Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The hole in the wall gang

I've been out and about visiting students on placement, so posts are even more irregular than usual (i.e. not so much irregular as non-existent).

Two boys using the hole in the wall computerI heard a brilliant documentary on BBC Radio 4 while traveling to a school the other day. It was called A Hole in the Wall. Currently there is a BBC Hole in the Wall website and it is available on Listen Again (although I don't know how long this link will stay active). There is also a link to the official Hole-In-The -Wall website.

The programme described what children, in out of the way Indian villages did when a modern, Internet connected, computer was made available to them in public kiosks. The documentary suggested that what they did was teach themselves how to use it. Did you spot the key word there? It was that they taught "themselves". No teachers or bossy grown-ups, they taught themselves. They managed this with little or no English and having never seen a computer before. The extract below and picture above are from the BBC site and will give you a flavour of what the project is about:
With the computer switched on, the children press all the keys and every mouse button.

But Sugata has noticed a pattern emerging after the first initial chaos.

"You find that the noise level begins to come down, and from somewhere a leader appears.

"Often his face is not visible in the crowd, but he is controlling the mouse because suddenly you see the mouse begin to move in an orderly fashion.

"And then suddenly a lot of children's voices will say 'Oh, that pointer can be moved!' And then you see the first click, which - believe it or not - happens within the first three minutes."
I would like to find out more about this project, but it made me think again about what we teach our children in schools. How much time do we spend teaching the mechanical button pushing skills, which if this project is right, children can pick up easily just through playing with a computer. In Scotland the curricular guidelines have a strand called Using the Technology. This suggests that most 7 year olds should be able to click a mouse, but that you have to wait until level B (achievable by most 8 year olds) before you can be taught to choose from a menu. Bizarre! Is it just in Scotland that we are daft like this - filling up an already crowded curriculum with stuff that pupils can do themselves?

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