The Hole in the Wall Project highlighted the power of self-organized learning. John Heintz saw Sugata Mitra’s Ted Talk almost a decade ago. The Hole in the Wall Project gave children access to a single computer embedded in a wall. With no guidance, groups of students taught themselves a wide variety of topics, including English. The takeaway is that groups of children can teach themselves anything if adult intervention is removed.
The even more notable takeaway was what the children said. After being left with the technology for some time, the researcher approached the children. The first request from the children was for more memory and a faster processor.
If you can afford it, always buy technology with the most memory and the fastest processor. Anything less shortens the useful life of your technology, but it also slows one’s own life learning.
The bigger issue: if education is best when self-directed, where does that leave the massive education industry? The digital age may make educational institutions irrelevant. John Heintz often confronted this reality as a teacher, professor and student when, even in his District 219 days, he consistently noted that almost all students, at any given point in their learning, were either bored or overwhelmed. Planned, lock-step, highly directed education is coming to an end. Technology is the newest reminder that we need to release children from structures that hinder learning and provide children with access to structures that foster it.
What matters now is creation. Allowing children the freedom to explore and learn is what John Dewey appreciated in saying: “Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.” All of us need access to the internet and machines with faster processors and more memory. We all want to keep living.