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Using Self Organized Learning Environments In The Classroom

A Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) is an educational strategy which was formulated by Sugata Mitra. Coined in 1999, the approach was formalized after his famous Hole In The Wall experiments. The experiments involved ‘holes’ in the walls of underprivileged areas of India in which computers with internet access were placed. Children of all ages were naturally led to these ‘holes’ who soon got accustomed to the operations of computers and the internet without any external instruction. It is one of the most effective strategies to boost student’s learning capabilities and their ability to think critically. Within classrooms, self organized learning environments can be organized in a variety of different ways.

Philosophy Of Self Organized Learning Environment

It is important to understand the educational philosophy that governs any self organized learning environment. SOLE is not about making learning happen. Rather, it’s about letting it happen. The instructor’s role is to facilitate and mediate the interactions students have with each other if absolutely necessary.

SOLE In Practice

A self organized learning environment has three parts:

  1. The posing of a question
  2. Setting time for children to research online
  3. Review and discussion sessions

Divide students into groups and allow each group a source of information. This can either be the internet, a book such as an encyclopedia or their own notes from some previous lecture. The discussions students have among themselves greatly boost their cognition and their understanding of the topics.

SOLE In The Classroom

In order to successfully conduct self organized learning environments within the classroom, you can follow certain tips to improve their effectiveness. Read them below:

Use SOLE For New Concepts

SOLE is used to introduce new concepts. It generates great interest within your students’ minds. A student’s understanding of the topic greatly improves. It is recommended that you use it once a week for the first three weeks when introducing new subjects.

Ask a ‘big question’. Allow your students to answer it. Write it on the board and spend about two minutes explaining it. Your students can have the remaining time to work on the problem themselves.

Use Group Flexibility

Your students should be free to switch groups. Allow them to join groups where they feel comfortable. If they feel comfortable, their curiosity will naturally drive their research in the right direction.

Make Resources Available

It is highly important that relevant resources be available to students during a SOLE session. This is because if they don’t know where to look, they’ll go in circles. Having a dedicated source of information for the SOLE question will allow them to make conclusions based on evidence rather than intuition.

Resist The Urge To Intervene

It might come as a surprise, but it’s highly important that you do not intervene. Intervention means you’re not allowing their imaginations to run wild. It is imperative that they indulge in the problem-solving themselves.

Review Their Methods

At the end of the SOLE session, tell the class to group together and present their findings. Ask them to talk about their investigative journey and what the thought process was during the session. You should not add your personal opinions at this point. If you think some students are not answering the question and are off topic, ask them to think carefully. Do not correct them or approve their answers in any case. Your stance as an instructor should be neutral during this review period.

Summarize Their Findings

Summarize the class’s findings and ask them of their opinions. Tell them to share what they would do differently if given another chance. Ask them to come up with rooms of improvement. Ask students about what they feel about the answers of other groups.

Troubleshooting Tips

As with any group activity, challenges occur. Your role as an instructor should be to moderate and not intervene within their research process. Typical issues during SOLE sessions in classrooms involve some participants not actively sharing the workload. Groups squabbling over computer availability. Arguments erupting within groups. It is better to intervene in an impartial way. Students need to learn to solve their problems without the help of adults as well.

To Sum Up

SOLE is a very effective teaching method to train young minds to think. Cognitive abilities and reasoning skills are very important for students to learn. With SOLE, students learn how to cooperate, deduce and present their findings in a logical and consistent manner. This teaching method allows them to learn how to come up with answers on their own. They learn independence and more importantly – learn how to learn. If you’re managing SOLE sessions, you can use online tools like KeyboardingOnline to keep things fun and engaging. Students can brush up their typing skills alongside their research skills.