The world is moving fast technologically. Our kids will quickly out-run us with their abilities on a computer and on keeping up with the web. We have decided to embrace it for all its positive aspects and use it as a tool to connect, share and generally be curious about the world, which really is in our living room.
How this actually plays out.
One thing we is do S.O.L.E projects, what is that?
S.O.L.E stands for Self Organised Learning Experiences. This is a programme set up by Sugata Mitra, it is a great project that puts the children in control of their learning. He has set up a project in rural communities in India and he has worked in schools in the UK. I find his work and his words very inspiring. If you are interested in knowing more about his work you should look up these links here:
Also check out the actual website https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org
How it played out for us: Sugatra Mitra believes that children learn best when they are asked the big questions, e.g. ‘Why does hair grow and not stop growing?’ ‘Does a frog know it is a frog?’ ‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘Is the sky blue?’ etc
So I thought I would set something rolling and see if they were interested. I couldn’t think of a big question, so I looked on the SOLE website and there was a great question. It went along the lines of ‘What is that big round crumbling down building in the centre of Rome and why is it so important?’ So I posed the question. The kids went on to Google Maps and they ended up digging in to the heart of the Coliseum, which lead on to Roman History, Horrible Histories, hilarious and gruesome discussions about what Romans did to their guests etc, (ie Lions in the guests bedrooms, can you believe that?)
It set off a great topic, which went on for days, led by the children.
I thought I would look on Twitter and see if anyone else was working on a SOLE project. I typed in ‘Anybody else working on the Roman Coliseum #sole’ and, sure enough, within about 6 hours I got a response ‘Yes!! We are!’ And then began our relationship with a school in New Jersey, USA. We arranged a Skype session and the next thing you know we were skyping with 30 American school kids. Our 5 and 30 of them!
A beautiful relationship began. Their kids sent our kids questions, our kids sent their kids questions. Big questions. They sent us Powerpoint slide shows of their work. My kids said ‘we want to do that.’ Our girls taught the two Italian kids in our group to use Powerpoint. My 8 year old son asked how to do it, they taught each other. They sent their slide shows to New Jersey.
Our kids made a movie about bees and how they make pollen – they became the bees. Our son drew a poster about how language was formed and made a short film about it. I helped him as he is younger but he quite liked the fact that a ‘B’ looked like a bottom and an archery bow.
The questions that went back and forth were really great. We had one Skype call where our girls still had the black bee make-up on (from their movie) and the Italian boy and girl in the group were both eating pizza during the session! Our son was dripping off the chair and generally moving around non-stop. In that Skype session, when I saw us all on that little Skype box on the corner of the screen, I did for a moment feel like we were possibly looking a bit like a modern day version of the Addams Family. We did seem totally and utterly unschooled. Then I thought, ‘Lehla, the kids are unschooled, it is fine and this is who we are!’ I even heard one kid whisper in the US class ‘Those girls have got make up on!’ These American children were watching us, we were watching them, they shared ideas with us from how do bees make honey, to what was was America’s first underground network. We talked about Rome, Mudfish, Harriet Tupman the list goes on and on. Through these big questions the world opened up in our living room and having the chance to learn from others was wonderful.
It is all out there: Children, teachers, parents, unschoolers, schools, creatives, musicians, the list is endless. There are so many people that want to connect. The opportunities are unending. The world really is an exciting place and it is great to be able to let those exciting connections happen.
If you want to hear Sugata Mitra talking about education on Radio 4 here is the link. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gvm7n
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