Not the filling of a pail

Sugata Mitra is not without his critics. Donald Clark has a blog post casting doubt on Mitra’s “utopian vision”. Beginning by noting the prevalence of disused or vandalised “Hole-in-the-Wall” sites,

Mitra2 Donald Clark

Source: Donald Clark Plan B Blog

Clark goes on to discuss the issue of sustainability; concerns with funding; weaknesses in the underlying research, the fallacy that schools are obsolete; the necessity for adult mediation; the low level of learning actually involved; and the real possibility of social isolation and exclusion in the self-organised environment.
Other criticisms of Mitra and his theories are even more extensive and merit a level of review not possible here. That said, perhaps the best of those I have read come from Torn Halves on The Digital Counter-Revolution blog. Anyone who titles a post “Is Sir Ken Robinson a Luddite?” is worth a look. There are several on Mitra – what follows is by no means a complete list:

Second Thoughts: Teachers

All my teachers to date have been real, not virtual. It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that they were all inspirational, but I would be equally dishonest if I claimed that my behaviour in class was always exemplary. The best teachers, in convent school and later diocesan boarding school, I remember with fondness even now: Ms. Watson who taught us English; Mr. Fahy who taught us Irish and History; and Mr. Glennon who patiently labored to teach us Maths, and in his spare time how to program in BASIC on an Apple II.

Denis Glennon

Denis Glennon
Source: The Longford Leader

I suspect that Mr Glennon was a little ahead of his time in 1982 – and certainly ahead of Mr. Mitra’s – in introducing a computer into a 4th year classroom. It was W.B. Yeats who, echoing Plutarch, noted that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” For better or worse Mr Glennon is one of the reasons I went on to study electronic engineering.