MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 25, 2013

Sadler kids study learning with SOLE

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— One question leads to another for Margaret Wagner’s gifted/talented students at Sadler Arts Academy.

When sixth-grader Anna Mix wondered “Do different eye colors see differently,” classmates began asking other questions: Can colored contacts affect vision? Can eye color change through a lifetime or with surgery?

Nine Sadler fifth- and sixth-graders are participating in a Self Organized Learning Environment, or SOLE. The program encourages students to ask academic questions and do Internet or computer-based research, said Melony Carey, Muskogee Public Schools gifted/talented coordinator.

Carey said the program is part of the “School in the Cloud” online research project headed by educational researcher Sugata Mitra. She said Mitra conducted a research project in India in which he put computers in a hole in a wall, then watched slum children play with it, search websites, even learn English. Mitra is studying how school children around the world can learn through self-motivated Internet research, Wagner said.

Wagner said her gifted/talented students, who meet Mondays after school, have had their Self Organized Learning Environment for about three weeks. Students generate big questions, such as “Where did music come from” or “How do my eyes know to cry when I’m sad.”

“When students generate the question, the learning becomes more personal and resonates more deeply with the individual,” Wagner said in a media release.

Students in Wagner’s class often shout answers when they find them.

Max Rosson, who asked about the origins of music, said “There was a bear thigh bone with holes in it. It goes back 43,000 years to 82,000 years.”

However, as he did more research, he discovered the information might not be correct.

“People have different opinions on it,” Max said.

Wagner said students must go beyond one source of information and are not to simply rely on Wikipedia.

Classmates helping Anna answer her question about eye color read that people with darker eyes tend to be better at hitting balls, playing defense in football or boxing. People with lighter eyes tend to excel in hitting golf balls, throwing baseballs or bowling.

Sixth-grader Hannah Plumlee said her group came up with 10 questions on the first day.

“You end up learning 100,000 things before you get your question answered,” Hannah said.

Information about Self Organized Learning Environments said students spend the first few minutes of each session posing questions, a majority of the sessions investigating answers and 10 to 20 minutes reviewing and discussing what they learned.

Wagner said she submits what her students are doing and learning to Mitra’s blog.

Irving Elementary gifted/talented teacher Mellissa Agee is conducting the study at Irving as well.

“The kids ate it up,” Agee said in a media release.

Parents also are encouraged to try the SOLE platform with their children, Carey said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.