pete rorabaugh

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The experiments of Sergio Juárez Correa

6792101712_660955393cThough 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.”

Photo courtesy of mrsdkebs on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.


2 responses to “The experiments of Sergio Juárez Correa”

  1. Kevin Young Avatar
    Kevin Young

    I was very interested in this article. I teach on the American side of a border town at a community college with a student population that is about 80% Hispanic. There is high poverty and unemployment in our area, and the public school system seems to produce students very unprepared for college (or at least those are the students that come to our community college). I keep trying to do more for the students, but maybe I am being more harmful than helpful. Based on the scores on tests I give I would say I am not doing much good. I would like to hear how someone is following a similar approach in a college-level science class–I am looking for a model to follow.

  2. Eduardo Casanova Avatar

    I would like if possible to obtain an e-mail address to stay in touch with Mr. Sergio Juarez Correa. I am so interested in have a conversation with him.

    Please let me know if you have this information.

    Kind Regards,

    Eduardo Casanova.

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