Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Own “Hole in the Wall”


Sugata Mitra is one of my favorite educational researchers and presenters.  I was intrigued by this thought:

There will always be places in the world where good schools don't exist and good teachers don't want to go, not just in the developing world but in places of socioeconomic hardship.

His 2010 TED talk does a pretty good job of explaining his “Hole in the Wall” experiment on children self-organizing and learning, with the aid of a computer, and no adult intervention.  I strongly recommend his thought provoking and highly entertaining TED talk.

Pretty cool stuff.

Some members of CUEBC, the Computer Using Educators of BC, a provincial specialist association here in my home province, would like to revive the “hour of code” or other approaches  to get the average student interested, or at least aware of, computer programming.  This gave me an idea. 

One of my learnings having played with this Surface Pro 3 is with Kodu.  Kodu is a free program that introduces kids to the idea of computer programming by creating a video game with simple instructions and a Minecraft like environment. 

What if I combined the two ideas? 

I propose to put a Microsoft Surface tablet (probably a Surface Pro 3) on the wall of an elementary school hallway, about three and a half feet off the ground.  It would be encased around the perimeter in Plexiglas, secured to the wall, and powered.  I further propose that it be set to wake up when you hit the windows button on the tablet, and then it would be configured as to show Kodu.  Perhaps it would also have a few other apps too, but they would be quite limited in selection. Other than explaining that there is a tablet in the hallway, and that it is very nice, and can be used to make video games, I would then offer no adult intervention or help.   I wonder if kids when they go by the tablet would:

a) play with it

b) figure out how to edit Kodu

c) gather in numbers around the screen

d) talk about what they are learning

e) create something new

What could go wrong.  Someone could damage the tablet.  Someone could attempt to steal the tablet.  But, if reasonable precautions are taken, I bet the kids would find it an interesting experience, and would treat the tablet well.   Perhaps the tablet would be behind Plexiglas, but a Surface Touch keyboard would be open to the kids (touchable, but not removable).  They are quite durable! 

surface touch keyboard

This would further mitigate risk to the tablet.

I believe we need teachers, but I also believe that kids are able to self-organize and learn in the right situations, and think that Kodu would be perfect for this.  Imagine getting elementary aged children interested in computer programming because they like challenge, and enables them to make a world how THEY envision it.  One where they are in the driver seat. 

Isn’t that why people code in the first place?

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