Student-Centred Movement



How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses

These students in Matamoros, Mexico, didn’t have reliable Internet access, steady electricity, or much hope—until a radical new teaching method unlocked their potential.  Peter Yang

José Urbina López Primary School sits next to a dump just across the US border in Mexico. The school serves residents of Matamoros, a dusty, sunbaked city of 489,000 that is a flash point in the war on drugs. There are regular shoot-outs, and it’s not uncommon for locals to find bodies scattered in the street in the morning. To get to the school, students walk along a white dirt road that parallels a fetid canal. On a recent morning there was a 1940s-era tractor, a decaying boat in a ditch, and a herd of goats nibbling gray strands of grass. A cinder-block barrier separates the school from a wasteland—the far end of which is a mound of trash that grew so big, it was finally closed down. On most days, a rotten smell drifts through the cement-walled classrooms. Some people here call the school un lugar de castigo—“a place of punishment.”

For 12-year-old Paloma Noyola Bueno, it was a bright spot. More than 25 years ago, her family moved to the border from central Mexico in search of a better life. Instead, they got stuck living beside the dump. Her father spent all day scavenging for scrap, digging for pieces of aluminum, glass, and plastic in the muck. Recently, he had developed nosebleeds, but he didn’t want Paloma to worry. She was his little angel—the youngest of eight children.

After school, Paloma would come home and sit with her father in the main room of their cement-and-wood home. Her father was a weather-beaten, gaunt man who always wore a cowboy hat. Paloma would recite the day’s lessons for him in her crisp uniform—gray polo, blue-and-white skirt—and try to cheer him up. She had long black hair, a high forehead, and a thoughtful, measured way of talking. School had never been challenging for her. She sat in rows with the other students while teachers told the kids what they needed to know. It wasn’t hard to repeat it back, and she got good grades without thinking too much. As she headed into fifth grade, she assumed she was in for more of the same—lectures, memorization, and busy work.

Sergio Juárez Correa was used to teaching that kind of class. For five years, he had stood in front of students and worked his way through the government-mandated curriculum. It was mind-numbingly boring for him and the students, and he’d come to the conclusion that it was a waste of time. Test scores were poor, and even the students who did well weren’t truly engaged. Something had to change.

He too had grown up beside a garbage dump in Matamoros, and he had become a teacher to help kids learn enough to make something more of their lives. So in 2011—when Paloma entered his class—Juárez Correa decided to start experimenting. He began reading books and searching for ideas online. Soon he stumbled on a video describing the work of Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in the UK. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Mitra conducted experiments in which he gave children in India access to computers. Without any instruction, they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things, from DNA replication to English.

Elementary school teacher Sergio Juárez Correa, 31, upended his teaching methods, revealing extraordinary abilities in his 12-year-old student Paloma Noyola Bueno.

Juárez Correa didn’t know it yet, but he had happened on an emerging educational philosophy, one that applies the logic of the digital age to the classroom. That logic is inexorable: Access to a world of infinite information has changed how we communicate, process information, and think. Decentralized systems have proven to be more productive and agile than rigid, top-down ones. Innovation, creativity, and independent thinking are increasingly crucial to the global economy.

And yet the dominant model of public education is still fundamentally rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it, when workplaces valued punctuality, regularity, attention, and silence above all else. (In 1899, William T. Harris, the US commissioner of education, celebrated the fact that US schools had developed the “appearance of a machine,” one that teaches the student “to behave in an orderly manner, to stay in his own place, and not get in the way of others.”) We don’t openly profess those values nowadays, but our educational system—which routinely tests kids on their ability to recall information and demonstrate mastery of a narrow set of skills—doubles down on the view that students are material to be processed, programmed, and quality-tested. School administrators prepare curriculum standards and “pacing guides” that tell teachers what to teach each day. Legions of managers supervise everything that happens in the classroom; in 2010 only 50 percent of public school staff members in the US were teachers.

The results speak for themselves: Hundreds of thousands of kids drop out of public high school every year. Of those who do graduate from high school, almost a third are “not prepared academically for first-year college courses,” according to a 2013 report from the testing service ACT. The World Economic Forum ranks the US just 49th out of 148 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction. “The fundamental basis of the system is fatally flawed,” says Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “In 1970 the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999 the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.”

That’s why a new breed of educators, inspired by everything from the Internet to evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and AI, are inventing radical new ways for children to learn, grow, and thrive. To them, knowledge isn’t a commodity that’s delivered from teacher to student but something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration. Teachers provide prompts, not answers, and then they step aside so students can teach themselves and one another. They are creating ways for children to discover their passion—and uncovering a generation of geniuses in the process.

At home in Matamoros, Juárez Correa found himself utterly absorbed by these ideas. And the more he learned, the more excited he became. On August 21, 2011—the start of the school year — he walked into his classroom and pulled the battered wooden desks into small groups. When Paloma and the other students filed in, they looked confused. Juárez Correa invited them to take a seat and then sat down with them.

He started by telling them that there were kids in other parts of the world who could memorize pi to hundreds of decimal points. They could write symphonies and build robots and airplanes. Most people wouldn’t think that the students at José Urbina López could do those kinds of things. Kids just across the border in Brownsville, Texas, had laptops, high-speed Internet, and tutoring, while in Matamoros the students had intermittent electricity, few computers, limited Internet, and sometimes not enough to eat.

“But you do have one thing that makes you the equal of any kid in the world,” Juárez Correa said. “Potential.”

He looked around the room. “And from now on,” he told them, “we’re going to use that potential to make you the best students in the world.”

Paloma was silent, waiting to be told what to do. She didn’t realize that over the next nine months, her experience of school would be rewritten, tapping into an array of educational innovations from around the world and vaulting her and some of her classmates to the top of the math and language rankings in Mexico.

“So,” Juárez Correa said, “what do you want to learn?”

In 1999, Sugata Mitra was chief scientist at a company in New Delhi that trains software developers. His office was on the edge of a slum, and on a hunch one day, he decided to put a computer into a nook in a wall separating his building from the slum. He was curious to see what the kids would do, particularly if he said nothing. He simply powered the computer on and watched from a distance. To his surprise, the children quickly figured out how to use the machine.

Over the years, Mitra got more ambitious. For a study published in 2010, he loaded a computer with molecular biology materials and set it up in Kalikuppam, a village in southern India. He selected a small group of 10- to 14-year-olds and told them there was some interesting stuff on the computer, and might they take a look? Then he applied his new pedagogical method: He said no more and left.

Over the next 75 days, the children worked out how to use the computer and began to learn. When Mitra returned, he administered a written test on molecular biology. The kids answered about one in four questions correctly. After another 75 days, with the encouragement of a friendly local, they were getting every other question right. “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it,” Mitra says, “like bees around a flower.”

A charismatic and convincing proselytizer, Mitra has become a darling in the tech world. In early 2013 he won a $1 million grant from TED, the global ideas conference, to pursue his work. He’s now in the process of establishing seven “schools in the cloud,” five in India and two in the UK. In India, most of his schools are single-room buildings. There will be no teachers, curriculum, or separation into age groups—just six or so computers and a woman to look after the kids’ safety. His defining principle: “The children are completely in charge.”

“THE BOTTOM LINE IS, IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE CONTROLLING YOUR LEARNING, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO LEARN AS WELL.”

Mitra argues that the information revolution has enabled a style of learning that wasn’t possible before. The exterior of his schools will be mostly glass, so outsiders can peer in. Inside, students will gather in groups around computers and research topics that interest them. He has also recruited a group of retired British teachers who will appear occasionally on large wall screens via Skype, encouraging students to investigate their ideas—a process Mitra believes best fosters learning. He calls them the Granny Cloud. “They’ll be life-size, on two walls” Mitra says. “And the children can always turn them off.”

Mitra’s work has roots in educational practices dating back to Socrates. Theorists from Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi to Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori have argued that students should learn by playing and following their curiosity. Einstein spent a year at a Pestalozzi-inspired school in the mid-1890s, and he later credited it with giving him the freedom to begin his first thought experiments on the theory of relativity. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin similarly claim that their Montessori schooling imbued them with a spirit of independence and creativity.

In recent years, researchers have begun backing up those theories with evidence. In a 2011 study, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Iowa scanned the brain activity of 16 people sitting in front of a computer screen. The screen was blurred out except for a small, movable square through which subjects could glimpse objects laid out on a grid. Half the time, the subjects controlled the square window, allowing them to determine the pace at which they examined the objects; the rest of the time, they watched a replay of someone else moving the window. The study found that when the subjects controlled their own observations, they exhibited more coordination between the hippocampus and other parts of the brain involved in learning and posted a 23 percent improvement in their ability to remember objects. “The bottom line is, if you’re not the one who’s controlling your learning, you’re not going to learn as well,” says lead researcher Joel Voss, now a neuroscientist at Northwestern University.

In 2009, scientists from the University of Louisville and MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences conducted a study of 48 children between the ages of 3 and 6. The kids were presented with a toy that could squeak, play notes, and reflect images, among other things. For one set of children, a researcher demonstrated a single attribute and then let them play with the toy. Another set of students was given no information about the toy. This group played longer and discovered an average of six attributes of the toy; the group that was told what to do discovered only about four. A similar study at UC Berkeley demonstrated that kids given no instruction were much more likely to come up with novel solutions to a problem. “The science is brand-new, but it’s not as if people didn’t have this intuition before,” says coauthor Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.

Gopnik’s research is informed in part by advances in artificial intelligence. If you program a robot’s every movement, she says, it can’t adapt to anything unexpected. But when scientists build machines that are programmed to try a variety of motions and learn from mistakes, the robots become far more adaptable and skilled. The same principle applies to children, she says.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS

New research shows what educators have long intuited: Letting kids pursue their own interests sharpens their hunger for knowledge. Here’s a look back at this approach. —Jason Kehe

470 BC 
Socrates is born in Athens. He goes on to become a long-haired teacher who famously let students arrive at their own conclusions. His questioning, probing approach—the Socratic method—endures to this day.

1907 
Maria Montessori opens her first Children’s House in Rome, where kids are encouraged to play and teach themselves. Americans later visit her schools and see the Montessori method in action. It spreads worldwide.

 

1919 
The first Waldorf schoolopens in Stuttgart, Germany. Based on the ideas of philosopher Rudolf Steiner, it encourages self-motivated learning. Today, there are more than 1,000 Waldorf schools in 60 countries.

1921
A. S. Neill founds the Summerhill School, where kids have the “freedom to go to lessons or stay away, freedom to play for days … or years if necessary.” Eventually, such democratic schools appear around the world.

1945
Loris Malaguzzi vol­unteers to teach in a school that parents are building in a war-torn Italian village outside Reggio Emilia. The “Reggio Emilia approach”—a community of self-guided learning—is born.

1967
Seymour Papert, a protégé of child psychologist Jean Piaget, helps create the first version of Logo, a programming language kids can use to teach themselves. He becomes a lifelong advocate for tech­nology’s role in learning.

1999
Sugata Mitra conducts his first “hole in the wall” experiment in New Delhi, India. On their own, slum kids teach themselves to use a computer. Mitra dubs his approach minimally invasive education.

2006
Ken Robinson gives what will become the most frequently viewed TED Talk ever: “How Schools Kill Creativity.” Students should be free to make mistakes and pursue their own creative interests, Robinson argues.

2012
The Common Core, a new set of curriculum standards that include student-centered learning, are adopted by 45 US states. Math students, say, should “start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem.”

CREDITS: Waldorf School: courtesy of Waldorf School; Robinson: Robert Leslie; Malaguzzi: courtesy of Reggio Children; remaining: Getty Images

Students at Brooklyn Free School direct their own learning. There are no grades or formal assignments. 
 Brian Finke

Evolutionary psychologists have also begun exploring this way of thinking. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College who studies children’s natural ways of learning, argues that human cognitive machinery is fundamentally incompatible with conventional schooling. Gray points out that young children, motivated by curiosity and playfulness, teach themselves a tremendous amount about the world. And yet when they reach school age, we supplant that innate drive to learn with an imposed curriculum. “We’re teaching the child that his questions don’t matter, that what matters are the questions of the curriculum. That’s just not the way natural selection designed us to learn. It designed us to solve problems and figure things out that are part of our real lives.”

Some school systems have begun to adapt to this new philosophy—with outsize results. In the 1990s, Finland pared the country’s elementary math curriculum from about 25 pages to four, reduced the school day by an hour, and focused on independence and active learning. By 2003, Finnish students had climbed from the lower rungs of international performance rankings to first place among developed nations.

Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab, is taking this approach even further with his One Laptop per Child initiative. Last year the organization delivered 40 tablets to children in two remote villages in Ethiopia. Negroponte’s team didn’t explain how the devices work or even open the boxes. Nonetheless, the children soon learned to play back the alphabet song and taught themselves to write letters. They also figured out how to use the tablet’s camera. This was impressive because the organization had disabled camera usage. “They hacked Android,” Negroponte says.

One day Juárez Correa went to his whiteboard and wrote “1 = 1.00.” Normally, at this point, he would start explaining the concept of fractions and decimals. Instead he just wrote “½ = ?” and “¼ = ?”

“Think about that for a second,” he said, and walked out of the room.

While the kids murmured, Juárez Correa went to the school cafeteria, where children could buy breakfast and lunch for small change. He borrowed about 10 pesos in coins, worth about 75 cents, and walked back to his classroom, where he distributed a peso’s worth of coins to each table. He noticed that Paloma had already written .50 and .25 on a piece of paper.

“One peso is one peso,” he said. “What’s one-half?”

JUÁREZ CORREA FELT A CHILL. HE HAD NEVER ENCOUNTERED A STUDENT WITH PALOMA’S LEVEL OF INNATE ABILITY.

At first a number of kids divided the coins into clearly unequal piles. It sparked a debate among the students about what one-half meant. Juárez Correa’s training told him to intervene. But now he remembered Mitra’s research and resisted the urge. Instead, he watched as Alma Delia Juárez Flores explained to her tablemates that half means equal portions. She counted out 50 centavos. “So the answer is .50,” she said. The other kids nodded. It made sense.

For Juárez Correa it was simultaneously thrilling and a bit scary. In Finland, teachers underwent years of training to learn how to orchestrate this new style of learning; he was winging it. He began experimenting with different ways of posing open-ended questions on subjects ranging from the volume of cubes to multiplying fractions. “The volume of a square-based prism is the area of the base times the height. The volume of a square-based pyramid is that formula divided by three,” he said one morning. “Why do you think that is?”

He walked around the room, saying little. It was fascinating to watch the kids approach the answer. They were working in teams and had models of various shapes to look at and play with. The team led by Usiel Lemus Aquino, a short boy with an ever-present hopeful expression, hit on the idea of drawing the different shapes—prisms and pyramids. By layering the drawings on top of each other, they began to divine the answer. Juárez Correa let the kids talk freely. It was a noisy, slightly chaotic environment—exactly the opposite of the sort of factory-friendly discipline that teachers were expected to impose. But within 20 minutes, they had come up with the answer.

“Three pyramids fit in one prism,” Usiel observed, speaking for the group. “So the volume of a pyramid must be the volume of a prism divided by three.”

Juárez Correa was impressed. But he was even more intrigued by Paloma. During these experiments, he noticed that she almost always came up with the answer immediately. Sometimes she explained things to her tablemates, other times she kept the answer to herself. Nobody had told him that she had an unusual gift. Yet even when he gave the class difficult questions, she quickly jotted down the answers. To test her limits, he challenged the class with a problem he was sure would stump her. He told the story of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the famous German mathematician, who was born in 1777.

When Gauss was a schoolboy, one of his teachers asked the class to add up every number between 1 and 100. It was supposed to take an hour, but Gauss had the answer almost instantly.

“Does anyone know how he did this?” Juárez Correa asked.

A few students started trying to add up the numbers and soon realized it would take a long time. Paloma, working with her group, carefully wrote out a few sequences and looked at them for a moment. Then she raised her hand.

“The answer is 5,050,” she said. “There are 50 pairs of 101.”

Juárez Correa felt a chill. He’d never encountered a student with so much innate ability. He squatted next to her and asked why she hadn’t expressed much interest in math in the past, since she was clearly good at it.

“Because no one made it this interesting,” she said.

OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IS ROOTED IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE. IT VALUES PUNCTUALITY, ATTENDANCE, AND SILENCE ABOVE ALL ELSE.

Paloma’s father got sicker. He continued working, but he was running a fever and suffering headaches. Finally he was admitted to the hospital, where his condition deteriorated; on February 27, 2012, he died of lung cancer. On Paloma’s last visit before he passed away, she sat beside him and held his hand. “You are a smart girl,” he said. “Study and make me proud.”

Paloma missed four days of school for the funeral before returning to class. Her friends could tell she was distraught, but she buried her grief. She wanted to live up to her father’s last wish. And Juárez Correa’s new style of curating challenges for the kids was the perfect refuge for her. As he continued to relinquish control, Paloma took on more responsibility for her own education. He taught the kids about democracy by letting them elect leaders who would decide how to run the class and address discipline. The children elected five representatives, including Paloma and Usiel. When two boys got into a shoving match, the representatives admonished the boys, and the problem didn’t happen again.

Juárez Correa spent his nights watching education videos. He read polemics by the Mexican cartoonist Eduardo del Río (known as Rius), who argued that kids should be free to explore whatever they want. He was also still impressed by Mitra, who talks about letting children “wander aimlessly around ideas.” Juárez Correa began hosting regular debates in class, and he didn’t shy away from controversial topics. He asked the kids if they thought homosexuality and abortion should be permitted. He asked them to figure out what the Mexican government should do, if anything, about immigration to the US. Once he asked a question, he would stand back and let them engage one another.

A key component in Mitra’s theory was that children could learn by having access to the web, but that wasn’t easy for Juárez Correa’s students. The state paid for a technology instructor who visited each class once a week, but he didn’t have much technology to demonstrate. Instead, he had a batch of posters depicting keyboards, joysticks, and 3.5-inch floppy disks. He would hold the posters up and say things like, “This is a keyboard. You use it to type.”

As a result, Juárez Correa became a slow-motion conduit to the Internet. When the kids wanted to know why we see only one side of the moon, for example, he went home, Googled it, and brought back an explanation the next day. When they asked specific questions about eclipses and the equinox, he told them he’d figure it out and report back.

Sugata Mitra’s research on student-led learning inspired Juárez Correa.  Mark Pinder

Juárez Correa also brought something else back from the Internet. It was the fable of a forlorn burro trapped at the bottom of a well. Since thieves had broken into the school and sliced the electrical cord off of the classroom projector (presumably to sell the copper inside), he couldn’t actually show them the clip that recounted the tale. Instead, he simply described it.

One day, a burro fell into a well, Juárez Correa began. It wasn’t hurt, but it couldn’t get out. The burro’s owner decided that the aged beast wasn’t worth saving, and since the well was dry, he would just bury both. He began to shovel clods of earth into the well. The burro cried out, but the man kept shoveling. Eventually, the burro fell silent. The man assumed the animal was dead, so he was amazed when, after a lot of shoveling, the burro leaped out of the well. It had shaken off each clump of dirt and stepped up the steadily rising mound until it was able to jump out.

Juárez Correa looked at his class. “We are like that burro,” he said. “Everything that is thrown at us is an opportunity to rise out of the well we are in.”

When the two-day national standardized exam took place in June 2012, Juárez Correa viewed it as just another pile of dirt thrown on the kids’ heads. It was a step back to the way school used to be for them: mechanical and boring. To prevent cheating, a coordinator from the Ministry of Education oversaw the proceedings and took custody of the answer sheets at the end of testing. It felt like a military exercise, but as the kids blasted through the questions, they couldn’t help noticing that it felt easy, as if they were being asked to do something very basic.

Ricardo Zavala Hernandez, assistant principal at José Urbina López, drinks a cup of coffee most mornings as he browses the web in the admin building, a cement structure that houses the school’s two functioning computers. One day in September 2012, he clicked on the site for ENLACE, Mexico’s national achievement exam, and discovered that the results of the June test had been posted.

Zavala Hernandez put down his coffee. Most of the classes had done marginally better this year—but Paloma’s grade was another story. The previous year, 45 percent had essentially failed the math section, and 31 percent had failed Spanish. This time only 7 percent failed math and 3.5 percent failed Spanish. And while none had posted an Excellent score before, 63 percent were now in that category in math.

The language scores were very high. Even the lowest was well above the national average. Then he noticed the math scores. The top score in Juárez Correa’s class was 921. Zavala Hernandez looked over at the top score in the state: It was 921. When he saw the next box over, the hairs on his arms stood up. The top score in the entire country was also 921.

He printed the page and speed-walked to Juárez Correa’s classroom. The students stood up when he entered.

“Take a look at this,” Zavala Hernandez said, handing him the printout.

Juárez Correa scanned the results and looked up. “Is this for real?” he asked.

“I just printed it off the ENLACE site,” the assistant principal responded. “It’s real.”

Juárez Correa noticed the kids staring at him, but he wanted to make sure he understood the report. He took a moment to read it again, nodded, and turned to the kids.

“We have the results back from the ENLACE exam,” he said. “It’s just a test, and not a great one.”

A number of students had a sinking feeling. They must have blown it.

“But we have a student in this classroom who placed first in Mexico,” he said, breaking into a smile.

Paloma received the highest math score in the country, but the other students weren’t far behind. Ten got math scores that placed them in the 99.99th percentile. Three of them placed at the same high level in Spanish. The results attracted a quick burst of official and media attention in Mexico, most of which focused on Paloma. She was flown to Mexico City to appear on a popular TV show and received a variety of gifts, from a laptop to a bicycle.

Juárez Correa himself got almost no recognition, despite the fact that nearly half of his class had performed at a world- class level and that even the lowest performers had markedly improved.

His other students were congratulated by friends and family. The parents of Carlos Rodríguez Lamas, who placed in the 99.99th percentile in math, treated him to three steak tacos. It was his first time in a restaurant. Keila Francisco Rodríguez got 10 pesos from her parents. She bought a bag of Cheetos. The kids were excited. They talked about being doctors, teachers, and politicians.

Juárez Correa had mixed feelings about the test. His students had succeeded because he had employed a new teaching method, one better suited to the way children learn. It was a model that emphasized group work, competition, creativity, and a student-led environment. So it was ironic that the kids had distinguished themselves because of a conventional multiple-choice test. “These exams are like limits for the teachers,” he says. “They test what you know, not what you can do, and I am more interested in what my students can do.”

Like Juárez Correa, many education innovators are succeeding outside the mainstream. For example, the 11 Internationals Network high schools in New York City report a higher graduation rate than the city’s average for the same populations. They do it by emphasizing student-led learning and collaboration. At the coalition of Big Picture Learning schools—56 schools across the US and another 64 around the world—teachers serve as advisers, suggesting topics of interest; students also work with mentors from business and the community, who help guide them into internships. As the US on-time high school graduation rate stalls at about 75 percent, Big Picture is graduating more than 90 percent of its students.

But these examples—involving only thousands of students—are the exceptions to the rule. The system as a whole educates millions and is slow to recognize or adopt successful innovation. It’s a system that was constructed almost two centuries ago to meet the needs of the industrial age. Now that our society and economy have evolved beyond that era, our schools must also be reinvented.

For the time being, we can see what the future looks like in places like Juárez Correa’s classroom. We can also see that change will not come easily. Though Juárez Correa’s class posted impressive results, they inspired little change. Francisco Sánchez Salazar, chief of the Regional Center of Educational Development in Matamoros, was even dismissive. “The teaching method makes little difference,” he says. Nor does he believe that the students’ success warrants any additional help. “Intelligence comes from necessity,” he says. “They succeed without having resources.”

More than ever, Juárez Correa felt like the burro in the story. But then he remembered Paloma. She had lost her father and was growing up on the edge of a garbage dump. Under normal circumstances, her prospects would be limited. But like the burro, she was shaking off the clods of dirt; she had begun climbing the rising mound out of the well.


Want to help teachers like Sergio Juárez Correa make a difference? Here’s how you can get involved in the student-centered movement.



How to Get Involved in the Teaching Movement That Could Transform Education

Photo: Peter Yang/WIRED

In the weeks leading up to the publication of our cover story about Sergio Juárez Correa and the students of José Urbina López Primary School, it became clear that WIRED could help. We decided to sponsor the school and Juárez Correa, providing them with supplies and equipment they need, like a projector, printer, and laser pointer.

But there also are powerful ways you can get involved with the burgeoning student-centered style of learning and teaching. Whether you want to bring this approach into an existing school, start a program of your own, donate to a program, or find a teacher who has asked for specific help, we’ve got suggestions. Here are four ways to take action:

1. Last year, the TED prize gave $1 million to Sugata Mitra, one of the movement’s leading thinkers. If you are interested in supporting Mitra and his School in the Cloud project email TEDPrize@TED.comor make contributions payable to:

Sapling Foundation
Care of: TED Prize Team
250 Hudson Street
Suite 1002
NY, NY 10013

2. TED has created a toolkit full of ideas for jumpstarting student-centered learning in your home, local community, or school. It’s called SOLE: How to Bring Self-Organized Learning Environments to Your Community. Download it here and share your story afterward on the SOLE Tumblr.

3. To support or adopt a SOLE classroom (many of which are listed on the SOLE Tumblr) emailTEDPrize@TED.com.

4. Support a teacher who has made a specific request for help through DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects public school teachers with donors.

Meanwhile, read more about Mitra’s TED Prize at José Urbina López Primary School or watch apreview of the documentary, School in the Cloud, that filmmaker Jerry Rothwell is making about Mitra’s TED prize activities.










12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free

on 15 July, 2014 at 18:53


Note that some of the sources overlap between various subjects of education.  Therefore, each has been placed under a specific subject based on the majority focus of the source’s content.

SCIENCE AND HEALTH

MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT OpenCourseWare is a free web-based publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.
Tufts OpenCourseWare – Tufts OpenCourseWare is part of a new educational movement initiated by MIT that provides free access to course content for everyone online.  Tufts’ course offerings demonstrate the University’s strength in the life sciences in addition to its multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local, national and international communities.
HowStuffWorks Science – More scientific lessons and explanations than you could sort through in an entire year.
Harvard Medical School Open Courseware – The mission of the Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Initiative is to exchange knowledge from the Harvard community of scholars to other academic institutions, prospective students, and the general public.
Khan Academy – Over 1200 videos lessons covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, and biology.
Open Yale Courses – Open Yale Courses provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the internet.  The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences.
webcast.berkeley – Every semester, UC Berkeley webcasts select courses and events for on-demand viewing via the Internet.  webcast.berkeley course lectures are provided as a study resource for both students and the public.
UC San Diego Podcast Lectures – UCSD’s podcasting service was established for instructional use to benefit our students.  Podcasts are taken down at the end of every quarter (10 weeks Fall-Spring and 5 weeks in the summer).  If you’re enjoying a podcast, be sure to subscribe and download the lectures.  Once the podcast has been taken offline, faculty rarely approve their reposting.
Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare – The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s OpenCourseWare project provides access to content of the School’s most popular courses. As challenges to the world’s health escalate daily, the School feels a moral imperative to provide equal and open access to information and knowledge about the obstacles to the public’s health and their potential solutions.
Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative – No instructors, no credits, no charge.  Use these self-guiding Carnegie Mellon materials and activities to learn at your own pace.
Utah State OpenCourseWare – Utah State OpenCourseWare is a collection of educational material used in our formal campus courses, and seeks to provide people around the world with an opportunity to access high quality learning opportunities.
AMSER – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.
Wolfram Demonstrations Project – Wolfram brings computational exploration to the widest possible audience, open-code resource that uses dynamic computation to illuminate concepts.  Free player runs all demos and videos.
The Science Forum – A very active scientific discussion and debate forum.
Free Science and Video Lectures Online! – A nice collection of video lectures and lessons on science and philosophy.
Science.gov – Science.gov searches over 42 databases and over 2000 selected websites from 14 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results.
The National Science Digital Library – NSDL is the Nation’s online library for education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.
EnviroLink Network–  A  non-profit organization, grassroots online community uniting organizations and volunteers around the world.  Up-to-date environmental information and news.
Geology.com – Information about geology and earth science to visitors without charge: Articles, News, Maps, Satellite Images, Dictionary, etc.
Scitable – A free science library and personal learning tool that currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms.  The site also expects to expand into other topics of learning and education.
LearningScience.org – A free open learning community for sharing newer and emerging tools to teach science.

BUSINESS AND MONEY

MIT Sloan School of Management – MIT Sloan is a world-class business school long renowned for thought leadership and the ability to successfully partner theory and practice.  This is a subsection of the larger MIT OpenCourseWare site.
Investopedia Financial Investing Tutorials – A plethora of detailed lessons on money management and investing.
U.S. Small Business Administration Training Network – The Small Business Administration has one of the best selections of business courses on the web. Topics include everything from starting a business and business management to government contracting and international trade. Most courses take only 30 minutes to complete.
VideoLectures.NET (Business) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
My Own Business, Inc. – Offers a free online business administration course that would be beneficial to new managers and to anyone who is interested in starting a business. This comprehensive course is split up into 16 sessions covering topics like business plans, accounting, marketing, insurance, e-commerce and international trade.
UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Business) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania – The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center offers more than 80 free business courses online. Kutztown’s courses are individualized and self-paced. Many of the courses feature high-end graphics, interactive case studies and audio streams.
Boston College Front Row (Business) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
Financial Management Training Center – The Financial Management Training Center provides several free downloadable business courses for people who need to learn the finer points of financial management. All courses offered can be taken online; courses include full exams as well as evaluation forms for people seeking Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.
The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA – Free Management Library’s Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA Program is an especially great resource for students wishing to learn more about nonprofit management, but most of the lessons also apply to general business management. Completion of this program will not result in an MBA degree, but enrollment is free and the material is well structured.
Bookboon Free Business e-books – Hundreds of free business books online in PDF format.
TheStreet University – If you’re just starting out as a stock and bond investor or need a refresher’s course, this is the place to learn what you need to know.

HISTORY AND WORLD CULTURE

University of Washington’s OpenUW – Explore a variety of learning in several free history-centric online courses from the University of Washington.
Notre Dame OpenCourseWare – Notre Dame OCW is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world.
Bio’s Best – Biography.com’s most popular biographies on notable historical figures.
UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Social Science) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.
Boston College Front Row (History) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
MIT OpenCourseWare (History) – The MIT History Faculty offers about 70 subjects in the areas of Ancient, North American, European, East Asian, and Middle Eastern history.
Wikiversity School of Social Sciences – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
OpenLearn (Arts and Humanities) – The OpenLearn website gives free access to Open University course materials.
A Biography of America – A Biography of America presents history not simply as a series of irrefutable facts to be memorized, but as a living narrative of America’s story.
Have Fun with History – A resource for students, educators and all lovers of American History.
The USGenWeb Project – Free genealogy and family history resources online.
MacroHistory and World Report – Tell without illusions or ideological restraints the story of our ancestors, our parents and us.
World History HyperHistory – Navigates through 3000 years of World History with links to important persons and events of world historical importance.
American Digital History – Online American history textbook. An interactive, multimedia history of the United States from the Revolution to the present.

LAW

Duke Law Center for the Public Domain – Duke University is counted amongst the best schools in the South. If you’re interested in law, Duke’s open courseware in that subject area can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the justice system.
Intute Law – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities.
Boston College Front Row (Law) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
American University – Offers a selection of podcasts on a number of different law-related subjects. There is even a very interesting podcast on debt relief and the law.
Lewis & Clark Law School – Provides a number of podcast from the law school. Subjects include tax law, business law, environmental law and other areas of law. Interesting and insightful lectures on the law.
Case Western Reserve University School of Law – Offers a number of interesting lectures on different law subjects. These lectures are both podcasts and Web casts. You can look ahead to the coming school year, which already has a number of interesting subjects lined up.
Harvard Law School – Provides a number of Web casts of law lectures, symposia, panels and conferences. A great collection of relevant information and insights on how the law interacts with current events.
Stanford Law – Provides open courseware via iTunes on a variety of law subjects, including the theory of justice, mobile content distribution, gay marriage, judicial review and privacy protection. The tracks are available for free, but you’ll need iTunes. Put the lectures on your iPod or iPhone and listen them anywhere.
MoneyInstructor Business Law – From MoneyInstructor.com provides a look at a number of basics in business law. Learn how to define crimes under business law. Worksheets and curriculums are available for teachers. Ordinary folks will find them useful as well.
Wesleyan College Constitutional Law – From North Carolina Wesleyan College offers an overview of the U.S. Constitution and the laws springing from it. Online lectures and class notes are included, which can help you develop a strong understanding of the Constitution and how it forms the basis of our laws.

COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

VideoLectures.NET (Computer Science) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
Wikiversity School of Computer Science and Technology – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
New York State University (US), Computer Science – Hundreds of lectures, tutorials and links to educational material.
Dream.In.Code Tutorials – Lots of computer programming tutorials.
MIT OpenCourseWare (Engineering and Computer Science) – MIT OpenCourseWare is a free web-based publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.
Maine University (US), Fogler Guide to Computer Science – An insanely detailed list of computer science resources.
FreeComputerBooks.com  – Free computer, mathematics, technical books and lecture notes.
Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies – A massive collection of bibliographies of scientific literature in computer science, updated weekly from original locations, more than 3 millions of references (mostly to journal articles, conference papers and technical reports), clustered in about 2000 bibliographies.
W3Schools – Web-building tutorials, from basic HTML and XHTML to advanced XML, SQL, Database, Multimedia and WAP.
FreeTechBooks.com – This site lists free online computer science, engineering and programming books, textbooks and lecture notes, all of which are legally and freely available over the Internet.
Free computer Tutorials – Free computer courses and tutorials site. All the courses are aimed at complete beginners, so you don’t need experience to get started.
Programmer 101: Teach Yourself How to Code – Several helpful resources for computer programming beginners.
Google Code University – Provides sample course content and tutorials for Computer Science (CS) students and educators on current computing technologies and paradigms.

MATHEMATICS

Oxford University Mathematics OpenCourseWare – Various online mathematics classes provided free by Oxford University.
UMass Boston Mathematics – Various online mathematics classes provided free by UMass Boston.
Whatcom Online Math Center – Various math lessons provided free by Whatcom Community College.
VideoLectures.NET (Mathematics) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
Wikiversity School of Mathematics – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
AMSER Mathematics – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.
Math.com – Math.com is dedicated to providing revolutionary ways for students, parents, teachers, and everyone to learn math.
Intute Mathematics – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorized by subject specialists based at UK universities.
Free-Ed College Mathematics – Offers a wide range of free online math courses and study programs.

ENGLISH AND COMMUNICATIONS

Open Yale Courses (English) – Open Yale Courses provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the internet.
Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students – These guidelines for engineering writing and scientific writing are designed to help students communicate their technical work.
MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies – The MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies gives students the opportunity to learn the techniques, forms, and traditions of several kinds of writing, from basic expository prose to more advanced forms of non-fictional prose, fiction and poetry, science writing, scientific and technical communication and digital media.
Merriam-Webster Online – In this digital age, your ability to communicate with written English is paramount skill.  And M-W.com is the perfect resource to improve your English now.
National Novel Writing Month – Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Lifewriting – A complete text of the 9-week writing class a professor taught for years at UCLA.
Guide to Grammar and Writing – Grammar and writing techniques, lessons and quizzes.
Purdue Online Writing Lab – Over 200 free resources including lessons on: writing, research, grammar, and style guides.

FOREIGN AND SIGN LANGUAGES

BBC Languages – Teach yourself a new spoken language online.
American Sign Language Browser – Teach yourself sign language online.
Livemocha – Start learning a new language online for free.
Learn10 – Gives you a language learning habit that’s hard to kick. 10 new words; everywhere, every day.
One Minute Languages – Learn a new language via podcasts that are updated regularly.
Mango Languages – Over 100 lessons, shown to you in PowerPoint style with interstitial quizzes, to move you through any language without cracking a book.

MULTIPLE SUBJECTS AND MISCELLANEOUS

OpenLearn – The OpenLearn website gives free access to Open University course materials.  Multiple subjects are covered.
Capilano University OpenCourseWare – The Capilano University OpenCourseWare site is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world.
University of Southern Queensland’s OpenCourseWare – Provides access to free and open educational resources for faculty members, students, and self-learners throughout the world.
YouTube EDU – Educational videos on YouTube organized by subject matter.
LearnHub Test Prep – Raise your test scores with free practice tests & counseling on various subjects.
iTunes U – Hundreds of universities — including Stanford, Yale and MIT — distribute lectures, slide shows, PDFs, films, exhibit tours and audio books through iTunes U.  The Science section alone contains content on topics including agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and geography.
United Nations University OpenCourseWare – Showcases the training and educational programs implemented by the University in a wide range of areas relevant to the work of the United Nations.
Brigham Young Independent Study – BYU Independent Study now offers free courses in different areas of study.  These areas include Family History, Family Life, and Religious Scripture Study, Personal Dev elopement, etc.  Use these courses as a starting point for your personal studies or just to add insight to an area of interest.
University of Utah OpenCourseWare – Provides access to free and open educational resources for faculty members, students, and self-learners throughout the world.
United States Nation Archives – The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation’s record keeper.  Valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.
Wikiversity – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
UMass Boston OpenCourseWare – Various online classes provided free by UMass Boston.
About U – A collection of free online educational courses from About.com.
Academic Earth – Online degrees and video courses from leading universities.
Free-Ed – Clusters of courses that support your preparation for today’s fastest-growing careers and critical academic disciplines.
Connexions – A place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc. Anyone may view or contribute.
TED – Motivational and educational lectures from noteworthy professionals around the world.
Intute – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities.
Boston College Front Row – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.

FREE BOOKS AND READING RECOMMENDATIONS

LibraryThing – LibraryThing connects you to other people who are reading what you’re reading and allows you to see which books are popular in various categories of reading.
Textbook Revolution – Links to free online textbooks and other educational materials.
Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.
Bookboon – Bookboon provides online textbooks for students in PDF format. The free ebooks can be downloaded without registration. Our books are legal and written exclusively for Bookboon. They are financed by a few in-book ads.
Scribd – Scribd, the online document sharing site which supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other popular formats. You can download a document or embed it in your blog or web page.
BookYards – BookYards is a web portal in which books, education materials, information, and content will be freely to anyone who has an internet connection.
Planet eBook – Free classic literature to download and share.
E-Books Directory – Thousands of ebooks on various subjects to download and share.
Read Print Library – Free online books library for students, teachers, and the classic enthusiast.GoodReads – Get great book recommendations and keep track of what you want to read.
The Online Books Page – University of Pennsylvania database with over 30,000 books.
Public Literature – Thousands of familiar classics, children’s books, plays and poems, as well as books by new authors.
Full Books – Thousands of full-text nonfiction and fiction books.
Many Books – Free fiction and nonfiction ebooks for your PDA, iPod or ebook reader.
Get Free Books – Thousands of free ebooks to download.
Project Gutenberg – More than 20,000 free books from the first producer of free e-books.
Bibliomania – Thousands of classic books, poems, short stories and plays.
Classic Reader – Large collection of free classic books, plays, and short stories from more than 300 authors.
Bartleby Fiction – Classic anthologies and volumes.
The Personal MBA Recommended Reading List – MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work.  The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research.
Books Should Be Free – Free audio books from the public domain.

EDUCATIONAL MAINSTREAM BROADCAST MEDIA

BBC Learning – Online learning, support, and advice. This site offers internal and offsite links to a vast amount of materials.
Biography – The site holds videos to past interviews and biographies on people in topics that range from Black history to women’s history.
Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.
CBC Archives — Relive Canadian history through thousands of available radio and television clips.
Discovery — This channel is home to several different networks that focus on the military, animals, travel, etc. The Discovery site offers a “Video of the Day” from its home page, a separate online video section, and a Discover Education center where teachers can accumulate materials for K-12 teaching. It’s impossible to list all their offerings here, so go discover!
History Channel – Visit the Video Gallery for a selection on historical topics. Like the Discovery Channel, this network provides many opportunities for you to gain access to information and reference materials.
NOVA — Watch current science shows or browse by category. PBS sponsors this channel.
Research Channel — Speakers, researchers and professors present revolutionary thoughts and discoveries. Use their Webstreams and an extensive video-on-demand library for research.
Weather Channel – You can learn about weather all over the world, but the Weather Channel also offers dynamic content based upon seasons and special conditions and a special multimedia and education section.

ONLINE ARCHIVES

American Memory – The Library of Congress provides extensive multimedia offerings on various topics through their American Memory Collection, including their outstanding Built in America project that showcases historical buildings through photographs.
Fathom – This archive, provided by Columbia University, offers access to the complete range of free content developed for Fathom by its member institutions. The archives include online learning resources including lectures, articles, interviews, exhibits and seminars.
Internet Archive Open Educational Resources – A digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.
National Archives – Provides primary source materials from NARA along with lesson plans for teaching with those sources.
National Climatic Data Center – The NCDC, a division of NOAA, maintains climatic archives, including lists of storms in given counties, and records about global extremes, etc.
The Rosetta Project – A global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers building a publicly accessible online archive of all documented human languages.
September 11 Digital Archive – This site uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. Census Bureau – If you think the Census Bureau is all about numbers, you might be surprised to learn about their archived photographs, daily radio features, and more available through theirNewsroom.

DIRECTORIES OF OPEN EDUCATION

Google Scholar – Provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
OpenCourseWare Consortium – This site provides a portal to search through hundreds of free courses or to add new courses you know about to the database.
iBerry – Check out this site for a huge directory of open courseware organized by school and subject matter that can point you in the right direction for any type of learning.
Self Made Scholar Directory – Free online directory of web-based classes and courses.