New York City, Oct. 8, 2014 – An innovative 21st century approach to learning, gaining traction globally and recognized at last year’s prestigious TED conference, is coming to New York City on Oct. 9th. Called SOLE, (self-organized learning environments), the session will be conducted with 20 eighth grade students from New York City’s JHS 13 Central Park East Middle School, providing an opportunity to create an online community where students can explore and learn from one another.

SOLEs are part of a global experiment called “School in a Cloud” which is being led by Newcastle University and was borne out of Professor Mitra’s TED Prize wish for children to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together using the Internet. Professor Mitra’s work focuses on the power that students can bring to their own learning.

In a SOLE session, students are given one big idea to explore together. For this New York City group, the coordinators have selected the questions, “what is SOLE?” and “What is a family?” The session is supported by Teq, a leading educational technology company, and SMART Technologies, a leading provider of collaboration solutions. It will be lead by Natalia Arredondo, a PhD student based at Newcastle University, UK, who is researching the impact of SOLEs on learning. She has worked extensively with Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, UK.

“A SOLE – or self organized learning environment – allows learning to happen anywhere by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and ability to work together,” said Arredondo.

“Engagement is the key to student learning. SOLEs allow for students to take initiative by tapping into their interests and their yearning to wrap their minds around real life issues. Through the use of technology, specifically the internet, and creative planning, students experience the power they can bring to their own learning,” said Jacob Michelman, principal JHS 13 Central Park East Middle School. “It is wonderful to be a part of this self-regulated learning as we have already witnessed a new level of excitement in our students.”

In the SOLE session in New York City, the students will be using SMART amp software, a cloud-based solution. It is the ‘glue’ that connects interactive displays, PCs, laptops, and tablets while enabling teachers and students to collaborate in real time, do in-class assessment, connect to shared digital workspaces and interact with Web-based learning materials regardless of location or device.

“We see SOLE as being a very exciting new teaching approach, and are thrilled to support educators as they create these transformative learning opportunities for students,” said Geri Resta, Teq’s VP for Grants and Funding. “We have been supporting the SOLE movement for the past 18 months, working directly with Newcastle University, and in developing multiple federal grants that focus on implementing SOLE, including an Institute of Education Services grant for Newcastle.”

Last year, Teq supported a SOLE session that brought together students from Stimson Middle School, South Huntington, NY (Long Island) with students from a high school in the UK, and one in New Jersey, to answer big questions, such as “What was ancient Egypt really like?”

Professor Mitra’s SOLE experiments all over the world demonstrate how students’ curiosities and experiences, supported by the Internet as a research tool, could revolutionize how we think about teaching. Left to their own devices, children can teach themselves and learn from each other when motivated by curiosity, peer interest and big questions.

About Teq
Dedicated to championing the evolution of the modern classroom, Teq has provided solutions to improve student learning since 1972. Its professional development team of more than 23 education professionals works closely to empower educators, leverage and improve technology integration, and increase student achievement and success in the Common Core curriculum. Teq provides clients with a unique blend of experienced service, innovative products, and incomparable support while fostering passion and creativity in the twenty-first century learning environment.

About SMART Technologies
SMART Technologies Inc. is a leading provider of technology solutions that enable inspired collaboration in schools and workplaces around the world by turning group work into a highly interactive, engaging and productive experience. SMART delivers integrated solutions of hardware, software and services designed for superior performance and ease of use, and remains a world leader in interactive displays.

About Newcastle University, UK
Newcastle University, UK has a world-class reputation for research excellence and is dedicated to addressing big societal issues. The concept of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) and the School in the Cloud are based on over a decade of research carried out by Professor Sugata Mitra and his colleagues in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences. We continue to support this research in various ways to help make Professor Mitra’s TED Prize wish a reality.

About the Author:

Abi Mandelbaum

Abi Mandelbaum is CEO of YouVisit.