Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in matatus – the stupidly overpacked minibuses that travel between cities in Kenya – visiting students I’m working with in a few far-flung communities. I’m trying out ideas around teaching students to become self-motivated learners, through the medium of teaching computer programming. (Hypothesis: People who know how to learn independently can go further than those who need teachers. Evidence: Pretty much every effective tech person I’ve met in Kenya.) Programming, of course, is a very hands-on skill, one that you mainly learn by doing it, a lot. So in these three locations, I’ve been giving some basic overviews and leaving the students with resources to work on, and coming back after a week or two to see what kind of progress they’ve made.

The question is how to transform students into self-guided learners, given the cultural expectations of lecture-based, teacher-driven classrooms. With the math camps, we’ve been attacking the ‘lecture-based’ part of the formula, by introducing fairly radical beyond-curriculum activity-based methods. But the camps are still ultimately teacher-designed and teacher-driven. In the math camp context, we’re seeking to change attitudes around math education, so that’s fine. But there’s a real question of what happens after the camp ends, and the students go back to the same-old same-old. How can we best foster and facilitate independent learning amongst our students?