A prominent American technology magazine recently made a bold declaration splashed across its glossy covers in newsstands nationwide. They had discovered the “next Steve Jobs,” a prodigy with the potential to revolutionize how we live our lives by thinking creatively, differently about the world. Where do you think this wunderkind was discovered? Who do you picture when you read this headline?
Maybe the young CEO of an internet start-up. Perhaps a bright student from one of the top universities in the world, or even a high school whiz kid at a prestigious secondary academy. Maybe he taught himself to code, hacked websites, and conducted chemistry experiments in his basement as a teenager.
But would you have expected the next Steve Jobs to be a 12 year-old girl from a school where there is hardly enough food, let alone laptops, to go around; in a community where food security is more of a concern than internet connectivity?
The next Steve Jobs is Paloma Noyola Bueno of Matamoros, a Mexican town near the U.S. border plagued by drug-fueled gang violence. She earned the top math score on Mexico’s national achievement exam. One of the most exciting, inspiring, and surprising parts of Paloma’s story is that her vast potential to thrive in a high-tech world was unleashed by a relatively low-tech teaching method supported by intermittent internet access.
Paloma’s 31 year-old teacher Sergio Juarez Correa is credited with discovering and nurturing his gifted student’s potential. Paloma scored the highest in math in all of Mexico, but she wasn’t the only one who defied expectations. Juarez Correa turned his class into some of the highest performing students in the entire country, some posting internationally competitive scores on standardized tests. So, what’s his secret?
Juarez Correa tapped into something that educators have been experimenting with for centuries, perhaps dating back as far as Ancient Greece. He put his students at the center of their own learning, allowing them to explore topics of their own interest and devise their own solutions to open questions through critical thinking and teamwork. Like Socrates and Maria Montessori before him, Juarez Correa used a teaching method that promoted active, self-guided learning. Perhaps most important, he embraced an alternative educational paradigm that challenged the traditional roles of teachers and students, as well as the traditional use of instructional time. In Juarez Correa’s class, no one person has the monopoly on knowledge, all can learn from each other, and the teacher serves the role as facilitator of that learning.
Juarez Correa’s method may not be that new, but implementing this strategy in the digital age opens up many new possibilities. Internet access, however limited and irregular, supported Juarez Correa’s philosophy and enabled him to explore a wide range of topics – beyond the scope of his own training – with his students. Now students with a basic internet connection can learn from professors, not to mention peers, from all over the world. Learning in the digital age can also transform how time in class is spent by enabling students to view lectures at home and actively apply and practice what they’ve learned during class time with their peers and teachers. In upcoming blog posts we will take a look at how teaching tools and methods such as Massive Open Online Courses and the “flipped classroom” can promote the type of student-centered learning from which Paloma, the next Steve Jobs, benefited.
Paloma’s gifts are remarkable, but what we have to learn from her story may be even more so. What Paloma shows us, and what her teacher Sergio believed, is that while opportunities and resources are unequal, potential is universal. Their experience in the classroom shows that a quality education can be the great equalizer, leveling the playing field in an imbalanced world by unleashing students’ potential and giving them the high-level critical and creative thinking skills needed to thrive in a global economy.
Originally published on the Graduate XXI website: http://http://www.graduatexxi.org/en/nuevo-metodo-de-ensenanza-radical-puede-sea-tan-nuevo-hemos-tenido-la-respuesta-todo-el-tiempo/