I believed in the idea that technology such as cell phones and internet has made our world a smaller place. One can easily connect miles apart in less than a fraction of a second. The world has become so well connected, that we have almost overtaken the physical dimension of distance and time making this vast world into a compact one. But this advancing technology has made a paradigm shift for me towards this inter-connectivity. I no longer see this interconnection as a means to make our world a smaller place. But rather I believe that it has expanded our world. This expansion is due is to the openness of ideas through the means of internet. The internet has become a limitless world of its own. A place where ideas are having sex as Matt Ridley refers in his surprising TED talk and new ideas are been born. And this notion of openness and accessibility to ideas in this world of internet has a direct influence towards shaping human life.
One of the major areas that internet has a direct influence on is the education field. But this internet is not worth without the addiction of knowledge. This addiction to learn, to comprehend and feel the ecstatic understanding; in short the idea of curiosity and the intense intellectual pleasure it offers. This idea of curiosity is the root for making humans travel from caves to moon. Imagine what if Einstein didn’t have this curiosity in him; or what if those first men and women had not asked the question sitting under the sky that “what are those twinkling lights”? Can we ever have a world that we see today without the idea of curiosity?
One of the most fascinating TED talks that I have ever seen is about the idea of SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) by Sugata Mitra. This talks about the obsolete education system that we are still practicing and how we need to let learning happen rather than make it happen. We need to have a curriculum of questions rather than answers, switching the curiosity in kids to learn and understand.
Believing in this idea I started practicing the same with my current project of English training for the kids here in a rural village of Chennai called Kasuva. I started with the big questions like “Is there life on other planets?” “Why do we slip on wet surfaces”? In a hope that these non English speaking kids can at least learn few new words; I provided a computer with an internet connection and asked them to find the answer within a week time; So now imagine how these Tamil speaking kids with no idea what and how to search in the internet will ever find answer to these big questions.
So on the day of presentation of the answers I was worried that will they will not be able to answer. It was shocking how these kids made me close my eyes and said to imagine a life after 100 years when all the resources on earth is exhausted and how we will shift our life to Mars. I am surprised how this idea of self-learning can make them do this in a week’s time. So just imagine what if they become lifelong self-learners? What achievement they can make in their life with these learning? And who knows these learners might become the Einsteins and Newtons of tomorrow.
And what if truly “Knowing is obsolete” as Sugata Mitra shares in his talk? What if there is no need to remember anything anymore? What if this internet acts like one single brain that stores all? And whenever we need anything we can get at just a click. I mean I don’t remember those big periodic tables that I learned in my school days and I don’t even care because even if I will memorize the periodic table, Google can give a faster answer than I can. So what’s the need for me to remember? I don’t know how much this idea can work, and is it a perfect replacement for the current education system or not. But one thing that I can surely say is that we need a “Learning System” more than the “Education System”; a learning system which can create learners rather than just educated people.