What Kids can Learn
Posted on October 2, 2006 Comments (17)
This is a fascinating interview discussing what children can learn if given a computer and little, if any, instruction. Very Cool. Links on the progress since this interview are at the end of the post.
A: Yes. It started out as a joke but I’ve kept using the term … This is a system of education where you assume that children know how to put two and two together on their own. So you stand aside and intervene only if you see them going in a direction that might lead into a blind alley.
The interview explores what happened when:
What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. Some of the other things they learned, Mitra says, astonished him.
A: Well, I tried another experiment. I went to a middle-class school and chose some ninth graders, two girls and two boys. I called their physics teacher in and asked him, “What are you going to teach these children next year at this time?” He mentioned viscosity. I asked him to write down five possible exam questions on the subject. I then took the four children and said, “Look here guys. I have a little problem for you.” They read the questions and said they didn’t understand them, it was Greek to them. So I said, “Here’s a terminal. I’ll give you two hours to find the answers.”
Then I did my usual thing: I closed the door and went off somewhere else.
They answered all five questions in two hours. The physics teacher checked the answers, and they were correct. That, of itself, doesn’t mean much. But I said to him, “Talk to the children and find out if they really learned something about this subject.” So he spent half an hour talking to them. He came out and said, “They don’t know everything about this subject or everything I would teach them. But they do know one hell of a lot about it. And they know a couple of things about it I didn’t know.”
I would think some might object to the fact that such conditions exist. But they do for millions of kids today.
And I think we can all learn some ideas from this experiment that could be useful.
My favorite charity is Trickle Up. If you want to do something to change the conditions for many who don’t have access to this blog I recommend it.