Free Thinkers by Joshua Davis – Inspirational Case Study

Free Thinkers by Joshua Davis from the Nov. 2013 issue of Wired Magazine tells how a teacher in a Mexican border town converted his classroom from the factory model of the 1800’s to one drawing on modern research with amazing results. It’s an inspirational case study featuring a special teacher and student that all school leaders need to pay attention to. The author (@JoshusDavisNow) is a contributing editor for Wired and has written 30 feature articles for the magazine.

The Setting

  • José Urbina López Primary School sits next to a dump in Matamoros, Mexico. It’s a city of almost half a million, and a flash point in the drug war. Shoot-outs are common as are bodies in the street. The school was known as a place of punishment. Students sat in rows and listened as teachers doled out knowledge that they were expected to parrot back. Sergio Juárez Correa taught such classes for five years when he realized that they were a wast of time.
  • In 2011 he started to experiment. He was inspired by the work of Sugata MItra who gave children in India access to computers without instruction. What he found is that they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things. Even though Sergio had no computers, he was still able to give his student much more control of their learning.

Problems With Our System

  • The current system in the US generates hundreds of thousands of dropouts, and one third of those who do graduate from high school are not prepared for college. The dominant model of public education is rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it. Conversely, children are motivated by curiosity and playfulness and teach themselves a tremendous amount when left to their own means. In sort, human cognitive machinery is incompatible with conventional schooling. Children soon learn that their questions don’t matter, which is not the way natural selection designed us to learn. If you don’t control your learning, you simply won’t learn as well.
  • Since schools were invented, the top three skills have been reading, writing, and arithmetic. Today in the real world, they are teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. In response, a new breed of educators are inventing new ways for children to learn, grow and thrive. Knowledge is no longer a commodity that is delivered, but something that emerges from exploration. The idea is to create ways for children to discover their passion.
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