Monday, 22 April 2013

Fun Classrooms

With my recent involvement in the education sector, I implemented several interesting learning methods to make learning Environments and learning technologies fun. Here are some of my favorites which worked in my school.

Origami is the Japanese art of paper Folding. For a long time I always confused it to be a Chinese art. A few months ago I started teaching the seventh class students origami. I started out by just doing it as a fun break from classes but soon I realized that with every new fold they look at things differently. It stimulates creativity, makes learning fun and leaves a longer imprint in their memory. Example, just the other day I was teaching them how to make a maple leaf. It is one of the tougher ones with over 20 folds. But while I was telling a class full of south Indian kids (who had never seen snow) what a maple leaf was we went off on tangential discussions about the ‘fall season’ in the western countries and the season’s cycle in India. 
Every class since then we learn about everything we make including new animals they never heard of like raccoons or a different type of flower or different breeds of dogs.

We ran a mentorship program where senior class kids teach junior class kids in groups of four in each class the simpler folds and in the process understand how difficult it is to manage a class room and improve their instructional skills.
More such Fun origami can be found at Copy right: Fumaki Shingu
Another source of some really complex origami folds is Youtube. Imagine the patience it builds when you turn a plain sheet of paper into a ball of paper with over a 50 folds!

• Origami helps improve concentration and make people more persistent. Improves focus and patience.
• It develops fine motor skills, honing math skills and Spatial Ability: With every fold I ask the kids which shape it makes (Rectangle, Square, Triangle etc) and also what kind of triangles (Isosceles, Scalence, Right angled, Equilateral). Their excitement to learn math in the craft class is very rarely seen in math class according to their math teacher.
• Low cost hobby: Suitable for all ages and it can be practiced anywhere. No tools required, one can use a paper napkin or a newspaper or scrap paper. 
• It triggers the practical doing part of learning pyramid which helps a child retain 75% of what they learn.

Here is an interesting article on a professor in India who teaches through Origami:

 Monthly/bi monthly field trips which are educational are the best way to practically learn a subject or a topic. Our school took the senior most classes (9th and 10th) to visit the Coca Cola factory after which they were asked to write a report on it. They learnt on group about Production lines, the history of Coca Cola and also for free MAZA(Mango juice, a coca cola product in India) and had a fun Antakshari bus ride.

Class 6, 7 and 8 students visited the Spencers bread making factory where they learnt how yeast fluffs up bread, saw giant ovens and smelt in freshly baked products.

A session by the friends of snakes society on snake awareness was much enjoyed by the students they still remember every name, type and habitat of every snake shown.

Ideas for field trips: Field trips to events like the international film festival in the city, Zoo, Planetarium, Museum, factory. The best part is most of these places are free for students. 

• Back to the learning chart proves that students retain 30% by demonstrations and 50% discussions 
• Field trips broaden world view, practical knowledge and its application, superior technical know how, help shape perspectives. 
• Hands on learning.

• Costs for bus, fuel, tickets sometimes making it in-affordable by smaller schools. 
• Accident prone places, kids get lost, difficult to control all students specially the naughty ones. 

KHAN ACADEMY by Salman khan: 

Lately I am obsessed with learning more about European History, the French revolution, Coalitions, the battle of Haiti, Napoleon Bonaparte... It is funny because I never liked to read about it in my history text books in high school a few years ago. For those of you who haven’t seen a Khan Academy video yet please do and you’ll know what I mean when I say “obsessed”.

There is also a free I pad App for khan academy. I first came across khan academy by his TED talk (Back when I was a TED talk junkie, now its Khan Academy) about how he started khan academy. 

• Visual class rooms: Anyone who has been in the education sector would know about the learning pyramid. Seeing or visual stimulation retains 20% of what you learn, 10% more compared to reading or hearing. 
• Very child is involved: No student in class feels left out. 
• Learn at your own pace: Every child had a different ability to grasp concepts. Often its seen that a teacher moves on to the next topic as soon as she feels the brightest child in the class got the concept thus, not catering to the needs of students with different levels of learning ability. The Videos in khan academy allow one to pause, rewind and fast forward your teacher when every the student wants. 
• Vital statics: Teachers can track individual progress like activity, focus, skill progress, progress over time with the help of visual graphs and charts on student performance. 
• Not just for kids: one can prepare for Tests like SAT, GMAT, CAHSEE, IIT JEE and many more. 
• Incentives for completing classes with achievements like badges: Black Hole Badges, Earth Badges, Sun badges, moon badges. Works for me!

• In-affordable for low income schools of the third world: As much I wanted to implement Khan academy in the affordable private school I work with the biggest obstacle was resources since we did not even have a computer lab. However looking for funding and CSR donations are possible options which worked for my school. 
• Breaking the traditional pedagogy style of teaching thus creating a disconnect between teacher and student. 
• It cannot cater to all subjects: Take for example Languages or sports/gym class. (Though there are other video sites for languages like for many languages and for Spanish.)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Google Enabling @ R.S.K

In an intense argument about, whether being born in a certain environment restricts ones growth in terms of language, skills or exposure, my friend and I had vastly varying opinions. His point was factors like home environment, mother tongue, access to facilities, peer circle play a big role in shaping our lives and makes it impossible to skip up economic stratum.

Agreed, there are 8 year old's from my colony who tell me more functions about my Ipad than even I know.  But with the present generation so technologically advanced why do certain kids deserve to be left out only because they are born into the BOP?

We take things for granted being born in a more privileged environment; the very fact that you are reading this with access to internet proves it. Who taught you how to use the internet? My response would be “I don’t know, I don’t remember, I just picked it up myself I guess.” With resources available growing up we had the privilege of doing that. I still remember the first ever site I visited was where I endlessly played a flash app called Dexter Dodge ball.

Our school R.S.K inaugurated its first fully functional computer lab enabled with the internet, with the donation of 5 computers and Android tablets by Mr. M. Ravi Kumar (whom I’m indebted to for his generous contributions) in the month of February. For maximizing the use of the lab and internet we were fortunate enough to find the Google ink curriculum.

The Google-ink Enabling curriculum is a ten hour, ten day curriculum designed to acquaint beginners with basics of using the internet. R.S.K high school started the E-nabling session with 62 students of class 6th and 7th. They were 10 to 13 year olds and we didn’t realize that one needs to be 13 and above to be eligible to have a Google account, until day 5 of the curriculum where every child had to create a personal E-mail id. On my enquiry with the Google team, it was noble of them to advocate abiding by the law and demonstrating the uses of Gmail and G+ through an existing adult’s id.

One of our biggest challenges we faced as an affordable private school, was having limited internet enabled computers and 62 kids. We managed by making groups of 5 with a trustworthy team leader (don’t you just hate it when the topper of the class is assigned the head) and after their individual performance was measured they helped mark other student’s performances in a notepad under the computer teacher’s supervision. The Google rubric is a great tool to measure the growth and performance when you actually see tangible results on the graph when you feed the data for evaluation through an excel spread sheet.

It is nice that the curriculum is flexible to the needs of your school, number of students, age and logistics as long as the sessions are conducted properly. The students learnt a lot and can now access Wikipedia, use Google search and understand the concept of Youtube videos and the number of views. Now they can Google any topic and are on the same page as us when we say “lets Google it”. 

It is over whelming to see their excitement while using Google maps satellite to view our school and the exact room that we were sitting in and then wandering off to finding their houses next to the school on it; understanding the use of Google translate and the various languages that exist; seeing their awestruck faces when they see aerial views of the pyramids or the Taj Mahal; 'Hangout' with a didi in Bangalore; laughing endlessly on a funny cats video or being inspired by a great Google ink talk.

So can one move up the economic stratum? The Enabling curriculum does just that by empowering those in need by giving them better livelihood options in today’s computer driven and tech savvy world. It was amazing being a part of this movement. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Bieber Fever!!!

If you want to know where I work, check out this video shot in affordable private schools around Hyderabad. This is why I love my job! I am surrounded by super talented kids all day who just need an out let or a forum. Spread the word about this video. Lets make it go VIRAL!!