Paloma Noyola Bueno, a Mexican girl of 12 years of age, has been hailed as the next Steve Jobs by media recently. What is impressive is not only that, but what has led her to being considered as such: a new teaching method which could create a wave of child geniuses in Mexico and the world.
“Wired” magazine was the first one to report on this news. Paloma received international recognizion for her great math skills, obtaining the highest score on the “link” test, a diagnostic test that is applied in all of Mexico to measure the level of education. How did she reach this level of knowledge?
Just like Paloma, her classmates and school have increased their knowledge level in one year thanks to a great teaching technique implemented by the teacher Sergio Juarez Correa, who after 5 years of teaching, decided that it was time to look for new strategies while observing his students boredom during each lesson and sharing that feeling with them.
It was then that Juarez Correa adopted a teaching method implemented by the teacher Sugata Mitra, teacher at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom. This consisted of making a question without answering, and teaching how to find the solution, so that kids could fin the result based on their own curiosity and self-teaching.
The experiment started in India at the end of the 90s. Mitra delivered a computer with access to the internet to a group of kids, and without any instructions left the classroom. Later on he observed that the children had learned to use the device, and with that they had gotten access to a whole world of information.
Mitra proved that combining the benefits of the digital age in the classroom was a great way to create an incentive for knowledge in children. Which is the same thing the teacher Sergio Juarez Correa replicated.
After answering his students curiosity with research he did on the internet, based on lectures, videos and other materials, the difficulties which the group had were completely left behind: a school located in one of the cities with the highest crime rate in Mexico, located near a dumpster and sewage, limited access to electricity, computers and internet, with some students even malnourished.
Paloma stood out for being one of the first to answer the teacher's questions and it was there where she discovered her potential. She said to the teacher that no one had shown their aptitudes before because no one had ever made learning interesting. Before this method, Paloma had followed the same education model which is used across the country: read, memorize and work; she understood everything so easily with this method that she quickly lost interest in the matter.
In 1970 it was defined that citizens needed to count with 3 aptitudes: reading, writing and performing mathematical operations. Today the factors have changed, and the necessary aptitudes are: knowing how to work as a team, problem resolution and interpersonal skills.
Sugata Mitra's research has shown that with access to information we change our way of communicating, processing information as well as thinking. With this you can develop new aptitudes necessary for the modern age: the ability to innovate, be creative and capable of independent thought.
This new teaching method is based on the students curiosity, where his or her passion will lead to the answers and in the long run, a better way of achieving their potential, resultiong in the creation of new geniuses.
It is really early to know if Paloma will or won't be the next Steve Jobs, the work done by Wired did not give enough parameters in order to compare the minds of both of them, but it did highlight that Paloma's case is not unique and that changing the teaching and learning paradigm could cause a global change. Education both in Mexico and the United States could benefit in a great way from this new teaching proposal.