This weekend I attended an education conference sponsored by
One Laptop Per Child. One of the presenters made an interesting comment “we
know how to educate children...the technology (computers) is satisfying
different needs". Traditional education begins worldwide at five years old and
focuses on memorization as the principal methodology. Why do we start at five
years old? At that age the brain is capable of reading, as discussed by Stanislas Dehaene in Reading in the Brain. Basically our experiences showed us when humans could begin to read and science confirmed this conclusion about four thousand years after we
The next speaker up talked about teaching and the fact that
humans are the only animals capable of teaching. In fact humans demonstrate
teaching skills at 2-3 years old, as confirmed by scientific research described by Antonio Battro. We
learn to teach before we learn to read. This development path suggests that
in teaching young children we should perhaps be focusing on their own abilities
as teachers more and rely less on their ability to read.
If you think about the true objectives of teaching they are arguably to encourage creativity, foster better reasoning and
develop collaboration skills. This method of teaching is what OLPC develops
through the use of its computers. The computer is satisfying the higher level
needs of creativity, reasoning and collaboration of the young "teachers" which may go unsatisfied in a
memorization approach to learning. Now for the
big inter-disciplinary leap…at least for me...to entrepreneurship.
Many of us traditionally focus on science and technology as a
means to satisfy a customer need. However, as the example above shows, science
highlighted the human need. The research on the human brain shows that teaching
abilities precede reading abilities. We have built an education system to
satisfy a need perhaps based on the wrong premises, as shown by the pure
science. Education should be encouraging the teacher in all of us more and the reader less (or maybe later).
Note: (1) One technique for finding breakthrough ideas is to look at where different disciplines intersect. The three disciplines examined here are pure science (biology), education and entrepreneurship. I do not assume that there are any great thoughts here but the post may illustrates the potential power of the methodology; (2) for parents with children that have reading and dyslexia issues Reading in the Brain may be helpful.