Education TED Conferences

TED Weekends asks: What is at the heart of education?

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

ted2013_0035945_d41_4606Where does education go from here?

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the CloudSugata Mitra: Build a School in the CloudOn Tuesday, Sugata Mitra accepted the 2013 TED Prize and offered a bold wish for the world: that we encourage children to explore questions about our world in self-organized learning environments. He proposed the founding of a School in the Cloud based in India, and encouraged TED community members, wherever they may be, to foster education by encouraging a sense of wonder in kids.

This week’s TED Weekends, posted a few days earlier than usual, features essays from great thinkers on the ideas advanced in Mitra’s talk. Here, a selection of these essays, for your reading pleasure. 

Sugata Mitra: We Need Schools … Not Factories

From Plato to Aurobindo, from Vygotsky to Montessori, centuries of educational thinking have vigorously debated a central pedagogical question: How do we spark creativity, curiosity, and wonder in children? But those who philosophized pre-Google were prevented from wondering just how the Internet might influence the contemporary answer to this age-old question.

Today, we can and must; a generation that has not known a world without vast global and online connectivity demands it of us. Read the full essay  »

Courtney E. Martin: The Most Powerful Technology of All … Questions

Many will see Sugata Mitra’s wish — to build a “School in the Clouds” — as a TED-style, uber futuristic, and potentially impractical, solution for a very real problem across the globe. But the innovation at the very heart of his wish, truth be told, is not about computers or Skype or even Google. The most critical technology is a really good question.

I think a lot about the power of questions, because I’m a journalist. Well, that, and a nosy person. I’m the kind of person that you sit down next to at a dinner party and ten minutes later you realize that I’ve pulled your life story right out of you. In many ways, it’s not a conscious process, even for me. One minute I’m learning someone’s name and the next I’m asking them, “And then what happened?!” Read the full essay »

Jackie Bezos: A Cloud of Human Potential

In every town in every nation, young people are moments away from inheriting complex problems. At the same time, disparities in educational opportunity and achievement are widening and threatening to undermine the vast potential of our youngest generations. As a global community, it is unconscionable that we leave so much promise unrealized among our youth.

In places where the greatest inequity exists, Dr. Sugata Mitra’s “School in the Cloud” holds enormous promise for leveling the playing field. But his methodology, which taps into a child’s innate sense of wonder and curiosity through Self-organized Learning Environments (or SOLES), is relevant for communities and classrooms everywhere. In essence, it’s about putting the power to learn, create and collaborate into the hands of our children. Read the full essay »

Vanessa Lafaye: If We Turn the Internet Into the World’s Memory, What Becomes of Our Own?

It is interesting to note that Mitra’s TEDTalk is titled, “The Future of Learning” rather than “Education.” This distinction seems like the heart of the issue, not only for SOLE (self-organized learning environment), but more widely. It’s the difference between absorbing information, and developing faculties for creative thought and analytical problem-solving.

He traces today’s education system back to the Victorian-era hunger for literate bureaucrats, needed to keep the wheels of the British Empire running smoothly. As it happens, my employer Wiley was established even before this time. Also as it happens, publishing is undergoing a dramatic reinvention today, in search of new models in response to the urgent imperative to prepare our young for the creative economy of tomorrow. This got me thinking about evolution, of knowledge and ourselves. Read the full essay »