“A generation of children has grown up with continuous connectivity to the internet. A few years ago, nobody had a piece of plastic to which they could ask questions and have it answer back. The Greeks spoke of the oracle of Delphi. We’ve created it. People don’t talk to a machine. They talk to a huge collective of people, a kind of hive. Our generation [Mitra is 64] doesn’t see that. We just see a lot of interlinked web pages
“Within five years, you will not be able to tell if somebody is consulting the internet or not. The internet will be inside our heads anywhere and at any time. What then will be the value of knowing things? We shall have acquired a new sense. Knowing will have become collective.”
if you imagine me and my phone as a single entity, yes. Very soon, asking somebody to read without their phone will be like telling them to read without their glasses.”
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Twenty children are asked a “big question” such as “Why do we learn history?”, “Is the universe infinite?”, “Should children ever go to prison?” or “How do bees make honey?” They are then left to find the answers using five computers. The ratio of four children to one computer is deliberate: Mitra insists that the children must collaborate. “There should be chaos, noise, discussion and running about,” he says.
. Year 4 children (aged eight to nine) were given questions from GCSE physics and biology papers. After using their Sole computers for 45 minutes, their average test scores on three sets of questions were 25%, 26% and 13%. Three months later – the school having taught nothing on these subjects in the interim – they were tested again, individually and without warning. The scores rose to 57%, 80% and 16% respectively, suggesting the children continued researching the questions in their own time.
he says the main benefit of his methods is that children’s self-confidence increases so that they challenge adult perceptions.
the propositions that children can benefit from collaborative learning and that banning internet use from exams will get trickier, to the point where it may prove futile. It’s worth remembering that new technologies nearly always deliver less than we expect at first and far more than we expect later on, often in unexpected ways.
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