An audience with TED prize winner Sugata Mitra

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‘TED’ came into being in 1984, when three industries (Technology, Entertainment and Design) converged at a one-off conference in California.

By no means an instant success, it wasn’t until 6 years later that the TED conference was revived when the creators opened its doors to a broader scope of disciplines; inviting speakers to address audiences on wider world topics such as science, religion, philosophy and education.

In 2016, over 2,200 TED talks are been posted online; short, powerful videos that are watched and shared across the globe, becoming ‘worldwide phenomenon’ and a viewing staple in creative agency life. So you can imagine Orange Bus’ joy when TED’s prize winner Sugata Mitra, Newcastle University’s Professor of Educational Technology, came to speak at agency Beers with Ideas.

School in the Cloud

Sugata introduced us to his winning work ‘School in the Cloud’, which was particularly topical as his visit was amidst the controversy surrounding the pressure of school SATs on young children – provoking huge debate…

…Orange Bus Developer Lorenzo Mugati, Development Lead Ross Davidson and MD Kris Kennedy share what got them thinking:

Lorenzo Mugati

Lorenzo Orange Bus Developer

“Dr Sugata’s talk was really interesting. His research in education is progressive and, I guess, quite radical. I believe this is the kind of approach is needed for our education system to move forward. I completely agree with Dr Sugata when he mentions that today’s education system was developed for a different generation and things have moved on significantly since then.

I have 2 young girls currently going through the early stages of the education system and, at times, I do get frustrated at the learning environment. Maybe frustrated is not the right word, it’s more concerned, that our children are not getting the best out of these early years. I feel the system is uncompromising and takes a hard-line approach to teaching which, I think is convenient for measuring a child’s progress and comparing children against each other. But does this really provide the best environment to learn in?

I would like to see young children running wild with their imagination (obviously not just running wild). Let them use their wild imagination to be creative and come up with different solutions. My daughters love to use technology – too much gaming sometimes – and I can see how passionate they get when left to their own devices and come up with their own ideas and solutions. Surely they absorb more information when in the right mindset.

Dr Sugata’s exploration into new ways to educate our children is definitely something I’d like to see adopted more widely. I understand it may be difficult to drastically change the current, deep rooted, education system – for example the removal of teachers from the classroom – but I would personally like to see the introduction of new learning environments in our schools. Allow young students to learn in a way they can be more creative and inventive without such a focus on measuring the outcome. You never know, it might even help parents get their children out of the door and into school in the morning!”

Ross Davidson

Ross Developer Orange Bus

“I’ve always thought that traditional teaching only suits a certain type of child who is willing to look for ‘more’ than what the teachers simply give them – while I myself was one of these and did well at school, it is only in adulthood that the intelligence of some of my classmates who were considered ‘inferior’ by the school system at the time is now apparent with many wishing they had learned ‘better’ earlier.

It is simply not good enough in modern times to teach simply for passing exams or doing a specific task, children need to be taught to think for themselves, to enquire and ask questions while learning *how* to solve problems rather than learning facts or redundant methods.

At the moment I am seeing how easy children can think for themselves in Code Club if you give them a few simple pointers, (although keeping them on the right track and focused is proving difficult – I’m too much of a pushover!)

Unfortunately, the major factor acknowledged in the talk is how to assess ‘thinking’, as it is simply not a right/wrong question and is open to bias too easily, (which of course is the answer to which Dr Sugata is looking for!)”

Kris Kennedy

Kris Kennedy Orange Bus MD

Sugata’s talk made me think about how we place boundaries around technology and its role in learning and assessment.

For example; Sugata raised the point that we do not preventing students from wearing glasses in examinations, but is this not a form of assistive technology? Phones, tablets, and other digital services, are simply assistive learning and recollection tools too. Soon, we’ll be unable to distinguish those that are using these tools as they become more embedded within our bodies. How will this impact assessment? We should be planning for this now before the system collapses.

The educational system hasn’t evolved from it’s original purpose of training workers for the industrial economy, but we’re through this era now and should be building educational and assessment platforms that recognise and develop free and creative thinkers that will ensure success in the connection economy. After all, in this new era, the recollection of facts and ability to blindly follow orders won’t serve us particularly well.”


Dr Sugata Mitra - Twitter
Dr Sugata Mitra – Twitter

Dr Sugati Mitra has posed a problem to Team OB that could help further his work into the future of learning. We look forward to a follow-up Beers with Ideas session with Sugata very soon – stay tuned on Twitter with #beerswithideas

More from Kris and Ross

Tiltbrush Creations from Painting in Space

Judging the App Factor – Friday 22nd April

Playing Lego with HMRC’s Agile Coach

More from Dr Sugatri Mitra on the future of learning:

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