In recent years, Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) has been widely employed in classrooms all over the world in different subjects. Teachers and students with SOLE experiences have given a large number of positive online feedbacks about its promotion of students’ motivation as well as engagement, even learning results. Mitra’s (2008) study finds that learners’ knowledge of the subject underlying the question given can be promoted without the presence of teachers. However, there are also teachers who had unsuccessful SOLE experiences (e.g., Didua (2015)) and questions have been raised about the actual effect of SOLE in terms of learning outcome. For example, Tom Bennett (2015) questions that Mitra’s conclusion is not “credible evidence based”. In similar, Dellar (2014) questions about the implication of SOLE in language learning and suggests that a great deal of more reinforcement and practices should be necessary in order to allow learners to make advanced linguistic development.
Although this newly invented approach in education has similarities with independent learning, personalised learning and child-centred education, which has “been preached before in many forms” (Bennett, 2015), SOLE stands out in a rather radical way to some education practitioners today. No doubt, fewer studies have been taken to test this approach in the form of large quantities and longitudinal research projects. Naturally, many people are in doubts. For instance, what students will actually do when enjoying learning autonomy in SOLE has been doubted since certain studies find that unsupervised environment is likely to cause a higher incompletion rate (Ho et al., 2014; Jordan, 2014). Also, certain cognitive skills required for learning with peers can be underdeveloped among children when comparing to adults (Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn and Pease, 2006; Dean Jr and Kuhn, 2007; Paradowski, 2014). What is more, Harmer (2014) and Sowey (2013) point out that the absence of the teacher in SOLE can result in lack of instruction, facilitation, and evaluation, even social exclusion and isolation during the process (Arora, 2005).
Considering the heated debate between increasing number of education practitioners who are inclining to experiment the new learning approach (SOLE) and strong resistance from the “traditional” schooling, it is reasonable to think that in the recent future, there might be a time that schools with different teaching/learning approach and beliefs may co-exist peacefully just like public and private schools are today. In my opinion, a primary school system which uses both student-centred and teacher-centred approaches, traditional and conventional, can be a solution in the recent future.
With the speed that the internet has developed through the last decades, it is almost impossible to predict what it will enable us to do in 20 years. However, I believe the internet will be available to almost everyone on earth in a decade. In the discussions, most of our classmates believe that the physical spaces that limit the classrooms now will disappear in recent future. It is a reasonable thought since we just had the open classes which didn’t exist a few years before. My guess is that there will be no more “classroom” with tables and desks that limits the students’ participation and virtual spaces online just like online gaming or face book groups might be the solution, too. What is more, SOLE centres with PC stations and workplaces might be replaced by 3D interactive technology with internet connection (whatever it will look like) that enables students to communicate and collaborate from their own home. In addition, primary educationists can share their skills over the internet because learning and teaching will no longer be restricted to the physical time and space. In this way, the resources for children’s education, not only with learning materials, but also including human resources (e.g., teachers) with different expertise can be shared in order to help children in any possible way.
One of the main concerns that teachers have when using SOLE is “Can children learn with just Google?” (Bennett, 2015). The current trend of pedagogy already starts to shift from teacher-centred to student-centred approach. Nevertheless, leaving students unattended can be worrisome for us who are used to the teachers’ help just like how people felt about student-centred teaching hundreds of years ago. There is no doubt students “don’t learn evenly” (Bennett, 2015) in SOLEs and it is a good thing to notice that there are risks when teachers are not around. However, it is equally important to know that it is also common for some children to perform better than others when a teacher is at help. Another concern is the case that not all knowledge is easier and more fun for students to learn by themselves through internet. Even with the convincing evidence in studies of SOLE finding that it has certain advantages than traditional schooling, knowledge and skills which are more abstract, such as art and music, may be easier and quicker to understand when explained by teachers comparing to searching information’s from the scratch by students themselves.
Following the question of what and how should children learn, assessment can provide some answers for both teachers and students in terms of “what exactly have been learnt?” Traditional and “standard” tests are useful for testing certain knowledges in a straight forward way (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, questions with only one right answer, etc.). In addition, diversified methods should also be employed for investigating individual performance.
Albert Einstein once said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” In the same vain, I believe that the difference between knowing and learning lies in the understanding. Therefore, if simply remembering things can be called knowing, then it is obsolete. Unfortunately, a big part of my education is reciting the information and this kind of education only gives me good marks but never empowers me more. I believe learning is the progress of understanding the world and it is learning that makes us confident as independent human beings and enables us to make decisions which other creatures on earth cannot. As many science fictions has described, if A.I. in the future ever tries to turn human into slaves, our independent mind might be the only advantage we have left, and the generation who are only encouraged to recite and remember may not stand a chance when that comes.
Maybe my imagination has gone too far. Anyway, new pedagogies like SOLE is very inspiring and has shed a light on the current issues in education. The discussions in the module allow me to rethink my own education experience. I think the role of technology in education should be taken more seriously in terms of enabling students to have different ways of learning as well as being aware of the possible side effects that it might bring. Consequently, teacher’s role need to change. Students should be more proactive in learning and assessments need to transform accordingly. Most important of all, we should always remember the beauty of learning and rethink what education is about.
Arora, P. (2005) ‘Profiting from empowerment? Investigating dissemination avenues for educational technology content within an emerging market solutions project’, International Journal of Education and Development using ICT, 1(4).
Bennett, T. (2015) SOLE: Snake Oiled Learning Environment? . Available at: (http://www.tes.com.c.tes.ent.platform.sh/news/blog/sole-snake-oil-learning-experience) (Accessed: 07/01).
Dean Jr, D. and Kuhn, D. (2007) ‘Direct instruction vs. discovery: The long view’, Science Education, 91(3), pp. 384-397.
Dellar, H. (2014) Why we should be afraid of the big bad wolf: Sugata Mitra and the neoliberal takeover in sheep’s clothing. Available at: http://eltjam.com/why-we-should-be-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf-sugata-mitra-and-the-neoliberal-takeover-in-sheeps-clothing/ (Accessed: June 21).
Didua, D. (2015) Is it just me or is Sugata Mitra an irresponsible charlatan? Available at: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/myths/is-it-just-me-or-is-sugata-mitra-an-irresponsible-charlatan/
Harmer, J. (2014) ‘Angel or devil? the strange case of sugata mitra’, angel or devil? the strange case of sugata mitra. Available at: https://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/angel-or-devil-the-strange-case-of-sugata-mitra/.
Ho, A.D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S.O., Seaton, D.T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J. and Chuang, I. (2014) ‘HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses, fall 2012-summer 2013’, Ho, AD, Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, DT, Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I.(2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).
Jordan, K. (2014) ‘Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses’, The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 15(1).
Kuhn, D., Black, J., Keselman, A. and Kaplan, D. (2000) ‘The development of cognitive skills to support inquiry learning’, Cognition and Instruction, 18(4), pp. 495-523.
Kuhn, D. and Pease, M. (2006) ‘Do children and adults learn differently?’, Journal of Cognition and Development, 7(3), pp. 279-293.
Paradowski, M. (2014) ‘Classrooms in the cloud or castles in the air’, IATEFL, 239, pp. 8-10.
Sowey, M. (2013) Can you kill a goat by staring at it? A critical look at minimally invasive education. Available at: https://philosophyfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ (Accessed: June 21).