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Dr James B. Stanfield


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Want students to learn for themselves without any direct instruction?

Self Organized Learning Environments

Marker Newcastle, UK
In Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), small groups of children are given a big question as a provocation and left to use the internet to work together to answer it.

What are Self Organized Learning Environments?

Dr James B. Stanfield
“As teachers we tend to put a lid on learning, but with a big question there are no limits.”

Helen Moyer, Teacher Isle of Man

SOLEs grew from Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment in New Delhi which recognised the potential for self-organised learning. This developed into the understanding that with access to the internet groups of children can learn almost anything by themselves. From India, the idea spread to the UK, then to the US and beyond. Today 100s of schools across the world are engaged in this global experiment of self-organised learning.

In a SOLE, the educator poses a ‘Big Question’ to fire up the children’s curiosity and imagination. Without an easy answer, Big Questions reach across many disciplines and subjects to provide a deep, meaningful context for exploration. The students organise themselves into small groups and work collaboratively to find an answer using the Internet.

Developing 21st-century skills such as digital literacy and critical thinking is a key element of SOLE. As students search the Internet, they begin to distinguish the information that is valid and useful from the information that isn’t. Through debate and discussion, students synthesise the information they’ve gathered and present their findings to their peers.  


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Intended Outcomes
Target Group
Resources Needed
Any teacher anywhere can do this as long as they have access to the internet & a computer.
HundrED Criteria
All you need is broadband, collaboration and encouragement. It’s then fascinating to see how much children can learn themselves without any direct instruction. There are no limits to this approach which makes it very exciting!
The impact has been wide-ranging. Teachers have been inspired to find new enquiry-based ways to encourage students to work together, solve problems and become more engaged in learning with minimal intervention from the teachers themselves. SOLEs have also resulted in changing the attitudes and practices of teachers, head teachers, education policy makers, education experts and private companies. This impact culminated in the 2013 award to Mitra of the annual TED prize ($1million).
Hundreds of schools across the world are taking part in a global experiment in self-organised learning. Countries known to be running their own SOLE projects include: USA, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Greece, South Africa, Bulgaria & Japan.

See this innovation in action.

Self Organized Learning. conceptul e interesant
Bogdan Badiu


Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Big Question
In the Question Phase, the educator introduces the Big Question and shares some background or a short story around the question.
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From this moment, the educator simply let’s the adventure begin!
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Each group now presents their discoveries.
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Connect with the innovator

Dr James B. Stanfield
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