I recently read an article shared by a friend over Facebook about Sugata Mitra. He is an education scientist who has done work on what he calls Self-Organized learning, wherein children’s curiosity and peer-interest can foster learning through the use of information technology. His work, while recognized, has roots in theories in student-centered learning. You can view more of his TED speeches in this link.
While browsing around his blog, I came across two of his posts. The first one was written in 2009, presented his proposal for a cloud-based learning environment, which eventually received funding from TED this year. The second one, written in 2012, tackled self-organized assessment, which he wrote in his post to have “correlated” with the scores the students received after the end of the course.
Mitra’s ideas while not entirely new, is quite relevant in the age of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and online learning. In some of the MOOCs I’ve taken, peer evaluation did helped a lot in refining and setting my pace of learning.
While we may still have to rely on traditional assessments to validate and triangulate results, alternative assessments like the ones proposed by student-centered learning advocates and Mitra, would do well to enhance learning assessments.
I am very lucky to have a good collaborative partner in Rain because our discussions have taken us deep into thinking about readability and measuring fluency in young readers. Admittedly, because I am not a professional teacher, Rain and I had to look for resources to back up our discussions. And we did manage to cover a lot of ground in our collaborative exercises. However, because we have full-time work commitments, we’re still not done with our collaborative exercises.
The choice of topic for our collaborative exercise was my choice because I find reading an interesting subject to teach. My mother, a reading and literacy major and ESL teacher, taught me and my siblings to read even before going to school at 5 years old. When we were in kindergarten, we would have reading drills with my mother. While I used to find this a chore, I like going through the reading drills with her and listening to my voice “at, bat, cat…” while reading out loud.
I guess the reading drills somehow made reading easier for me. My father is a voracious reader and that instilled the habit of reading. I got high marks in reading comprehension and I took pride of filling up my library cards when I was in elementary. In high school, I was in search of more challenging reading materials, and I had to learn “speed-reading” in college to catch up with the required reading materials. I read when I feel bad or when I have something on my mind. Somehow reading clears up the clutter and gives me eureka moments.
And now, because of the collaborative exercises, I may be following my mother’s footsteps and taking up her interests in teaching reading and literacy. For several years I’ve done development work and I tried to finish (but failed) my masters degree in Urban Planning and I’ve thought of pursuing Public Health because of my current work and interest. But the passion to read, and the responsibility as a mother to pass on reading habits to my son has somehow been slowly taking a front seat. I have an undergraduate degree in literature that I’ve wanted to put into use. Reading makes me happy, why not pursue it full-time? I may follow my mother’s footsteps and take up reading and literacy for my masters degree. I may teach reading to small kids in my spare time when (and if) I finish PTC. I don’t know. Let’s see where the discussions on reading in this class’s collaborative exercises and my reflections on it will take me.