Though I am constantly reading — skimming, bookmarking on Scoop.It, or otherwise digesting — scholarship on critical and digital pedagogy, some pieces of journalism give me better access to the most important narratives. Joshua Davis’s cover story in last week’s Wired, “How A Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses,” is a great example. It documents the pedagogical experiments of Sergio Juárez Correa, a fifth-grade math teacher in Matamoros, Mexico, who is combining experiential learning and curiosity-based inquiry in his classes with what sounds like great success.
The article demonstrates organic and invigorating transitions from Juárez Correa’s classroom practices to his reading of Sugata Mitra’s “nook in the wall” computer experiments in India; from Western education’s century of increased reliance on testing to cognitive science experiments conducted by University of Louisville and MIT. Most relevant to my own research interests, it proves how digital and connected learning networks (Mitra’s experiments led to published research and a TED Talk that Juárez Correa used to drastically revise his pedagogy) can lead to liberatory, progressive educational change even in a classroom without a computer.
Though most of us involved in the research and practice of critical pedagogy know that this kind of practice is not “new” (it just has to seem to new to justify a magazine cover story), the article represents what we rarely see in education: outside attention focused on the right things, the right directions.
From the article:
Kids just across the border in Brownsville, Texas, had laptops, high-speed Internet, and tutoring, while in Matamoros the students had intermittent electricity, few computers, limited Internet, and sometimes not enough to eat.
“But you do have one thing that makes you the equal of any kid in the world,” Juárez Correa said. “Potential.”
He looked around the room. “And from now on,” he told them, “we’re going to use that potential to make you the best students in the world.”
Paloma was silent, waiting to be told what to do. She didn’t realize that over the next nine months, her experience of school would be rewritten, tapping into an array of educational innovations from around the world and vaulting her and some of her classmates to the top of the math and language rankings in Mexico.
“So,” Juárez Correa said, “what do you want to learn?”
Wired published a companion story for anyone interested in providing support to “the burgeoning student-centered style of learning and teaching.”