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.)

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