The World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, Qatar zeroed in on the concept of education being in a transtional state- especially with technological breakthroughs expanding the potential access of education- but also fragementing/dividing the world into digital haves/have nots.
Even though only 3% of the continent of Africa is connected to an electrical power grid, there are over 2.5 billion cellphone users. The current generation of global learners under the age of 25 have grown up with mobile phone apps, internet connections, text messaging, and games as part of daily living.
They interact and function in a vastly different space than traditional settings are prepared to deal with, let alone any effective plan of reform for the future. But what does this mean to students with learning and neurological issues? What can be expected of their ability to learn and advance in parts of the world where they don’t have schools, teachers, or help for their problems ?
If the purpose of education today/tomorrow is to measure success by community impact, getting the “right students” to attend, affordable tuition, with trained teachers and infrastructure- then Professor Sugatra Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiments challenges the relevancy of needing teachers, being able to speak the language of instruction, or having access to expensive computer technology.
This series of YouTube videos requires a re-evaluation of who is disabled and the relevance of traditional teacher-centered pedagogy when self-organized learning environments exist as altenative peer communities of care/support- without judgement or adults.
Many barriers impact the capability for nations to change education policy in meaningful, systemic ways. Local realities exist around the world from the total loss of educational and societal infrastructure in conflict zones which have been in a state of war, poverty, gender and class distinctions that exclude vast numbers of learners, and a lack of access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Educational technology can’t substitute for the ability to bring people together around learning- cooperation, civility, courage, commitment, common purpose. These themes are seen demonstrated in these video clips and represent what Biz Stone hopes that Twitter and other social media/educational technology contributes a “triumph of humanity.”
Let’s then ask “what is the relevance of special education?” in terms of preparing and sustaining individuals of all ages who have disabilities for what they will encounter outside of the school environment that matches and exceeds Dr. Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” gang? I hope to hear back from readers on these important questions after I return from some down time after December 14th.