Monday, January 06, 2014

SOLE Classrooms: Remember, One Size Does Not Fit All

Folks across the ocean are "innovating" by shifting a portion of traditional kindergarten pedagogy into the upper grades, now that Sugata Mitra has put his TED prize to use.  Of course for these students, it's not called "play."  It's called "learning."  It's not clear as to why there's a distinction between what my students do compared to older ones, other than the fact that the students in Mitra's SOLE school appear to learn via technology-tool-facilitated research and collaboration, while my students either independently or with partners, actually put their hands in the mud, play dough, paint, math manipulatives, and storybooks instead of the Cloud.  My Stars love their iPads, but c'mon: using puppets for retelling stories beats an app any day. 

According to the TED Blog, learning labs equipped with modern decor and tech tools, along with guidance from a "Granny Cloud" (what, no Papa or Grampa Cloud?), a retired teacher who Skypes in to facilitate learning (not directly teach items from a curricular checklist), set the stage for students as they "puzzle through big questions on their own, teaching each other in the process. "  That's right: it's the same mission that Montessori or traditional kindergarten classrooms have championed as developmentally appropriate practice for some time, though few early childhood educators would limit our students' tools to a computer, beanbags, and large view screens.  Apparently students themselves designed the learning labs, asking for the technology and equipment they wanted and felt would be helpful.  I have to wonder what additional tools educators would have chosen to make accessible to them.  

Multiple ways of learning and multiple ways of knowing necessitate varied materials, resources, experiences, settings, and interpretations, which is why I 1) admire the fruition of Sugata Mitra's dream and welcome its addition to education pedagogy, and 2) hope that no one is foolish enough to believe that one size fits all, attempting to change every learning environment into a SOLE classroom.

The glass, shiny chrome, and modern decor is certainly striking, but sterile.  Too sterile in my opinion, for the organic processes of life and learning.


Read more about SOLE here.

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