Future of education : Schools of tomorrow- What could they be?

Long long back, schools were a way to define what kids could study, so, teachers gave points or marks on their performance, which were treated as the goal . The best of kids became lawyers and doctors, the weak ones had to study a craft. Still we give points,still we treat test scores or grades as judgement of a child’s gaining of knowledge. All  because teachers are used to it and they don’t like giving up what they know best. These points however, only evaluate knowledge .This, is just a conclusion of what you know and not what you have learnt.

Most schools other than some in the metros are mostly set in the above ways with teachers, students and parents- all reluctant to move out of their comfort zones as they see no reason to do so. Parents have no complaints because they know no other kind of education and teachers themselves have never ventured out of their routines.

After observing for almost a year the goings on in the Primary school I joined a few years back, I reached a conclusion that we have to do something to move out of the rut of rote learning classrooms right from nursery grade to grade V. I had visions of students actively engaged, finding things, excited about learning possibilities, teachers teaming with ideas interacting among themselves and with students .Visions of a variety of technologies to ignite passion,, dialogue, exploration, creativity and action.

This was around 8 years back. My vision of what a school could be (which had  an excellent opportunity of being realized to a certain extent due to a very cooperative management) was a bit ahead of its times for the location I was in, has since grown and taken leaps towards what a school can be in the ‘tomorrow’ of a hundred times faster changing world.

However what has remained unchanged over the years and which will remain a constant forever is the importance of ‘A Powerful Learning Environment and What Makes It’.

The thought after much pondering over from me was seen in a nut shell, after a small everyday encounter I had with a baby, all of six months old. The elder sibling of the baby started dribbling a small soft ball .The baby, quite dull before that was suddenly uncontrollable in her laughter and eagerness to follow and copy the action. Even a baby wants to learn when her attention is caught.

So any  School of the future  still, HAS to have A Powerful Learning Environment central to its conception.

As years have gone by, my purposeful  interaction with school going children -all ages, right from toddlers to the senior secondary all knowledgeable ones and Teachers –again all ages along with my experience as a teacher and a parent has made me put the following three elements at the head of a Powerful Learning Environment:

  • Student engagement-My interaction with various students has given me ample reason to believe that environments where students were themselves involved in doing things or were actively discussing their learning with teachers or where teachers actively used aids/marvels of technology were the most engaging ones.
  • Teacher’s interest and enthusiasm-Teacher in all roles ,be it a facilitator to acquiring knowledge(as is fast becoming THE role for a teacher to don) or a deliverer of facts is THE MOST important game changer in the cycle of acquiring ,applying and constructing knowledge. The learning process will be as powerful as the teacher (in addition to subject expertise) is enthusiastic towards the process.

In fact Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement
ie Students are as interested in their class and learning as the teacher is excited and interested about the content being taught.

My brush with Student Engagement started when during teacher training we were required to make our lessons interesting, only to realize later to my great disillusionment that the teaching world is split into two parts-one is, things meant for inspections, workshops and the other, the talk-chalk-talk world of the real classroom.

However, when I look back on my experiences and satisfaction I have had from my teaching -learning experiences it is clear that the instances of student engagement which I have experienced were all such instances when I as a teacher was literally wonder stuck with the content I was to get my students to cope with perfectly and there was a large part of the learning outcome which each time was a surprise to me too.
I take as an example, my latest brush with the same when in fact I became the student and then the teacher. It was just a few days back , when I came formally in contact with Augmented –Reality(AR) learning apps . The newness and the sheer extent of unexplored possibilities by me, its usage for teaching had me engaged for hours. This minuscule instance has reiterated my belief. Definitely, student engagement is a critical part of the teaching-learning process.

Hence, any School Of  The Future must have Engagement of – Students and Teachers -central to its vision.

The current education scenario stands firm with its foundation strongly and gradually entrenching deep in its dependence on technology .So at least Student Engagement is definitely not going to be possible without technology. In the light of the above (Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement) the classroom of the Schools of the Future cannot remain same.

The changing Classroom dynamics brings visions of highly interactive technology aided teacher-student sessions with plausible Knowledge Creation rather than only Knowledge Gathering taking place.

Technolgy :The story so far…There was a time (and in some places it still is)  when technology in the classroom of a school meant either having a room equipped with audio visual devices, usually a tape recorder and a VCR or advertising your school as a smart class equipped school with some classrooms fitted with projectors connected to a new generation writing board called the smart board. It all started with using these facilities in regular periodic classes showing children educational content.

Those  were the days when teachers were to be coaxed and sometimes forced to make use of the topic wise available electronic academic content at least for a fixed mandatory  number of hours .The content sometimes not up to mark but not easily recognizably so, did serve the purpose of a break from monotonous class schedules for both students and teachers. Teachers mostly stuck with the idea of anything to do with the computers being an automatic referral to the computer teacher! Real beneficiaries of the set up being the top level students with the gap between there content clarity and mastery of a topic being bridged.

A good start no doubt ! What now ?

Today  the ability to use technology is not under a scanner at all!  Use of smart phones, social media and fondness for making home videos and picture collages  have very easily taken care of that hurdle! Most good schools today are in a position to use technology as an instructional tool rather than just a subject of instruction. However, complete seamless integration is still a far cry generally.

Need of the Future Schools therefore, is for teachers  to introduce technology seamlessly into the school lessons and  school work, for both themselves and students. Teachers must comfortably be able to shift from digital to traditional and vice versa as and when required .Students must employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

Some of the ways of Technology Integration in a School Classroom-Some already in use in top schools and some on the verge of entering the classroom

  • Teacher specific tools
  • Online learning and blended classrooms
  • Project-based activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Learning with mobile devices
  • Instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems
  • Web-based projects, explorations, and research
  • Student-created media
  • Collaborative online tools like wikis or google docs
  • Using social media to engage students
  • Flipped classrooms
  • AR and VR

Technology, is here to stay and students today are coming to class with more and more technical know-how, whether a teacher likes it or not. There are still many educators, less familiar and less comfortable with technology than their students, struggling to seamlessly integrate a growing list of technology tools into their regular curriculum. So it’s high time educators came out of their comfortable stupor, stemming out of a superiority claimed due to experience.

  • Last but not the least we have another very important element instrumental towards the Creation of a Powerful Learning Environment and hence A School Of The Future –The presence of a Head with a vision of taking his/her institution towards achieving established learning goals keeping alive the joy, spirit and attitude of learning.

The Schools Of The Future have the ability to connect students with teachers and teachers with teachers all over the world with Technology. The filter has been lifted, so if you are not enthusiastic about a topic find someone who does. Skype them into your learning space and let them help you fill the space with enthusiasm. However remember Techno is Savvy but is not able to give or inculcate EQ aided IQ, so educators you still have to be the most brightly shining stars.


 


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Just a THOUGHT! Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement

Student Engagement is not possible without Teacher Engagement
ie Students are as interested in their class and learning as the teacher is excited and interested about the content being taught.

 

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Although using the word engagement with the noun -‘student’ conjures up images of a joke being narrated,I am not about to share a joke!

 

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My brush with Student Engagement started when during teacher training we were required to make our lessons interesting, only to realize later to my great disillusionment that the teaching world is split into two parts-one is, things meant for inspections, workshops and the other, the talk-chalk-talk world of the real classroom.

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However, when I look back on my experiences and satisfaction I have had from my teaching -learning experiences it is clear that the instances of student engagement which I have experienced were all such instances when I as a teacher was literally wonder stuck with the content I was to get my students to cope with perfectly and there was a large part of the learning outcome which each time was a surprise to me too.
I take as an example, my latest brush with the same when in fact I became the student and then the teacher. It was just a few days back , when I came formally in contact with Augmented -Reality learning apps . The newness and the sheer extent of unexplored possibilities by me, its usage for teaching had me engaged for hours.This minuscule instance has reiterated my belief. Definitely, student engagement is a critical part of the teaching-learning process.

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The important dozen- Why routines are important for children

18th June 2017

Whether you are a parent to a baby /a toddler or a kid any other age,the most generously given advise to you has to be – “You know ,you must get the kids on to a routine if you don’t want trouble later on ”

Setting children into routines? Easier said than done! The daily rigmarole, your work pressure, health issues, family ideas, beliefs and pressures are all as if conniving together to give you excuses to give up. They all seem to be bent upon making you loosen up your disciplined ,schooled self.While I completely empathise and sympathise with you -having gone through the entire  work vs house duties vs child duties and affection vs tiredness vs relaxed discipline cycle myself- fact remains – ROUTINES are very important for children for their balanced growth into healthy, sound teenagers and later on adults.

The entire process of growing up right from the baby’s birth is marked with CHANGE in every aspect of his life.Physical, mental, social and emotional growth all have CHANGE associated with them on almost daily basis. From giving up bottles to their standing as babies of the house to new skills learnt to accepting new people in their lives -read friends, teachers – to coming to terms with their wide range of emotions,childhood is not easy for children.

Routines, while setting children onto the path of RIGHT growth also provide just the right amount of prompting to catch the RIGHT path to growth.

Why are Routines important for Children

  1. Children are scared of change. Routines make them aware of what to expect, thus making themcomfortable and secure in their worlds.
  2. When children know what is expected of them, they are able to live up to those expectations. So Routines work towards makingchildren self confident and foster independence.
  3. Routines help kids totake charge of their own activities, thus helping them develop self discipline. If followed regularly, kids learn to brush teeth, wash, get ready for bed, pack bags in whatever order you prefer without constant reminders. Kids love to be in-charge!

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4. Thus, Routines eliminate unnecessary nagging.You are not Ms No all the time. Activities like napping, TV watching, doing homework, playing go on as casually as possible. Parents stop being the BAD guys.

5.  Routines reduce stress and anxiety for everyone. Kids cooperate and all know what comes next. So no one feels pushed.

6.   Routines help Parents maintain consistency in their expectations.

7.  Success in performing small tasks in Routines strengthen children and lay the foundation for rising to bigger challenges when required .Tasks  like going to school alone etc  come in gradual progression.

8. Routines also help parents incorporate in them special connecting moments like-a hug on meeting for the first time in the morning or/and touching feet of elders or a naming body parts ritual as you dry them after bath(let’s dry your toes…) …

9.   Routines make kids learn the concept of looking forward to things they enjoy.

10.  Routines help your children and their body clocks settle. Ability to nap, eat healthy etc are all linked to routines.

11. Routines help children get onto a schedule – Note : schedules and routines are two different entities.

12.  Last but not the least Routines bond families together – Children build life long associations to routines like entire family having dinner together.
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Having listed and maybe imbibed the above,  it is also a must to realize that too much structure dulls our and children’s sense of spontaneity .So set in routines but with sensitivity, don’t be oppressive be flexible too. Enjoy the bumps and mishaps. Setting routines takes time, effort and consistency .Start now, even babies and toddlers can be set to routines.  Be patient, praise effort not result, focus on what is going well and thus see your children thrive on routines.

 

 

Technology in the classroom

images4The story so far…There was a time (and in some places it still is)  when technology in the classroom of a school meant either having a room equipped with audio visual devices, usually a tape recorder and a VCR or advertising your school as a smart class equipped school with some classrooms fitted with projectors connected to a new generation writing board called the smart board. It all started with using these facilities in regular periodic classes  showing children educational content.

Those  were the days when teachers were to be coaxed and sometimes forced to make use of the topic wise available electronic academic content at least for a fixed mandatory  number of hours .The content sometimes not up to mark but not easily recognizably so, did serve the purpose of a break from monotonous class schedules for both students and teachers. Teachers mostly stuck with the idea of anything to do with the computers being an automatic referral to the computer teacher! Real beneficiaries of the set up being the top level students with the gap between there content clarity and mastery of a topic being bridged.

A good start no doubt ! What now ?screen_shot_2015-09-29_at_11.00.04_am_137250

Today  the ability  to use technology is not under a scanner at all!  Use of smart phones, social media and fondness for making home videos and picture collages  have very easily taken care of that hurdle! Most good schools today are in a position to use technology as an instructional tool rather than just a subject of instruction. However, complete seamless integration is still a far cry generally.

Need of the hour therefore, is to introduce technology seamlessly into our school lessons and  school work by teachers for both themselves and students. Teachers must comfortably shift from digital to traditional and vice versa as and when required .Students must employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

Some of the ways of Technology Integration in a School Classroom

  • Teacher specific tools
  • Online learning and blended classrooms
  • Project-based activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Learning with mobile devices
  • Instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems
  • Web-based projects, explorations, and research
  • Student-created media
  • Collaborative online tools like wikis or google docs
  • Using social media to engage students
  • Flipped classrooms

Some reasons for teacher resistance to the usage:

  • It is hard to affect change in the way one teaches, especially given that many educators work confidently with familiar and proven methods.
  • Already working hard, teachers may understandably be wary of anything with the potential of making  their job more complicated .
  • Using technology or to be more specific  even only electronic academic content  requires meticulous planning and time even if it is for lower classes. The added time might prove to be a deterrent for some.

What might help:

  • Including teachers in the decision making processes to evaluate the extent of use and what to use helps to a certain extent .
  • Though the planning and execution of how new technology will be integrated are important, at the end of the day, what matters most when selecting technology is its ease of use.
  • There can be no substitute for the time spent on planning .Planning HAS to be done with proper time spent on it. This, is where a Head who is himself /herself well planned can help. Regular integration of  time slots for academic content planning right down to the micro level within  the school time schedule itself  is a big help.

Technology, is here to stay  and students today  are coming to class with more and more technical know-how whether a teacher likes it or not. There are still many educators, less familiar and less comfortable with technology than their students, struggling  to seamlessly integrate a growing list of technology tools into their regular curriculum.

So it’s high time we educators came out of our comfortable stupor, stemming out of a superiority claimed due to experience .Let’s decide, we want to reach the top of the pyramid of technology integration or no!

 

 

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Levels of technology integration