Taking Mitra’s SOLE into the Classroom

By Jim Parker, 4th Grade Teacher, Boulder Campus

Our students are naturally curious and gregarious in absorbing new information. In 4th grade, we begin to bring in the power of the internet into our research space. Inspired by Sugata Mitra’s TED talk, we have begun experimenting with the SOLE format to structure some of our classroom learning.

The students have been investigating a wide-range of topics and open-ended questions. The key seems to be to craft a good opening question. In 4th grade so far we have asked questions such as

Was the color orange named after the fruit? or vice versa?

Who were the Ancestral Puebloans?

Can animals think?

The learning, of course, goes beyond the topic of the question. While our students are collaborating they are working on critical thinking skills (Is this a good resource? Is it useful?) and group dynamics (Who gets to hold the mouse? Who decides what websites we will visit? What if we disagree?).

Our students have just begun scratching the surface of what we can do with the power of the internet. In our society we (or at least our children) commonly see the web as an entertainment app. We are slowly building in the capacity to see the internet as the key to learning just about any topic they are passionate about.