Of course, today we live in a world the likes of which Rousseau, Piaget, or even Holt could not imagine. A technological wonderland that science fiction failed to predict.
And controversy swirls about it all.
- The parent who hands their baby a smart phone to stop her from crying…
- Violent video games…
- Watches that can do so much more than tell time…
- How much is too much?
- When is a little human old enough?
- How do you protect your child from online predators?
- What filters are appropriate?
We actually had that conversation yesterday with PanKwake. We were choosing Mister Men and Little Miss books to describe her friends. We said that one little boy was Mister Clever, but she did not agree. Cookie Monster pointed out that he was younger and had not had YouTube for as long. PanKwake pointed out that his access to certain things was filtered by his parents. She argued that this would limit his abilities…that it was censorship.
I know too many parents who believe they must limit their children’s time on computers/TV/smart phones/tablets and the like. I often wonder how they would feel if someone took their technology away at a certain time?
When it comes to computers and technology my views on RadiCool Unschooling has been influenced by a contemporary education ‘expert’. TED prize winning Sugata Mitra began is work in India. With his Hole in a Wall Project, he stuck computers with internet connections into kiosks…holes in the wall…all over India. He also stuck video cameras there to watch what happened.
He…and the world…were astounded by what happened…
These children TAUGHT themselves…and one another.
Children who could not read. Children who did not know English. Children who had never seen a computer before. They all learned. And more rapidly than they could have in a school.
I am sure none of that would have surprised John Holt…and it is a pity that Mitra does not seem to be familiar with his works.
A quick look at his TED talks reads like a RadiCool Unschooler’s library…
Even his language sounds right…minimally invasive education.
Minimally Invasive Education for children through kid-friendly internet kiosks should form an integral part of primary education in the 21st century. It has the potential to not only close the digital divide but also to unlock the sort of creative potential for children’s self-development that eminent educationists have sought to inspire for more than a century.
Given the appropriate digital infrastructure, a safe and free environment, and a friendly but unknowledgeable mediator, groups of children can pass their school-leaving tests on their own.
This one sums it all up:
Thus, a new primary curriculum needs to teach only three skills:
- Reading Comprehension: This is perhaps the most crucial skill a child needs to acquire while growing up.
- Information search and analysis: …this skill set is vital for children searching for answers in an infinite cyberspace.
- A rational system of belief: If children know how to search, and if they know how to read, then they must learn how to believe. Each one of us has a belief system. How soon can a child acquire one? A rational belief system will be a child’s protection against doctrine.
Children who have these skills scarcely need schools as we define them today. They need a learning environment and a source of rich, big questions. Computers can give out answers, but they cannot, as of yet, make questions.
The problem is…Mitra cannot seem to generalize his findings. He remains firmly wedded to the traditional Western views of education. I am gobsmacked that Mitra cannot see what is right before his eyes…Home Education…Unschooling. That is exactly what he is describing. Yet he has not to date done so…and may never.
He begins one speech with the example of …places all over the world where ‘good’ teachers will no go. Yes, he limits his own ideas to areas of the world without ‘good’ schools.
He has even attempted to introduce his methods into poorly performing schools in the UK…with very limited success. What Mitra fails to appreciate is that education is a SYSTEM…and systems are about self-preservation. Of course, teachers and headmasters keep interfering with the process of minimally invasive learning…their jobs are on the line.
While Mitra may not see or ever recognize, the potential of his work for RadiCool Unschooling, I do. Given the appropriate digital infrastructure, a safe and free environment that is the concept which has inspired our gaming/art room in #HomeCrazzyHome. I thought about cleaning it before I took this picture…BUT I want you to see WHAT learning…what RadiCool Unschooling…REALLY look like.
All that ‘stuff’ you see on the floor is from PanKwake’s art projects. She is making Christmas presents. In the past few days she has gotten out her beads to make me a necklace…for my glasses…because I keep losing them. And a pet rock for herself.
But what fascinates me…and what takes Mitra’s work to the next level…beyond even Holt’s…is how children teach one another. It is a primary principle of Mitra’s Minimally Invasive Education.
And unfortunately, something that is all too often missing even in home education groups. Too often, I am disappointed to discover that the activities on offer from most #HomeEd groups are more school like than anything. A ‘teacher’ standing in front of our children…teaching them. OK, so the class size is smaller. The presentation a bit more lively and interactive. And it is ‘voluntary’. But it is still…school for home edders.
That does not appeal to either PanKwake or me. But our Mommy Mondays have become our answer to this phenomenon. I open #HomeCrazzyHome to whomever wants to come. The Moms (though Dads are welcome too) sit in the family room, drinking tea/coffee, and talking about ‘life’…goals, frustrations, and even sex *shocked gasp*.
While PanKwake holds court in the gaming/art room. She has taught MineCraft and Roblox. She has helped her friends to make confetti cannons out of loo roll and a balloon. That one left the other Moms feeling a bit guilty…as I was left with sequins ALL over the house.
Heck, the other week we all got involved…Moms too. When we made candles and bath bombs. It was one of the best times we have had…and it was PanKwake…child-led learning…at its best.
What I have learned is…you don’t even need computers for children to teach one another.
PanKwake asked me the other day…If you could have a conversation with anyone you wanted, who would it be? At first, I told her that I was spoiled…that I got to live with and talk to two of the best minds in the world…every single day. But you know how she is…she kept pressing. Eventually, I came up with two names…Sugata Mitra is one of them.
I might not be able to change his mind…he might never accepted that whether you call it Minimally Invasive Education or RadiCool Unschooling…it is not just something for rural India, or areas of the world without ‘good’ teachers and ‘good’ schools…and it will never work in ‘schools’…but it is nonetheless an idea whose time has come.
Especially for our #neurodivergent little humans.
I know that if she had remained in school PanKwake would have never developed the self-confidence to TEACH other children. RadiCool Unschooling saved my little human from Cognitive Death…and I believe it can save others too. That is why I wrote this book.