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The Student-Led Classroom Blog - Join me as I explore the creation of self-autonomous, primary school learning environments

I'm a SOLE man...

The concept of SOLE, or 'Self Organised Learning Environments' were the brain-child of Sugata Mitra.

"In 1999, Sugata Mitra’s pioneering “Hole in the Wall” experiments helped bring the potential of self-organized learning to the public’s attention. Research since then has continued to support his startling conclusion that groups of children, with access to the Internet, can learn almost anything by themselves." - School in the Cloud, 2019

You can read all about Mitra's work by clicking here, but in summation, he installed a computer in a wall close to a New Delhi slum, and let the local kids loose on it. The same kids promptly managed to master the controls, learned how to run programs and began downloading games and music; all without instructions. When asked how they had achieved their understanding they responded by saying that they had taught themselves. A similar process of student self-teaching can be achieved in the classroom, simply by offering groups access to the internet and presenting them with a subject matter. There is a great site on how to set SOLE lessons up here if you fancy giving them a go.

I've always loved the idea of children taking the lead, and so this morning I presented my group of year fives with a key-word - 'Vostok-1'. At this point, this meant precisely nothing to them, however I explained that they would be given exactly thirty minutes to work in groups of their choice to research the subject and that they would then be asked to present on it, again in any way they liked. Now just for the record, Vostok-1 was the space shuttle that carried Yuri Gagarin into orbit, making him the first human to visit space; linking nicely to this term's topic, but they didn't know that!

Whilst browsing and research was carried out, a timer was clearly displayed on the board to ensure that work-rate was maintained. During this period, exactly no direct teaching took place, and the majority of students were fully engaged with their task, carefully trying to pick apart the Vostok-1 Wikipedia page to sort the juicy bits from the chaff, and trawling google image searches for pictures of rockets and cosmonauts. Many beckoned me over to tell me about the interesting details that they were discovering and it was apparent that hordes of content-rich PowerPoints were being crafted, along with some beautiful hand-drawn pictures and spider diagrams.

As the countdown reached zero, we tidied up and got ready to present. For me, the opportunity to speak in front of the group is hugely beneficial for both confidence and the building of leadership skills. It is amazing to see quiet kids come out of their shells and speak with pride and volume after being 'forced' into addressing the class repeatedly over the space of a school year! It turned out that as a whole-class group, we had answered the question of what the subject matter was, explained why it was important, and in addition to this, had touched upon another series of questions that we now needed, and wanted, to answer - we were clued up and intrigued to learn more. In my book, that's an outstanding outcome!

This process gave the opportunity for the children to work with no, or very little, input. It built on their ability to partner or group wisely, allowed them to manage their own time productively and resulted in clear learning. The use of technology was justified and research skills were improved. I will try the same thing during lessons of history, geography and perhaps art and design later in the year too, and will hope for the same standard of results!

Why not give a SOLE lesson a go and let me know how you get on!


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