Self Organised Learning Environment
A Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) is an approach to provide self-directed education to students in remote or troubled areas where good teachers are not available. The program is intended to provide a means of a quality education through access to the internet. This approach has been used in South Africa, Italy, and New Delhi. Experiments were performed by Sugata Mitra, an education scientist, to measure the results of the SOLE program. The program has been found to promote teamwork and allowed students to advance at their own pace. Because it is self-directed, however, there are some downsides to the approach of not having learning occur through structured lesson plans.
The first student in India to use the programme was Gouri Chindarkar (born about 1996) from Sangli in Maharashtra. She learnt about the programme through a mentor, an American woman named Ann Thomas, who met with her at 6:30 in the morning. She used a computer for the first time, and her schoolwork delivered in English; her native language is Marathi. Gouri Chindarkar has since studied Computing Engineering at the Kankavali campus of Mumbai University and she was selected as one of the BBC's 100 Women in 2016.
One of the things that was learned through the program is that children are often smarter than we think. Rather than providing lectures or spoon-feeding information to the students, it is better to ask "engaging, provocative questions" and let them work out the answers. It is good to let the students be self-directed in the areas that are of interest to them. Students will often stretch to comprehend information that might have otherwise been too difficult for them. Praise builds confidence, helps them become engaged, and empowers them.
The educational experience is enhanced through collaboration and teamwork; an example is assigning a group of four or five students an activity and then having them to share their results with the classroom. The success of the programme means may mean a paradigm shift so that it is accepted and incorporated in the lesson plans. It has been found that tests that solve real-life problems, which may rely on access to the internet or dictionaries, is more effective that test-taking. Speech-to-text software is an effective tool for learning to speak a new language.
It is difficult for children to sustain self-directed learning, they need coaching to stay focused on learning and not play. Effective learning is iterative, where knowledge on a given topic is built incrementally. Self-directed learning, however, does not operate that way. It is not clear to what extent the learning is effective over the long-term.
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Comment: This is a Q&A interview with Sugata Mitra