How do we encourage engaging learning environments?
The concept of a classroom is changing. As schools move online due to the pandemic, many are getting their first taste of virtual learning. For others, this is nothing new. Kevin spends time with famed educator and futurist Sugata Mitra of TED Talk notoriety, and educator and author Rachael Mann. They discuss what it means to engage with students and the roles equity and access play when we debate what is best for the next generation of students.
Sugata’s name is synonymous with TED Talks, including his idea of ‘Self Organized Learning Environments’ where students take charge of their learning from anywhere with an internet connection. Rachael is a well-known educator and author exploring the edges of education and college-and-career readiness.
Sugata Mitra is famous for his big question that drove his TED Talk and subsequent work – can impoverished children learn, if given the chance with similar results as those kids who are afforded the right to attend formal school? His experiments proved that children, from impoverished backgrounds, could not only learn, but they could do so even if through a monitor with the educators speaking a different language.
His work on children’s education includes the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment where children accessed the internet in unsupervised groups, the idea of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) in schools, the role of experienced educators over the internet in a ‘Granny Cloud’, and the School in the Cloud where children take charge of their learning—anywhere. Sugata’s interests include children’s education, remote presence, self-organising systems, cognitive systems, complex dynamical systems, physics, and consciousness.
Sugata is Professor Emeritus at NIIT University, India. After earning his PhD in theoretical physics, he worked as a Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University in England for 13 years before retirement. He was a Visiting Professor at the MIT MediaLab for a year during that time. He has received many global awards including the million-dollar TED Prize in 2013.
Rachael Mann is a former culinary teacher who left and kept coming back to education. She finally arrived at the metaphor of outer space as the canvas that provides an opportunity to explore what environments mean to the learning experience.
As an “edufuturist,” Rachael believes in the importance of shaping the educational philosophies and spaces of today by looking toward the innovations of tomorrow. She is a writer and frequent keynote speaker across the country on disruptive technology, education, and careers. She is the author of The Spaces You Will Go and coauthor of Martians in Your Classroom, an educational title about integrating STEM into the classroom utilizing space-related initiatives.
Rachael holds a master’s in educational leadership and has 14 years of classroom experience as a career and technical education instructor. Her experience includes her work as the Network to Transform Teaching State Director, the Professional Learning Director of STEM, and the Arizona State Director for Educators Rising. She is a founding member of the Council on the Future of Education, president-elect for the NCLA executive board, and vice president of New and Related Services for ACTE.