02 January, 2014

We Need Schools... Not Factories

The Sole Of A Student
--by Sugata Mitra

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.

But first, a bit of history: to keep the world's military-industrial machine running at the zenith of the British Empire, Victorians assembled an education system to mass-produce workers with identical skills. Plucked from the classroom and plugged instantly into the system, citizens were churned through an educational factory engineered for maximum productivity.

Like most things designed by the Victorians, it was a robust system. It worked. Schools, in a sense, manufactured generations of workers for an industrial age.

But what got us here, won't get us there. Schools today are the product of an expired age; standardized curricula, outdated pedagogy, and cookie cutter assessments are relics of an earlier time. Schools still operate as if all knowledge is contained in books, and as if the salient points in books must be stored in each human brain -- to be used when needed. The political and financial powers controlling schools decide what these salient points are. Schools ensure their storage and retrieval. Students are rewarded for memorization, not imagination or resourcefulness. 

We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children's innate quest for information and understanding.
-- Sugata Mitra

Today we're seeing institutions -- banking, the stock exchange, entertainment, newspapers, even health care -- capture and share knowledge through strings of zeros and ones inside the evolving Internet... "the cloud." While some fields are already far advanced in understanding how the Internet age is transforming their structure and substance, we're just beginning to understand the breadth and depth of its implications on the future of education.

Unlocking the power of new technologies for self-guided education is one of the 21st century superhighways that need to be paved. Profound changes to how children access vast information is yielding new forms of peer-to-peer and individual-guided learning. The cloud is already omnipresent and indestructible, democratizing and ever changing; now we need to use it to spark the imaginations and build the mental muscles of children worldwide. 

This journey, for me, began back in 1999, when I conducted an experiment called the "hole in the wall." By installing Internet-equipped computers in poor Indian villages and then watching how children interacted with them, unmediated, I first glimpsed the power of the cloud. Groups of street children learned to use computers and the Internet by themselves, with little or no knowledge of English and never having seen a computer before. Then they started instinctually teaching one another. In the next five years, through many experiments, I learned just how powerful adults can be when they give small groups of children the tools and the agency to guide their own learning and then get out of the way.

It's not just poor kids that can benefit from access to the Internet and the space and time to wonder and wander. Today, teachers around the world are using what I call "SOLEs," "self organized learning environments," where children group around Internet-equipped computers to discuss big questions. The teacher merges into the background and observe as learning happens.

I once asked a group of 10-year-olds in the little town of Villa Mercedes in Argentina: Why do we have five fingers and toes on each limb? What's so special about five? Their answer may surprise you.

The children arrived at their answer by investigating both theology and evolution, discovering the five bones holding the web on the first amphibians' fins, and studying geometry. Their investigation resulted in this final answer: The strongest web that can be stretched the widest must have five supports.

Today, I launch my SOLE toolkit -- designed to empower teacher and parents to create their own spaces for sparking children's curiosity and agency. My team and I are excited to see more educators trying this future-oriented pedagogical tool on for size and then sharing their learnings are insights so we can all benefit from the hive mind.

Meanwhile, with my newly bestowed TED Prize, my team and I will build The School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. Technology, architecture, creative, and educational partners will help us design and build it. Kids will help us explore a range of cloud-based, scalable approaches to self-directed learning. A global network of educators and retired teachers will support and engage the children through the web.

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children's innate quest for information and understanding. 

In the networked age, we need schools, not structured like factories, but like clouds. Join us up there.

Read, Learn & flourish!

Grow, Glow and be Great!

How To Bounce Back From Failure

--by Carolyn Gregoire, syndicated from huffingtonpost.com, Jan 02, 2014

Rejection is rough, no matter how you slice it. But it's also an inescapable fact of life, and our ability to deal with failure and rejection has a hand in determining how successful and happy we are.

Happiness isn't the opposite of depression -- resilience is, according to psychologist Peter Kramer. Think of the people you most admire -- many of them didn’t get where they are just by sailing through life without any negative experiences or failures. Most of them distinguished themselves by their ability to get right back up every time they fall, a truism reflected in countless inspirational quotations on the power of perseverance (In the words of Winston Churchill, "It is the courage to continue that counts.").

So how do resilient people differ from those who become paralyzed by every failure and setback?

Here are seven habits of highly resilient people -- and ways that you can improve your own ability to cope with challenges.

They fully experience both positive and negative emotions.

Building resilience isn't about blind optimism. Rather than looking only on the bright side and pushing away negative emotions, resilient people let themselves experience what they're feeling in any given situation, whether it's good or bad, according to Positivity author Barbara Fredrickson.

“The resilient person isn’t papering over the negative emotions, but instead letting them sit side by side with other feelings," Fredrickson told Experience Life. "So at the same time they’re feeling ‘I’m sad about that,’ they’re also prone to thinking, ‘but I’m grateful about this.’”

They're realistically optimistic.

A recent Taiwan National University study found that adopting an attitude of "realistic optimism," which combines the positive outlook of optimists with the critical thinking of pessimists, can boost happiness and resilience.

"Every time [realistic optimists] face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won't say 'I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do,'" researcher Sophia Chou told LiveScience. "They will be creative, they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C."

They "reject rejection."

Rejection chips away at our self-esteem and confidence, making us fall harder with each subsequent setback or failure, Elaine Dundon, founder of the innovation group, said in her TED Talk on the subject, adding, "Rejection also steals our joy."

But rejection is inevitable, and coping with it effectively is essential to becoming resilient. As HuffPost blogger Alex Pattakos puts it, choosing to reject rejection can ensure that "you don't become a prisoner of your own thoughts.”

"It's important to understand that everyone is in a different 'space' and, in some cases, no matter what you say or do, they will always reject you or your ideas," says Pattakos, explaining that taking this mindset helps you to not take the rejection personally.

They build strong support systems.

Then you get knocked down hard, it's important to have the resources to help you get back up again, which includes having people to lean on. A 2007 study found that social support can actually boost resilience to stress.

They notice (and appreciate) the little, positive things.

Resilient people are good at tapping into their "positivity ratio,” according to Fredrickson. This means that they notice and appreciate the little joys and victories -- which keeps them from feeling like "everything" is going wrong. Her research has shown that a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences is ideal for building resilience and boosting happiness.

They seek out opportunities for growth and learning.

Resilient people seek out growth experiences that boost self-reliance and individual decision-making skills, which gives them confidence in their ability to bounce back from failure.

"As a sense of competence increases, individuals are better able to respond effectively in unfamiliar or challenging situations and persevere in the face of failures and challenges," Kathleen M. Sutcliffe and Timothy J. Vogus write in Organizing for Resilience.

Those who have mastered the art of resilience know that setbacks and challenges can be our most powerful learning opportunities. Some of the world's most successful people have been fired from their jobs, and used the experience to learn something about themselves.

"I worked for American Harper's Bazaar... I got fired," Anna Wintour once said. "I recommend that you all get fired, it's a great learning experience."

They're endlessly grateful.

Gratitude is known to boost health and well-being -- and those who are thankful may enjoy better physical health and mood than those who focus on hassles and complaints.

“I got grateful when I got fired,” Sallie Krawcheck, formerly one of Wall Street's most powerful female executives, explained at The Huffington Post's women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power." “I said ‘How many people get to get fired and it’s on the front page of The Wall Street Journal?’”

Krawcheck says that gratitude not only helped her deal with being fired, but it also helps her keep life's everyday stresses in their proper perspective.

"How do I get through it all?" said Krawcheck. "I'm endlessly grateful."

Courtesy: Dailygood

Read, Learn & Flourish!

Grow, Glow and be Great!