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Learning to Create

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“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

This session at the maker’s lab was a part of our PGDLT (Post Graduate Diploma in Learning at Teaching) program

Heritage XLS’s maker space is nothing short of magical. Open, well designed, and ripe with energy – maker space gets one’s creative juices flowing from the moment you enter it. ,/p.

Noora Noushad, the head of maker space at Heritage Gurgaon, explained the significance of having a maker space in schools. She shared examples of how students ideate and create, learning how to use tools and technology, and turn their imagination to reality in an attempt to solve real-world problems. She also got us exposed to programming software children as young as 5 years could use.

I realised the importance of maker space to create opportunities to build 21st-century skills among children. Not only that, but Noora also challenged our own abilities as 21st-century digital migrants. We tested our maker mentality by working in groups to create something out of the box. And I won’t be boasting if I say we shocked ourselves with our ingenuity and thoughtfulness.

“Just create something. You have the tools in front of you,” Noora said encouragingly to us. We were divided into groups of five, so we were a total of six groups. At first, we were perplexed. The tools might be in front of us, but something is rather elusive to make. It was the second set of instructions that made us realize that Noora was being vague on purpose. ,

Her instructions were:

  1. You are a maker and you can do it.
  2. When in doubt, ask your team members or use google.

Noora wanted us to uncover the maker within us. And there was no better way for us to realize our own potential than to be left to our devices. We had in front of us – a Buzzer, 9V battery, dc motor 5V, conductor strips, a few alligator clips, wires and a piece of fabric. We were a group of curious, enthusiastic, amateur inventors. We felt unsettled, as this was the first time for most of us to create something… anything. After a shock, We thought of a few ideas and finally concluded on making a massager for pain in the neck, shoulder area. Designing the circuit diagram was the first step followed by hit and trial. We finally managed to come up with a prototype. ,

We all felt ecstatic, proud, motivated. For me, the idea of the maker always felt like a far-fetched one. I believed only some who were genius and blessed could be creators and inventors. But now, this one-hour activity has given me a sense of achievement that has made me believe that I could also create something. I felt that if I could spend enough time in a place like this, I could uncover the inventor within me. There is no better way to make the world a better place than working on ideas that could make others’ life easier. It is an empowering feeling. I wished we had a place like makers lab in my engineering days. The experience of engineering would have been so much more meaningful.

Bill gates had enough exposure to computers and technology before he created started creating his own software. While Bill Gates were at Lakeside School, a Seattle computer company offered to provide

 

computer

time for the students. Bill Gates became entranced with what a computer could do and spent much of his free time working on the terminal. He wrote a tic-tac-toe program in BASIC computer language that allowed users to play against the computer. It’s hard to imagine how different our world would be if Bill Gates never had any exposure to computers. ,

What exactly is this Makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library, office, educational institution, or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing ideas and innovation focused on exploring human ingenuity. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and people from all walks of life. They have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons, screws, nuts and workstations.

It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that are at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need critical 21st-century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while being sensitive to the problems students see and feel for.  Makerspace provide hands-on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence. Some of the skills that are learned in a makerspace pertain to electronics, 3D printing, 3D modelling, coding, robotics and even woodworking, Makerspaces are also fostering entrepreneurship and are being utilized as incubators and accelerators for business startups.

The Heritage Xperiential School, Gurgaon has a huge makers lab. Students from grade two to twelve have makers lab as a part of the curriculum. It is amazing to see little kids using drawing software for creating images and then getting them printed on a 3-D printer. Students of middle years have successfully created prototypes of products they feel their parents could use, like stop-snore device, count calorie device, foot massager and many more.

Noora motivates each child to create something, though her natural charm, openness and love for people. Her aim is to have schools which have a MakerSpace inside their classrooms by using rolling tool trolleys. The idea is, to give enough exposure of STEM devices to students so that they feel confident using them.

Students of middle school come and design their own prototypes. Students use the SketchUp software to design 3-D models, which could then printed using the 3D printer! The joy of actually seeing one’s idea A group of students had designed a model of a heart using the software. This was later printed using the 3-D printer.

Such a way of education help students clear their concepts and they are involved in their own learning. Students feel confident, thrilled and encouraged when they are able to make models or prototypes. The electronic circuits help them understand the use of diodes, capacitors, resistors in a circuit. They are able to think out of box. It’s only a belief in oneself makes or breaks one’s destiny. If students can believe that they too can be makers, only then will they be able to make a better future for themselves.

 

 

Written by Pragya Jindal, edited by Vishwa Srivastava

 

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School-Based Teacher Preparation- Possibilities and Challenges

In this article, Indumathi S. and Sameera Sood, Teacher-Educator at IAAT, explores the way in which IAAT‘s model is key to preparing competent teachers- while sharing some challenges for the same. Published by NCERT in Volume VII Issue I (August, 2018) of Voices of Teachers and Teacher Educators.

This article discusses the school-based teacher preparation model run by a not-for-profit organisation called I Am A Teacher (IAAT), Gurgaon. This is a one-year Post-Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (PGDLT) programme. This course prepares teachers through a model where Student-Teachers spend a minimum three days practicing in a host-school. This article describes the mentoring model and highlights how teachers are prepared through a blend of theory and practice. The voices of the Student- Teachers are presented through reflections and narration of their learning experiences. It briefly highlights the challenges of such a school-based model.

Read more at: Read more on page 99

 


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Circle Time

– Thelma D’souza, PGLDLT-Aspirant, IAAT-ASB, Mumbai

At the beginning of our IAAT session, we were introduced to the Morning Circle. “Morning Circle” What’s that? Wait, let me brief you about the Morning Circle.
A Circle has no corners, right? Yes.
Standing in a circle helps to be connected, a feeling of oneness. As everyone is given space.

Elements of Morning Circle
 Greeting
 Sharing
 Energizer
 Greeting: As salutation such as “Dear Fourth Graders”, or “Good Morning, Friends!“
 Sharing: Any academic or social skills.
 Energizer: Any movement based activity to get physically and mentally started.
Guidelines For Following Morning Circles
 The teacher is not a leader but a mere facilitator
 Teachers need to set rules
 Objectives to be planned

How Does Morning Circle help?
 The transition from home to school serves well for the teacher as well as students.
 Easy to gain attention for teacher and students
 Start with a free mind
 Begin the day with a happy note.
 Showcase talent both for teacher and students.

Now, taking all the above into consideration, I geared up for my first Morning Circle.
Looks and sounds easy! Ah  ah……no no. A thorough planning is required. It was a challenge to lead ..Lots of apprehensions, How, When, What? Will I be able to engage them? What about discipline?….needed to seek help, so I approached my Collaborating Teacher at ASB, also took some suggestions from my IAAT Teacher Educator and my colleagues.

The children began entering the classroom. They eagerly read the salutation. At the sound of the chime, they all sat on the carpet. I played an A.V. “Greetings in different countries.” The children were glued to the screen.

A bright smile lit up their faces on seeing their country. A soft shrill echoed as India and USA greeting was
displayed on the screen. The video generated a lot of enthusiasm. This boosted my confidence.

Soon, the children adopted their own personalized greetings for their pals.
Now, it was time for sharing. Here I used an academic skill-literacy skill (Phonics) asking children to name any particular food item associated with their name initial. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves, racking their brains like-
 Veer likes Vada-pav
 Lily likes Lettuce
 Tara likes Tortilla

Finally, the much-awaited energizer!
Everyone had their own choice, “Hot potatoes, See Saw” …….were the appeals heard? “No ways”, thought I! We need to save our lives. I see burning bushes. So off we go. Fire on the Mountain…..run run…
– Oh how the children enjoyed themselves! They exclaimed “more! more…!”. Some pleaded for one last time, but I had to disappoint them as there were time constraints, but I promised them, ”Maybe some other time”

 


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From A Chance Classroom 

In this article, Chirag Arora., a resident-teacher at IAAT, Gurgaon, shares his experience of creating an impromptu roadside classroom.

‘The breadwinner’ was the movie I watched a few days ago. I was overwhelmed by the story of the girl who showed the courage to step out from her house for her family to survive. While watching the movie, I knew, “I would not be able to forget this girl and her story”.

After a few days, I met a new version of “the breadwinner” while I was sitting on the concrete bench in a South Delhi market. Her name was Rainav. Out of nowhere, she appeared in front of me, a five-year-old girl wearing torn and shabby clothes, yet with a pleasing smile. She said, “Please give me some money”. Striking a conversation, I asked, “Why do you need money?” There came a well prepared, standard reply, “I want to eat something.” I took out my lunch box and shared some fruits with her.

While she was eating, I observed her arms which were marked with pen-marks. These pen-marks reflected her choice to learn. Strewn across the back of her palm were crude pen-marks of A, B, C, D.

I asked her from where did you learn this? Perhaps seeing an unexpected response, she promptly replied, “school mein sikha”. Then, the conversation of few minutes followed…

Me: school jatein ho aap?

Rainav: haan, jati hu main.

Me: aaj nahi gayain aap school?

Rainav: school to 1 bje hota hai na. yahi pass mein hi rehti hu mein. Apko pata hai meri teacher ne kaha hai, ki agar hum sub class mein padhenge na to wo nayi uniform le kar ayengi humare liye.

Rainav: pen dedo mujhe ek. Likungi mein.

I took out my kit with pen and chalks. When I gave her one pen and a paper to write, one could see the excitement in her eyes. Interestingly, this also attracted the attention of a group of other similar children, and they all came and started demanding for pen and paper. I took out my stationary kit and distributed pen and papers to them.

One child came and asked for a new pen because the one he was carrying was not working. I gave him a chalk to write and told him that he doesn’t need paper for this – he can write using chalk anywhere, be it wall or bench, or even ground.I  observed this group of boys and girls for about 15 minutes and felt quite satisfied as I could see their craving for writing on paper or with chalk overcome their desire for begging to eat. I am sure we have encountered so many kids who come to beg and we often feel uncomfortable dealing with them. Instead, in this case, despite surrounded by fear of society and family constraints, they still managed to create their own space of joy and learning. They were talking, sharing, and engaged in learning by doing – no noise, no person walking by, or the heat of the sun, or Delhi’s pollution came in the way of their engagement with their learning. I sighed in amazement-”If I could bring this kind of engagement in my classrooms… I would consider myself a competent teacher!”

I shall remember these “Breadwinners” for a long time.


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From Corporate to Classrooms

Kevika Bali, a resident-teacher from IAAT Mumbai, shares why she moved mid-career to become a teacher. 

I spent 15 years in the corporate world of finance, a highly competitive field where performance was key. The margins were huge in this business and everyone wanted a big slice of the pie. I experienced my annual appraisal as an exercise in ‘normalization’ as if I were being neatly boxed and categorized. There was space only for a few at the top, who got the lion’s share. So the work environment was one of comparing and devaluing others, in a hurry to get to the top. At the end of the day, all that people wanted was to win brownie points and be perceived as successful performers.

From the beginning this was quite disconcerting, having worked in a very open work environment in the United States for 4 years. Back in India, I was shocked to witness the reality that life was only about making money at the cost of quality and reducing people to a number. I still do not understand why I succumbed. Maybe I had joined the rat race and was not willing to give up. It took its toll though. I suffered from paralysis of my right side many years later.

I consider myself fortunate because I got the opportunity to turn my life around and set my priorities straight. I started reflecting upon and questioning everything including my own thoughts. I realized that in very subtle ways, my opinions and behaviours had started forming right from the time I was in school, wherein I got the first ‘lessons’ of life such as ‘fear authority’, ‘pretend’, ‘please people ’ and ‘I am not good enough’ to name a few.

After years of suffering, I was finally ready to put down all this baggage. I resolved to reach my highest expression and assist others in reaching theirs and what better place to start than at school? I was convinced that there was actually no structure in place to prepare our children and youth from falling in the trap I took so long to emerge from. So transforming the educational space was imperative, I felt.

A chance encounter with ‘I Am A Teacher’ (IAAT) Teacher Development Program in 2016, gave me the hope and encouragement that I needed to ‘be and lead the change’ I wished to see in our education space. I was happy to see a program which was designed to break our frameworks besides providing the training I needed to be a teacher.

It was extremely exciting to join this course and I have never looked back. The program got me head to head with my fears, apprehensions, physical constraints and mental blocks, which have started loosening their hold on me. As an IAAT Resident Teacher, I am accepted and celebrated for who I am – a unique individual. I am learning to be an educator who leads by example- transforming myself to reflect the transformation in children and my peers. A tall order, I know.  But IAAT tells me, and I believe, “I can.”

 


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Setting Class Culture

– Prajakta, Resident of I Am A Teacher, Mumbai


It’s rightly said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch”. What does it mean? It means no matter what strategic plan you try to implement with your team, its success and efficacy are going to be held back by the people implementing the plan if the culture does not support it. I understood it better when I started my internship in a grade 5 classroom of American School of Bombay. A lot of importance is given to set the right classroom culture right from day one. It was interesting for me to see how the culture was created with the help of students and not by forcing rules on them.

The first day of their school the entire class 5 gathered in their common area called the hub. During that time the common lunch agreements were discussed by prompting from the teachers. Thought to provoke questions like “How would lunch sound like/look like as per you?” This helped the children brainstorm and come up with discussions and finally the agreements for the entire grade. Thus, the whole grade 5 agreements were made for recess and lunch as they all are together during that time.

On the next day, the children were invited on the carpet to discuss the main agreements of the class. After a lot of prompting from the teacher as well as brainstorming from the children, the three main agreements were finalised for the class – Be courageous, Be responsible and Be compassionate. The children were then put up in three small groups to role-play the final agreements. Each group was asked to model one of the agreements. The children discussed ideas amongst themselves to dramatize the act given to them. They came up with creative ideas to demonstrate their topic. The teacher took pictures while they were demonstrating their acts which were later printed and put up on the walls of the class to remind them of the main agreements.

After the main agreements, other agreements regarding transitions, quiet time, using the bathroom, use of physical space and materials, seating arrangement and several other things were made by the children. All of these agreements the children are expected to follow and the teacher also repeatedly reminds them of the expectations. The agreements have helped in shaping the classroom culture which is inclusive, values empathy makes them responsible and allows them to reflect on their behaviour.

These values are repeatedly discussed, revisited as well as reminded time and again throughout the day.  I can see that when every single person in the class including the teacher agree on and abide by the values, it helps everyone to think on similar lines and work together more efficiently. The class can function smoothly with minimum confusions or conflicts as all are aware of the class expectations.


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A Journey Within, A Retreat Without

– By Tina, PGDLT-aspirant from IAAT-ASB 

It wasn’t the course, it wasn’t what lay ahead for the next 10 months and it wasn’t the job placement the course guaranteed. The one thing I was most apprehensive about when I attended the first ever info session of IAAT was this retreat. For me, making the decision to do the course was almost instantaneous. What took a lot of convincing was attending the retreat. I am turning 40 next year. As I near this landmark birthday (it is indeed a big one, at least for me) the idea of ‘hanging out’ with complete strangers for four full days and nights didn’t exactly excite me. Add to that, roughing it out with most other students at least a decade younger than I, wasn’t appealing at all. I honestly thought of all possible excuses I could make to get out of this.

After the first day’s interaction with IAAT-ASB team, I was more than convinced that I wanted to go on this trip. The single most important factor being: Prerna, the head of IAAT, Mumbai. Her personality, her calm demeanour, her style of talking and listening, the absolute pleasure one feels when she is around was the ‘deal breaker’ for me. The challenge of reaching ASB at 6 am for the retreat wasn’t daunting anymore, because I knew Prerna would be there.

The bus ride started and ended as expected. I mingled around well but you know you haven’t really made a very strong connect if you can’t even remember names! We reached the place and it was pretty obvious that everyone, including me had made a mental note of whom we wanted as our roomies! The way the tent allocation was done, for me that really set the tone of things going forward for the next 4 days. And then there was no looking back!


The first team challenge (the pipe and the marble) brought out the teenager in me. One who didn’t care getting all soaked up in the rain and the one who used to get aggressive in a competing sports game. Snapping at fellow team members, the impulse reactions were all on display naturally. Even the action of hitting Pranav (the games coordinator) in jest or trying to bribe Shekhar was something I have always done in a competition. The spirit of ‘I have to win’ or ‘My team has to win no matter what’, I now realize was intact all these years. Just as my sportsmanship spirit. My team won. But my reaction within was just ‘well done’ because I knew that was just the icebreaker! There was a lot more to follow. I felt all charged up.

So while we were warned that the challenges were going to be like Roadies, I never in my wildest dreams did think they would really be so formidable. The rope bridge activity was confusing, to begin with. But I had figured my role in the challenge and was pretty confident that I would be able to do it. In retrospect, I think having Shringi in my team gave me that confidence.

This comes from years of conditioning that only a man can do physically tough tasks. I think I was probably the third last person to cross that bridge. By then the rains were down on us in full force as was darkness. Not for a minute was I scared but a thought that kept popping up in my mind was that a man is really nothing in front of nature’s fury.
The next two days and nights had equally demanding tasks. Without getting into specifics I’d just like to highlight my feelings and thoughts:

  1. Courage is all that we have and it is courage that keeps us going, helps us grow. There is a lot of hidden courage within us.

  2. All emotions are common. If you are going through some, the other person is going through the same. It is of utmost importance that we show empathy towards another person and have some control over our impulsive reactions. Think before reacting.

  3. It is absolutely essential to focus on the journey and not just on the goal.

  4. For anything to happen, YOU must make it happen.

  5. Be true to self.

Apart from just the physical challenges, our minds were really put to use. For me to see the passion of Smriti, Prerna and Bindya were really inspiring. It honestly makes me want to work harder and a lot more sincerely. Often we come across people who seem to be in full control of their emotions. It is not easy to get someone to open up in front of relative strangers and be true. But I think Smriti you do really have some powers. At the end of 4 days, each one of us ‘choked’ up on our emotions multiple times. Something that haunts me 3 days after the trip as well. And strangely enough, I don’t feel vulnerable. I think I just needed somebody to peep inside my soul, understand it and awaken it. I probably may have been running away from confronting unpleasant things/feelings/situations but I now realize how important self-introspection really is. If we can lift ourselves from a space of non-awareness, it can truly be awesome. And once you are aware there is no stepping back. We just need to consciously work towards creating a space where we can truly be ourselves.

The single most important takeaway for me from the camp was being mindful. “Mindfulness is not about erasing bad feelings but about acknowledging them, even befriending them and then choosing how we respond.”

I would just like to end by saying it really has been an experience of a lifetime. For someone who has zero thresholds for pain, to emerge absolutely refreshed after this four-day rigorous mental and physical hard work does say something. While I did think a lot about my children and family and my relation to them, I didn’t miss them. The first call to them was on the third day of the retreat, such as the engagement of the retreat for each of us!

Grateful to Prerna and Smriti for introducing me to this whole new world. Teachers are adventurers, and I began my journey of being one by experiencing the other.