely was getting very serious. So, having experimented in all sorts of remote places, I came to the most remote place that I could think of. (Laughter) Approximately 5,000 miles from Delhi is the little town of Gateshead. In Gateshead, I took 32 children and I started to fine-tune the method. I made them into groups of four. I said, "You make your own groups of four. Each group of four can use one computer and not four computers." Remember, from the Hole in the Wall. "You can exchange groups. You can walk across to another group, if you don't like your group, etc. You can go to another group, peer over their shoulders, see what they're doing, come back to you own group and claim it as your own work." And I explained to them that, you know, a lot of scientific research is done using that method.

(Laughter)

(Applause)

The children enthusiastically got after me and said, "Now, what do you want us to do?" I gave them six GCSE questions. The first group -- the best one -- solved everything in 20 minutes. The worst, in 45. They used everything that they knew -- news groups, Google, Wikipedia, Ask Jeeves, etc. The teachers said, "Is this deep learning?" I said, "Well, let's try it. I'll come back after two months. We'll give them a paper test -- no computers, no talking to each other, etc." The average score when I'd done it with the computers and the groups was 76 percent. When I did the experiment, when I did the test, after two months, the score was 76 percent. There was photographic recall inside the children, I suspect because they're discussing with each other. A single child in front of a single computer will not do that. I have further results, which are almost unbelievable, of scores which go up with time. Because their teachers say that after the session is over, the children continue to Google further.

Here in Britain, I put out a call for British grandmothers, after my Kuppam experiment. Well, you know, they're very vigorous people, British grandmothers. 200 of them volunteered immediately. (Laughter) The deal was that they would give me one hour of broadband time, sitting in their homes, one day in a week. So they did that, and over the last two years, over 600 hours of instruction has happened over Skype, using what my students call the granny cloud. The granny cloud sits over there. I can beam them to whichever school I want to.

(Video) Teacher: You can't catch me. You say it. You can't catch me.

Children: You can't catch me.

Teacher: I'm the gingerbread man.

Children: I'm the gingerbread man.

Teacher: Well done. Very good ...

SM: Back at Gateshead, a 10-year-old girl gets into the heart of Hinduism in 15 minutes. You know, stuff which I don't know anything about. Two children watch a TEDTalk. They wanted to be footballers before. After watching eight TEDTalks, he wants to become Leonardo da Vinci.

(Laughter)

(Applause)

It's pretty simple stuff.

This is what I'm building now -- they're called SOLEs: Self Organized Learning Environments. The furniture is designed so that children can sit in front of big, powerful screens, big broadband connections, but in groups. If they want, they can call the granny cloud. This is a SOLE in Newcastle. The mediator is from Pune, India.

So how far can we go? One last little bit and I'll stop. I went to Turin in May. I sent all the teachers away from my group of 10 year-old students. I speak only English, they speak only Italian, so we had no way to communicate. I started writing English questions on the blackboard. The children looked at it and said, "What?" I said, "Well, do it." They typed it into Google, translated it into Italian, went back into Italian Google. Fifteen minutes later -- next question: where is Calcutta? This one, they took only 10 minutes. I tried a really hard one then. Who was Pythagoras, and what did he do? There was silence for a while, then they said, "You've spelled it wrong. It's Pitagora." And then, in 20 minutes, the right-angled triangles began to appear on the screens. This sent shivers up my spine. These are 10 year-olds. Text: In another 30 minutes they would reach the Theory of Relativity. And then?

(Laughter)

(Applause)

SM: So you know what's happened? I think we've just stumbled across a self-organizing system. A self-organizing system is one where a structure appears without explicit intervention from the outside. Self-organizing systems also always show emergence, which is that the system starts to do things, which it was never designed for. Which is why you react the way you do, because it looks impossible. I think I can make a guess now -- education is self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon. It'll take a few years to prove it, experimentally, but I'm going to try. But in the meanwhile, there is a method available. One billion children, we need 100 million mediators -- there are many more than that on the planet -- 10 million SOLEs, 180 billion dollars and 10 years. We could change everything.

Thanks.

(Applause)

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