Pedagogical Progress Isn't an Either/Or Proposition

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I am pretty sure Sugata Mitra isn't hanging out out with the same eight-year-olds I am. In the world Mitra describes, eight-year-olds are self-motivated and self-realized. They gather together in a space without grown-ups, managed effectively by a cluster of "cloud grannies" -- a heart-warming bunch of hired telecommuters who Skype in to pose what he calls "The Big Questions": Did dinosaurs really exist? What is irony? Can you kill a goat by staring at it?

The eight-year-olds I know, on the other hand, are downright goofy. Even the most focused and ambitious of them have pretty sketchy attention spans. They're new to the world of the written word, and they're fascinated by the land of Pokemon. In their schools, group projects are tugs-of-war between the teacher-pleaser rule-followers, and the less extrinsically motivated kids who march unwittingly to a different drummer -- an off-beat rhythm of self-deprecation and potty humor.

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