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2010-08-29

3 TED talks on education

This blog post summarizes the content of three interesting TED talks on education:
Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover
Meyer argues that math textbooks prevent mathematical thinking and creativity by offering everything in small steps.
It is cool to see how he rewrites textbook exercises to make them more compelling and instructive.

Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums
In slums, education has to be pull, not push (as in mandatory, forced), because it competes with easy sources of money such as drug trafficking. Payoff has to be quick, what you learn has to make you productive immediately. In the industrialized world, education payoff and productivity are often postponed for years. In the developing world, there is a shortage of teachers, thus it becomes important to support peer teaching. One of the most important technologies is the cell phone. It should thus be used to support education.

Sugata Mitra: How kids teach themselves
Mitra did a “hole in the wall” experiment: He put a computer in a rural Indian area (accessed via a hole in a wall), left for 3 months and came back. The computer did not even have internet access, just a few CDs. When he came back, he talked to two children (8 and 12 years old) who played a game on the computer. They told him: “We need a faster processor and a better mouse”. Mitra, surprised: “How did you find that out?”. The children: “It was on the CDs”. Mitra: “How did you understand all this?” (the CDs were in English, but there was no English spoken in this area). Children: “Well, you left this machine which only talked English, so we had to learn English.” The children used 200 English words, not only with the computer, but also in their day to day conversations.

In later incarnations of this experiment, the first thing children did was to look for a web site that taught them the English alphabet. The overall result was that a computer enabled all children to teach themselves (regardless of any measurable factor such as economic wellfare, etc.). It had to happen in groups: Usually one child operated the computer and was surrounded by 3 children who advised. These children were again surrounded by 16 children who also advised, often incorrectly. The first 4 children had the same level of expertise and all children would pass a test on the topic learned via the computer. Adult intervention was not important. All these factors combined make this kind of education very affordable.

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