Course 1 New Media literacies Self Organized Learning Environment

How radical / risk-taking do I want to be / can I be?

… to try new things in new ways??

Probably most of you already heart about Sugata Mitra and his great experiments in India. What a smart idea to give children some computer, leave them with a question and see what will happen:

Sugata Mitra – Here a great TED talk:

As a result of his experiments over the last 10 years he developed a concept about how to set up his ideas of teaching and learning: SOLE – Self Organized Learning Environment. You get ideas to set up a classroom, to give them good questions to inquire into, you get an idea of the role of the teacher and a student manager as well as some examples of results of the students.

The video and SOLE made me think a lot about Grade 5 (Exhibition) – Sharing the Planet. In German we decided as a team to integrate with Ecosystems, more or less like an own unit. From the beginning I felt hesitation. It’s so hard for me this time to make it meaningful for them. We decided it’s meaningful because Grade 5 haven’t done enough Science before they will move to middle school. Not a good reason in my opinion. The TuningIn was already quite difficult for me and for them as well. Most of them found questions but 2 students mentioned that they know already “everything”. A sign for me?

Again: How radical can I be? I’m tempted to just give them the laptops and few main questions (Lines of Inquiry) regarding ecosystems and follow the idea of a self organized learning environment. I could think about my students and even differentiate the questions depending on their level of German. Although I’m pretty sure that they are able to find answers anyways.
Must – question:
How does a ecosystem look like?! (FORM)
How does a ecosystem work?! (FUNCTION)
Answer at least one question:
How is it connected to other thing? (CONNECTION)
How does it change? (CHANGE)
Present the results which shows your understanding and which you can share with others.
But: Will it be more meaningful for the students? It might become more meaningful because they determine the way of learning, their interests and also pace of learning.
How much do I risk?
How much do I risk if I fail?
How can I explain and justify to my colleagues that I want to try new things in a new way?
Thanks to a train trip from Padova to Munich I had a lot of time to think … and I really would appreciate some thoughts from you! Thanks!
 Update (04.05.2013)
So I took the risk and it was a learning for me and for them. I showed them (Grade 5) the following picture:
N.d. Photograph. Iexperten. Web.
After that they got clear instructions regarding building the groups, the inquiry questions, the links and search engines for information as well as the form of presentation.
They were able to describe that it is their responsibility to take over ownership about their learning.
I observed students who were able to build teams, to work in teams (3/4 of them) and it was a very positive and most of the time productive working atmosphere in the classroom.
The student manager took her job very serious. She documented the team work by taking pictures, how and where students were searching on the internet, how they took notes and what form of presentation they choose. Almost all students went to her if there was any issue. She also is producing a document which shows her reflection. I’ll use this document for reflection.
The students choose different kind of presentation forms which motivated them a lot.
I just had a quick reflection on the work starting with the following question:
Was there anything which was difficult during the inquiry? And actually the students confirmed my concerns and my observation:
It was difficult to find the information.
It was difficult to understand the information.
It was difficult to write the notes.
It was difficult to put the understanding in own words (verbal and non-verbal).
My outcome / questions are:
Reading comprehension is a very, very important skill. What are the reading strategies for reading on the internet? Are they different or the same?
At what age should students be able to search on the internet for information?
How does a good framework/scaffolding for becoming a good searcher look like? Does something like this exist already? When to start?
Anybody any experiences to share???
That is enough for the beginning. My mind goes crazy at the moment. On Wednesday I go a step back and I’ll give them a text on paper – let’s see what the outcome will be.

6 replies on “How radical / risk-taking do I want to be / can I be?”

I had a chance to hear Sugata Mitra. He is indeed very inspiring. I remember him saying that each time a teacher jumped up, the kids would “freeze” so a part of SOLO is where the teacher keeps out of their way. That sounds great in theory but how could I justify doing that if someone walked into my classroom? There’s always this big gap between theory and practice and it would be nice to see someone model for us how it would look like. Let us know how your students do.



I recently had visitors to my class while we were working on a SOLE project. They were blown away by the amount of independence and work the students were doing on their own. The questions the students had made the visitors wonder who came up with them. The discussion by the students in the next part left the visitors with open mouths and dropped jaws. When my students proposed their own theories about what and how the earth would move out of its orbit the guests felt compelled to ask questions of their own. I have a Grade 4/5 class


Reading this, I would love to visit your classroom as well. Meanwhile I quite convinced that children are able to learn in a Self Organized Learning Environment. We as teachers might have not enough courage yet … And the students need some guidance and a frame – not regarding topic, rather regarding learning strategies (searching, reading, note taking, etc.). We are thinking about “iTime” at school where the students get some time to inquirer into something they are really interested into. Small steps, I guess.


Unfortunately I don’t have enough courage yet! You are so true about how can I justify doing nothing – we both know that it is not about doing nothing. Opposite is the case. And additionally as a language teacher how can it be part of it? Thanks for encouraging me anyways …


So glad you took the risk.

Grade 5 students I think should be getting close to being expert researchers. It is a skill that needs to be taught and from what they listed as difficulties then need to be taught the skill.

– Did they know they can filter results by reading level?
– Did they know they can filter results by time it was published?
– Do they know how to find good reliable information in all formats?

Here is a lesson plan that I have created and shared that you can take and adapt to hopefully give you a starting point. Feel free to use the other lesson plans as well to scaffold up or down.

3-5 Lesson:
6-8 Lesson:


Thanks for giving me the feedback, Jeff. Honestly, I waited kind of for it because I had 2 very frustrating lessons with my Grade 5. Few weeks ago I did a lesson with them on how to create good search words. For showing the their understanding they produced a little movie like the RSA Events. During the lessons this week I observed them doing it but it was still very difficult for them to find good information, to actually understand the information, to take notes and to put it in own words. I came to the realisation that the problem is somewhere else. They were not able to read and understand the text. There might have been different reasons: too difficult for my German-as-a-additional-language students; it was too difficult to transfer their knowledge of the reading strategies from the homeroom to German; it was just not meaningful; the language of the text was to difficult; it might have been to abstract even for the German students, … 😦
Does it really make sense that they search on the Internet for information if they are not able to comprehend the information?!

They should know all those possibilities you are mentioning above, although on the German version of Google you can’t set the reading level. 😦

And your comment/questions on
What are the strategies for reading on the web?
Are we teaching these to our students? … made me really think!

My plan – check the reading curriculum for the homeroom teacher, revise/adapt it for the German Department and also think about the strategies for reading on the web. Let’s see. 🙂


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