Technology, Child-Driven Education and Language Learning

by multilingualmania on December 8, 2010

in Language Learning

“If children have interest, then education happens”.

Today I attended a workshop on the effective use of technology in the classroom and we watched a really interesting video about children and technology given by Sugata Mitra at a Ted conference. Mitra performed a number of experiments with children and technology in remote towns throughout the world such as India, South Africa, Italy, Cambodia and other countries. He started off with placing a computer in a town in India where children did not know English, had never seen a computer and had no knowledge of the concept of the internet. Almost immediately, children began to work together to record music and download graphics from the internet.

Mitra then programmed computers with a speech to text interface, where the computer was programmed to recognize and transcribe a neutral British accent. Children with heavy accents in English attempted to use the program and the program initially did not recognize their accents. After leaving them alone with the computer for two months, their accents noticeably changed to match the British accent that the computer recognized. In other experiments throughout the world, teachers began to report that children began googling their homework and their proficiency in the English language dramatically improved.

In Italy Mitra wrote questions exclusively in English on the board and children immediately began to work together to use google translate in order to translate the question into Italian and search for information on the internet. The role of student-student interaction and collaboration was key in independently using technological resources to instruct themselves.

The question that we should be asking ourselves is: Are we using technology to aid in second language acquisition? Do we allow children the freedom and independence to guide their own learning and investigations? Or, are most of us in the educational community technologically illiterate ourselves and afraid to relinquish technological control to students?

Check out the video:

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