In Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk “Build a School in the Cloud” (2013) he first introduces the idea that our current educational model is outdated and skills that are being taught were relevant in the age of the British Empire, not today.
He then tells us of his experiments with putting computers into the wall of East Indian Slums, and how quickly they achieved competency.
His resulting argument is that he suggests that learning environments should be allowed to be self-created and self-structured. He calls it Self Organized Learning Environments, or SOLE. The teacher should simply set the process in motion by asking big, open-ended questions and then let the students figure out how to get there. Using a combination of broadband internet, collaboration, and encouragement, the result is astounding.
His wish, therefore, is that he will build a school in the cloud where he can develop the future of learning using the guiding principles of SOLE. In the meantime, he encourages as many people as possible to try SOLE as a method of teaching.
The concept that our education system is outdated alone is a thought-provoking statement. To add the concept of Self Organized Learning Environments on top has the potential to make this a profound paradigm shift where I start to question our current way of teaching, learning and education. It is a thoroughly exciting concept, but it also makes you question what you are currently doing and how you can do things differently. It makes me wonder how I can teach a course like Tourism Operations Management by asking big, open-ended questions. Then I ask myself whether a course like Tourism Operations Management is even necessary. Do we even need to know theoretical concepts? I am creating the course at the same time as the students are learning it, so if they all had my skill to analyze, interpret and contextualize data, would they even need to take the course?
I am at this point questioning the relevance of my course. I am there to teach knowledge and concepts, while at the same time trying to develop the students’ ability to problem-solve and come up with solutions of their own. They are supposed to get familiar with the different sectors of the Tourism industry, but really, with a mind trained in critical and analytical thinking they should be able to integrate anywhere fairly quickly and seamlessly. All the information they would ever need is at their fingertips, especially if they have been taught to use technology effectively. One thing that they would also need is interpersonal skills, but a SOLE is based on the concept of collaboration, so they already know how to act well in a group. The concept is astounding and could reshape education as we know it. This is how I could start the class off:
You have applied for a job as an Operations Manager at a hotel/resort/tour company etc. and for some reason you got the job. Your General Manager asks you to create a set of Standard Operating Procedures using the principles of Lean Management. Here are the subheadings for your SOP’s. Every class you will tackle one subheading and will do a short presentation. Please hand in your SOP’s at the end of term.
The idea of using a SOLE is daunting. Being fairly fresh to the teaching profession gives me the advantage of being open to new ideas and not being stuck in a rut, but it also means that I lack the confidence/political clout to be able to experiment like this and then potentially have it blow up in my face. This is certainly a concept that I would like to explore further, but maybe I will wait another term or two until I am deeply familiar with the subject matter. I would really love your feedback on this idea.
Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk