Unstoppable Learning

Recently I heard a story about education that I love. A man named Sugata Mitra was a teacher of technology in Delhi, India, and he became concerned that only wealthy students could afford his courses and experience what he called the “gee-whiz” moment of learning something they had thought they could not do. So he put a computer terminal in a wall in a slum, three feet off the ground, and left it alone for two months. Remotely he could see that Microsoft Paint was downloaded, then Word, then typing began to appear. When he returned, there was a throng of children using the computer with ease. Of course these programs are in English and the children were not English speakers. He could not believe that children in the slums had taught themselves English and how to use the computer. The children told him they wanted a faster microprocessor and more games.

Mr. Mitra repeated his experiment in remote villages to be sure no adult had happened along to teach the kids. He did his experiment in places where no one knew English or had even heard of the internet.  He did this experiment in 18 villages across India, always finding that kids organized themselves in groups to learn. Finally he decided to up the ante and put a computer in a remote village in Tamil Nadu that contained experiments on DNA replication on the level of Harvard med school. Kids there would have to learn not only English and how to navigate the tool but also Chemistry. He came back to the village to find kids discussing improper RNA replication and its implications for disease.

Mr. Mitra refers to the phenomenon he has witnessed as “Unstoppable Learning,” and the phrase reminds me of our community in Dublin School in many ways. We are a community that believes in unstoppable learning, and we aim to create the optimal conditions for all members of our community to learn and grow. Ask the faculty about their learning over this past summer.  When I asked them to tell me what they intended to do for professional development in June, each one told me at least 3 things.  Several students spent a lot of their summer in classes here on campus or learning together online in iDesign studio and Marine Biology. Many of you took courses, studied on your own: unstoppable! We initiated a new Senior Project last spring, and we have been so impressed with the enthusiasm and ideas they have brought forward. We are going to be working this year to support 21 of them in their voyages.

The school  is always working to learn how to be more effective and supportive in powering the process of unstoppable learning for every student.

Here is a link to the talk: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/25/179010396/unstoppable-learning