Teaching programming using SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment)

Further to my previous post on teaching Scratch in schools I'm wondering whether I can use a different approach, called SOLE, to encourage more independent learning and creativity.

SOLE stands for Self Organised Learning Environment, where self = the student. So the children drive the learning, with the 'teacher' asking an interesting question to get things started, setting out the process and basically staying out of the way as much as possible.

Sugata Mitra has popularised this approach (through research and TED talks), here's a great introduction: http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

How it works

The room is set up with a computer with internet access for each group of students.

First the teacher asks an interesting question to direct the learning (see below)

There are some simple rules:
  • Students need to form small groups (of about 4) — they can choose their own groups and change groups at any time.
  • Children can look to see what other groups are doing and take that information back to their own group
  • They should be ready to present their answers back to the class at the end of the session

Asking big questions

To kick off each SOLE session I need to set a question that the students will research. These should be open ended, difficult questions (so no 'yes/no' questions). For example:
  • Is a computer intelligent? Can it trick you into thinking it's a human?
  • How fast are your visual reactions? 
  • How fast are your listening reactions?
  • How long do you need to see something to recognise it?
  • What makes a computer game addictive?


It seems that the collaborative nature of the SOLE approach is key, and this is much more effective than each student working alone with their own computer. We'll see how this works out in the classroom, I'll report back once I've given it a try.



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