Invitation to Dialouge on learning- Play and toys- exploring the reason why children play and why the toys adults makes disorient the childrens natural learning process

Invitation to Dialouge on learning- Play and toys- exploring the reason why children play and why the toys adults makes disorient the childrens natural learning process.

Advertisements

Exploring the potential of digital tools to enhance natural learning and retaining and developing local knowledge system

Context

The way future of education is predicted and is likely to follow is along the digital technology path which will be a mere extension of the existing paradigm. All the struggles are merely to change from text mode to digital mode. It seems to change everything at the surface level but in essence the process is same and this illusion of change will be far more harmful. The change that will happen is that the student will have access to never ending flow of information masked as knowledge.

 External authority of knowledge remains and only the process of accessing it changes.

 It really doesn’t challenge some basic fundamental truths about our being-ness. It will only further increase the distance between man and nature and cause further alienation and fragmentation. In the modern educational paradigm there is no out of the box scenario. It can only move from one box to the other. Text codification is being replaced by digital codification. Knowledge still is kept outside the experiential verification of our being.

It is in context that the experiment is being conducted to see whether we can use digital technologies in helping us to understand, reflect what we are learning subconsciously.

An average Indian woman from the middle class knows how to cook about 70 things. This is often achieved by the time they are around 15 years. They also know how much quantity to take depending upon the number of people eating and the proportion of salt, chilly and other masala. All this they do without being conscious about the mathematics and other sciences involved. Documentation of the process and reflection might help them to understand the laws involved. Similar attempts can be done with children and also other knowledge that exist in the community.

What

As an initial step we would like to conduct this experiment in the school to help the teachers to understand children and to help them to develop content so as to interact with children. Attention, observation, reflection and experience/ engagement are the basis for knowing to happen.  Documentation helps in enhancing observation, reflection and sharing. If all the teachers in the school are documenting and sharing they begin to collaborate in creating content needed for their study. Teachers are encouraged to re look at children. What children learn naturally, what qualities/ skills are at work in their free play.

Why

1. The teachers are being re oriented to become authentic learners with capability of producing their own knowledge instead of just delivering readymade ‘knowledge’.  So instead of a teacher – student environment we are attempting creating a learner – learner environment. Teachers are encouraged to understand children first hand instead of believing the theories of experts (as there are so many theories one wouldn’t know whom to believe any way).

2. Documentation is meant to study what children learn naturally, what is their natural content and how they are making sense of the world around them. In other words to understand the content, process and conditions required for learning.

 3. To encourage the teachers to develop interest in things that is happening around their life every day. Or for that matter at least to make them explore and understand the connect between what they supposed to have learned and their context and relevance in everyday lives.

Where

Sadhana village school, run by a registered charitable organization, Sadhana village is situated in Chikal gao, about 40 km from Pune and caters to 10 villages with in the radius of 20 km. There are about 100 children and as of now till 3rdstandard from KG1 (3.6 years till 8.6 years). The medium is English and the school does not charge any fees and its expenses are met by way of donations. Most teachers are from the villages nearby.

Background

I have been personally using this very successfully to study the learning process and aesthetic sense by observing, documenting children, nature, people etc. This process has also enhanced my learning about how to use computer and net very well to store, catalogue, edit and make materials to communicate and dialogue on my findings.

Last year, at the Sadhana School we have been using digital technologies to generate and exchange knowledge about various aspects of learning- content, process, pedagogy with very limited equipment.

What we did was to get the teachers to observe children and nature closely to give them firsthand experience of how children learn and also to awaken them to the possibilities in their immediate nature to use that as the content for ‘teaching’. So almost every day teachers document a video, few stills and an audio of children. This is organized, edited, made in to various types of documents- written, power-point, and movie and viewed by the whole teachers to discuss and reflect on children as well as the content. Most of the teachers are from village and their knowledge of English and computer was very poor. But with this activity both have improved. But more importantly they began to value their own being and the knowledge system of their village etc. From regular ‘teachers’ they became real learners with lot of enthusiasm and interest.  

As we were exploring the natural content of what children learn/ imbibe we realized the need to document children while they are at their village also. So the teachers could do this while they are in the village. Sadhana village is also running activity centers in all the 10 villages with the help of 16/17 year olds and we are thinking of making use of this to extend the experiment to these places also.

How

First phase of the documentation will be in the school where the teachers and the moushies will be trained to document. The second phase is on the documentation of the villages and this will be done by the teachers and 5 girls each from the activity centers situated in these villages. They will be trained on the job. The whole process will also be documented.

Content of documentation

At the School there is a need to document each child and monitor the development. School also needs to keep record of teachers as they are also very creatively engaged in learning and letting learning happen.

Teachers are supposed to document the following.

On children
1; observing and documenting short video clips on children.
2. Documenting stills of children making things.
3. Voice recording their conversations/ or over hearing and writing about it.
4. Confession about what mistake they did with children.
On the life/ nature around
The purpose of this is to get teachers to observe life around them so that they might begin to take interest in some aspect of this.
1. nature- all aspects beauty, geometry, use, etc
2. Activities in the village related to farming, animals, waste utilization, craft etc.
3. Children in the village to understand what they do in village. This would help us in developing content 

Documentation on teachers

1. One purpose is to learn to develop a system for teacher training.
2. Second aspect is to develop how ‘teaching’ can be done to children. Teachers are doing various explorations and this need to be documented.

Conclusion

Making the subconscious knowledge conscious is required for two reasons. One is to create self-respect and feeling of self-worth among the holders of this knowledge as the over importance given to literacy is undermining the natural process of knowing and second reason is for the people who now belong to the quantified and conscious knowledge paradigm to value the process of knowing based on experience, senses and authenticity.

 

Samvaad on learning ecology / samvaad on WHAT CHILDREN LEARN NATURALLY

We are planning to have a samvaad on ‘What Children (we) Learn Naturally’ in Pune on april 13, 14,15. This is part of a series of dialogues we are planning around the questions related to learning, knowing, being etc.
The samvaad will be held in the spirit of questioning,
self-exploration, reflection, sharing of firsthand experience etc and may not want to indulge in theoretical articulations of so called ‘experts’.
We would like to think afresh on all these questions related to children, schools, community space etc

As the event is self funded we have to keep registration fees ofRs 2000  which includes stay and food. Mean while do take a look at the background paper and send us your thoughts on the samvaad.
As there is limitation of space we can only have around 30 people.

Hence do reply to this mail so that we can intimate you the situation.
Please reply this to sadhanavillageschool@gmail.com

For Sadhana school

Ranjana/ Jinan  09447121544
 www.reimaginingschools.wordpress.com


 

Samvaad on learning ecology

 

We are planning a series of samvaads on various aspects of learning ecology- why learn? What is being learned? How learning takes place? And where learning takes place?

And also a deeper enquiry to understand what exactly is ‘learning’, ‘knowing’ and ‘being’?

It looks like that the more deeply one explores what is learning the more intangible and subtle it seems like.

 

All the manmade crisis of modern times seems like a crisis at the level of cognition which alienates and fragments the human being. The internal destruction and the external destruction go hand in hand. Each becoming the cause for further destruction.

 

Time and again many sensitive people have questioned the efficacy of the ‘teaching’ paradigm.

New insights in cognitive science, neuro biology and is challenging the old paradigm based on ‘Teaching’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘school’ as the givens.

 May be we need to revisit the whole questions based on ‘how children learn’ rather than ‘how to teach children’.

 

It seems that the most misunderstood aspect of modernity is learning, knowledge and children. Having gone through the schooling process and also having undergone the restructuring the cognitive apparatus/ tools we may encounter several difficulties in addressing the issue. Starting with disbelief to even having the ability to fully comprehend this. With our  linear, rational, fragmented beingness  we may not be able to fully grasp this as it would require  wholistic beingness.

 

 

At Sadhana school, we are trying to reorient ourselves to respond to this new insights so as to respect the natural, biological potential in children to make sense of their surroundings and construct knowledge required for their need. Check out our site www.reimaginingschools.wordpress.com

 

The first one in the series is on ‘what children learn’

 

Samvaad on ‘What Children (we) Learn’

 

Childhood is the most vulnerable and helpless period where things happen and children have no control of both the outer environment and the inner processes.

What children learn can be answered by only after understanding what constitutes the process called learning. Modern notions about learning, knowledge, schools etc has created so many misconceptions that it is going to be very difficult to venture in to this question afresh.

 

Knowing happens in silence, with hardly any words used whereas teaching or transmitting knowledge is a loud process where words are the primary building blocks / means/ constituents.

Knowing happens in the real world where as teaching has been conducted in the realm of words.

Originality, biology, autonomy, freedom constitutes conditions and processes in the act of knowing where as teaching is about control, conditioning, secondhand and psychology.

Knowing happens with the world as whole whereas teaching breaks the world in to fragments and is compartmentalized as subjects.

May be we should revisit our own childhoods to re examine what happed in our schooling.

What ever we have supposed to have learned either by the manner in which it was taught to us or the very disjointed content has only resulted  in us loosing all passion for learning and the wonder of life.

 

The samvaads may not come up with any answers but would be helpful in challenging our assumptions and mis conceptions. And may also help us in recovering our child like qualities which might help us to connect with children and understand what childrens world is all about.

 

RE IMAGINING SCHOOLS

This blog ia about a path breaking experiment in reimagining schools.

As you probably know I have been working on two issues related to schooling and children.

Study of the cognitive damage of modern schooling and the biological process of making sense of the world.

 My 25 years of experimentation with children, adults, literate and non literate communities has lead me to a small school in the outskirts of Pune called Sadhana School run by an NGO called Sadhana Village working with rural communities nearby and mentally challenged people in that area. This school has agreed to allow me to implement my understanding of Biological processes to reorganize their school. (The ngo has 80G so that there would be tax deduction)

The new model once implemented can be sensitively incorporated in any other schooling system making sure that it is not turned into another methodology.

My first session got over and it was from 27th June to 2nd July. I am also documenting the process with the help of friends from FTI. In fact we used two video cameras and 5 digital cameras to document the process. The teachers were also documenting various activities of children. We will soon upload some videos.

The school is English medium. So we are trying out ways of getting children to learn English by understanding the way they learned Marathi. 

Another interesting aspect is to explore how to use digital tools to enhance learning. For example the use of digital camera, voice recorder etc might help children to enhance their observation. So we are also requesting you to donate these if possible.

 

About the school

The School is in the outskirts of Pune (40 km) called Sadhana School run by an NGO called Sadhana Village working with rural communities nearby and mentally challenged people in that area. As of now the school has children from 3.6 years to 7.6 years ie. From junior KG till 2nd standard. The school is English medium and has 6 teachers and 6 ayas. There is no fee but has to pay Rs 100 per month for transportation. They have a bus for transportation.

The Task :
The task I have set is to totally revamp what happens in school to accommodate the biological and natural flowering of the child. So that school then becomes a space for reflection and for experiencing various phenomenon in their immediate world.

The Basis of my Study
The basis of my study lies in the understanding that Modern man knows the world through words and is transformed by it. Years of dependence on the written word has already transformed his cognitive structure thus leaving him to live in a conceptual world. The condition today is so grave that one would be bodily present but mentally absent… Experiencing the world demands the presence of the whole being with all its faculties’ senses etc. whereas written words do not demand the participation of the sense or the body. In absence of true experience the words are doing proxy experience.
Hence I believe that Language is not a cognitive tool but a tool for communication .Human beings re creates knowledge every time & all the time and this ability must never be undermined.

Popular Myths
• The school is a place to learn .What we learn outside is not important
• The teacher is the only one who knows and gives knowledge.
• Knowledge is divided into language, science and art
• A child must sit immobile and in silence in order to learn.

Facts
• Learning happens the moment the child is born or may be from the time of conception.
• Learning is a biological process and is implicit and non-quantifiable and learning is an autonomous process.
• Child is born wholistic and experience the world in its totality. Beauty is integral aspect of the being and language is for communicating the ‘knowledge’ the child experiences.
• Only by engaging and experiencing the world does it make sense of the world.

Effect of the present day system on the Child’s being:
The physical, psychological and cognitive damages the present day schooling does to the child are enormous so much that the natural learning process and the schooling process are almost in opposition with each other. The divisions and fragmentations that the adults create confuse the child.
1. The learning mind is transformed in to the learned mind.
2. Openness, doubt, humility is replaced with rigidity, certainty and pride.
3. Spontaneity and freedom is replaced by planning and control.
4. Democracy is replaced by authority.
5. Trust in oneself is replaced by dependency on the expert and machines.
6. Originality is replaced by imitation and second hand beings.

The misunderstanding of the process has increasingly given rise to spaces that are detrimental leaving modern spaces unfriendly for the child and causing cognitive dissonance and restructuring of the natural cognitive structure.
So much so that the psychological growth in children and biological growth are at variance.
Traditional spaces due to less interfereance from humans has been supportive of the natural growth of children. What ever interference humans did with nature was not with an intention of conquering nature but respecting and being part of the natural processes.

How children or humanbeings make sense of the world
Children are born with capacity to make sense of the world , see the world as a real place and also experience the world as wholistic and integrated.

Children are guided by the biological and natural process of making sense of the world and Children are helpless as their external conditions dictate what they learn and become.
How We will make this change:
The change has to happen at several level. So the first and for most challenge is to address the very idea that children come to school to learn.

Ideally I would want to drop the word ‘school’ from the name of the school. But it may be worthwhile to keep the name and change what happens there to bring back the original meaning of ‘school’which is leisure and to educate means to draw out. It could be like the spaces for children in earlier communities. (Morung of Nagas or Ghotuls of Baster etc)

• The Experience
Experiencing is learning. Children do not learn from experience but learn ‘THE experience’. There is no time gap.

Play, work, learning are divisions of the modern adult mind which get imposed on children. Children do not make these separations. Play is the way they make sense of the world.

Through play children learn qualities and values for being in the world. They re-experience what they observe, eg: The first thing the child learns is to be a mother.
• Values
Humility, innocence and awe are values with which the child embarks on this journey. It helps them to trust, to experience the beauty and to learn to experience the phenomenon of the world.

Any sign of authority would teach the child to be authoritative. Love, care, respect, openness, co operation is what children should experience. Children compete with each other but the balance is lost when adults become the judges. Leaving children to judge themselves is the only way to help them to be just.
• Skills
Observation, curiosity, attention, patience, intelligence, abstraction, codification are the skills that a learner needs and this can only be developed by actually engaging with the real world. In an open ended knowledge quest children learn to be open, spontaneous, intuitive, for planning, exploratory and experimental etc
• Observation
Single most important aspect that needs to be addressed is to keep alive the observation quality in children. Senses are the two way door that needs to be opened to experience the outer world in its beauty and truth and the inner world for awakening sensitivity and sense of beauty. Tools like digital camera, Video camera, lense, telescope, mirror, periscope, microscope etc would help the children to observe and document the world. Drawing also help to see the world keenly.
• Spatial Reorganization of Schools
Children experience whatever space we create and present day schools create fake spaces with unreal knowledge, insulated from the real world. Organized spaces in schools such as classrooms and labs are detrimental to growth, one for the word and other for the fragmented and out of context experience.
The basic philosophy is to re organize the space or create a cognitive environment that is in line with the biological and natural propensities of human being. Thus the school just becomes an extension of non school spaces and does what they do naturally. Children need freedom to play and need things to play with. Usually anything from broken utencils to bottle caps would do. So there has to be lots of ‘waste’ for children to play with and those needs to be things that they are familier with. The montessory materials or adult made toys would only tend to control the activity of children. Toy is anything the child makes to enhance their play.

The class room situation needs to be avoided and an opportunity be given for natural grouping among children. Children from rural areas are not genderd the way it happens in urban spaces. So naturally girls and boys in mixed age groups play.

• Sharing & talking
Children should be encouraged to talk and share what they experience. ‘Teacher’ could also take part in this sharing and introduce a few words, numbers, quantity, quality etc. The ‘teacher’ needs to be a keen listener who has to pick up words that are frequently used for writing it on the wall. The Black board needs to be enlarged for everyone to write or draw. Also perhaps extended from vertical space to horizontal space.

Too much focus on self expression will only make the child more egoistic and proud thus moving him away from humility.

Children are perfectionists and are actually competing with themselves. This is what will teach children about discipline

• Addressing various aspects of learning:
In the present schooling children are made to see the world through language and it is through words the phenomenon of the world is explained to the child which is fragmented and disconnected from the child’s experience of the world.

The children need to experience various phenomenon of the world and this enables the development of the cognitive structure and this in turn helps them to understand the processes of life. Things are happening around them all the time.
But schooling rewires the cognitive structures and a linguistic based cognitive structure is formed where it is through language the world is understood.

Language: The language needs to be re claimed as communication tool. So language will be taught to children as naturally as possible based on the natural way of acquiring language skills. The clues to teaching language in an English medium school will be taken from how children naturally learn their mother tongue. English words will be introduced by observing and studying what children are doing. Language will not be broken up in to alphabets, unconnected words nor will grammar be introduced.

Science & Numbers: Science and numbers must be taught in an unalienated manner where learning results from doing & experiencing .eg: Instead of introducing Numbers as 12345678910 like we all were taught, they must find their relation to the quantitative aspects of our life. The natural sense of number, direction, quanity, measure ment etc need to be understood.

Beauty & Aesthetics: Children are immersed in the beauty of the world and what ever they are doing has the element of beauty in that engagement. Art as a separate subject will destroy the totality of this quality in children. Allowing children to engage with the world freely would awaken the senses and the aesthetic sensibility. Only thing we can do is to broaden the awakening of the sense by participating with them in order to experience the world. Drawing probably would help children in keen observation by shifting the focus of drawing as self expression to drawing as observation.

Role of the Teacher & Parents

The toughest task will be to re-train/re-orient the ‘teachers’ and parents to understand how children make sense of the world or BE in the world. Parents of today have greatly lost their biological instinct of being parents and have turned into teachers. Both need to understand the wrong in ‘teaching’ and become learners.

The teacher has to be open, flexible, loving, caring etc and the parent has to become a true parent whom a child can trust for their loving care.

The teachers need to be attentive to the subtle signs of everyday events lived by their students. The teacher, by being with children needs to be able to identify generative words according to their phonetic value, syllabic length, and social meaning and relevance. These words represent the everyday reality of the children. Reading and writing thus became grounded in the lived experiences of children.
The teacher requires deep ability to make interpretative sense of the phenomenon of the day to day life of children in order to see the pedagogic significance of the situations.
An important threatening aspect of the role of a teacher is Power. In a learning space power needs to be given up so that it allows the learning space to become more democratic not allowing authority to seep into the system.

Authority makes one believe in knowledge and in fact there is no knowledge. There is only learning. Democracy brings in respect for people, respect for autonomy, respect for independence thus defining the core values of the space.

Children should address the teachers as dada and tayee or any other terms of endearment depending on the local dialect and not Sir, Maam, Miss, Teacher, Aunty which are terminologies alienated from our cultural roots.

Teachers must have interest in a subject not for teaching but for learning and for doing and they should involve themselves in doing things ,stitching, cooking, farming, drawing or making things..etc

Application of methods are detrimental to spontaneous quality which is a very fundamental necessity for the being human. The attempt is not to create yet another methodology which could be copy pasted to any schooling system and if this exploration becomes a method it would defeat the purpose. Hence along with the children, the ‘teachers’ also need to be provided with a possibility for an environment where they can be spontaneous and human.

Seeking collaboration:
This humungous task would require a whole lot of likeminded people to collaborate and we are seeking all kinds of inputs- intellectual, physical presence, monetary and material support. Other equipment required is one digital projector, 15 digital cameras with video facility, voice recorders, 5 computers, lenses, microscope, periscope, telescope etc