What we can learn from Self Organized Learning Environments / Sugata Mitra

by P

I downloaded the brochure about SOLE Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize project. It’s relevant to our work at P2PU in a number of ways:

The need for facilitators

The SOLE model relies on educators to model curiosity, prompt questions, and support the learners through the process. I would love to see how they scale up the community of teachers that implement SOLE – and what challenges they run into along the way. This strikes me as a very similar challenge to the way we try to recruit facilitators. In both cases, these facilitators need fairly unusual skills. In the P2PU case, we have the added challenge that the typical incentives that exist for teachers (a job, a salary, rich personal feedback and relationships with children and their parents) don’t exist in the same form.

Questions and projects? How to spark great learning 

The magic sparked by the SOLE experience emerges from fascinating questions igniting children’s curiosity.

We have done a lot of work on projects and encouraging learners to think in terms of projects, and I wonder how projects relate to questions. In the PDF some great example questions are listed. Not many of them lend themselves to project work – but I can see how they lead to fascinating discussions, lots of intellectual exploration and engaged learning. Are projects a type of answer to fascinating questions (questions that can be answered in a concrete way)? What is the best way of integrating questions into P2PU courses?

When we work with partners (e.g. on Schools) we try to get everyone to think in terms of projects that learners can tackle. For many people it’s a big step from content-focused learning to project-based learning. Asking them to articulate interesting questions might be an easier step towards design of engaging learning experiences?

What is it? A school? A lab?

We have been struggling with what to call P2PU. We called it a grassroots education project, a community, and organization and over the last year or so we’ve been calling it a lab. I was startled to see that Sugata seems to have the same questions about his project – he calls it a school in the cloud, and then describes the school in the cloud as a *global laboratory*. Maybe it’s ok to accept that P2PU is many things and we have to be comfortable describing it in a number of ways. That is not to say we should become too many things (because trying to be everything, you end up being nothing) but some level of ambiguity is probably ok.