TED Conversations

Megan Summers

Impact Entrepreneurship Group


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Is the internet, not formal education, the new great equalizer?

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. – Horace Mann


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    Oct 7 2011: I framed this question on Mr. K's Classroom (Facebook) as: "Should we be putting our resources towards 'internet for all', rather than trying to provide a formal education for all? The Classroom thinks so."

    We have limited resources and formal education is expensive. I love the comments about Sugata Mitra's S.O.L.E.'s and hearing people acknowledge the unique qualities every human being brings to this world. We are born learners, we create structure and meaning for ourselves from the time we are born. We are then conditioned by what is known as 'formal education' - it's beginning earlier and earlier in people's lives. We're conditioned to think the way we're told to think, and know the things we're told are important for our future. But we can determine relevance through observation, and we are keen observers until that talent is destroyed by schooling. We determine relevance through meaningful social interactions, but we're often asked to push those interactions to the end of our day, when our 'learning' is done. I know there are thousands of incredible teachers around the world who don't embrace the destruction of our natural talents and individuality, but who still feel stifled by a formal education system demanding standardization and 'basic skills'.

    In the future, we will learn through connection to the actual world, not The Classroom. We will structure our environments so that young people can both learn and contribute to the world around the them, much as young people did for thousands of years before formal education came into existence. Having access to the internet deserves our attention - trying to get kids around the world into a 'formal classroom' does not. Do we need educators to act as guides, servants, explainers, coaches, mentors, etc.? Of course we do. Do we need to bring people of all ages, across all nations, together to learn what they are most driven to learn? Without a doubt.

    I'm an educator. I don't need a formal school.

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