Using Computers to Teach Children Without Teachers

Johnathan, F . (2010). “Using computers to teach children with no teachers” BBC News. Retrieved on 21 July, 2010:

Summary of the article:

The article summarizes studies conducted by Prof Mitra on the learning curve of children using computers for education with teachers. Results of the study prove that the teaching methods employed have been quite successful based on the fact that:

  • Children who are not exposed to computers are highly motivated to teach themselves skills they want to learn
  • Children have had a steep learning curve in picking up complex tasks with minimum supervision
  • Learning by discussion and in groups ensures that content is retained and not skimmed through by children.
  • Motivation levels of students are kept high with a grandmother figure in the picture.

The best results of the study have been combined to create Self Learning Environments where children in groups of 4 share a computer to assimilate information. Virtually present volunteer grandmothers keep the student motivated and support the learning process.

On Environment:

  • The need for self-organized learning essentially arises in developing nations and the ones who do not have access to education. Children living in such conditions have a natural survival instinct, which keeps them motivated to learn skills that they want to learn and figure out new things. Self-organized learning utilizes this instinct to keep students working towards learning everyday.
  • Costs: The cost of education needs to be kept to a minimum. Self-organized learning utilizes the time volunteered by grandmothers across the world. Novel as it may be, is it cheaper to find a teacher for class of 40 as opposed to providing one computer for every four students. The sustainability of the idea is questionable.

On Concept:

  • The concept aims at replicating a teaching experience using computers in locations where formal education is inaccessible.
  • Curiosity: By creating the environment that piques the interest, the student is automatically led to explore and search for answers. Education just follows. This concept can be applied in all teaching environments.
  • Collaborative learning: Organizing children in groups ensures that they use their collective intelligence to solve a problem. They always learn together as a group, helping the weaker ones catch up to their level of competence. This also acts as experiential learning as students share their own experiences during discussion.
  • Motivation: It is interesting to note that children learn better when they are motivated; the need to match up to a skill level is higher. Using the hovering grandmother as a metaphor gives the student the need to understand and explain

On Interaction:

  • Discussion: In the search for answers, it is possible that students skim through material that is presented to them. The differentiation is discussion. When a group of students are combined to understand subjects, the discussion that they engage in facilitates them to retain knowledge better. On complex subjects, it was noticed that a student always steps up to take it upon them to educate the rest.
  • Lack of interaction: This teaching mechanism completely avoids interaction with teacher. The lack of interaction is substituted by interaction with granny cloud and interactive course material.

Interaction Design:

The entire experience of e learning accommodates the three distinct learning styles of auditory learners, visual learners, and experiencing learners. Interactivity engages children pushing students rather than pulling them through training. The fun factor when induced into learning makes the entire experience of learning quite exciting.